Industry salutes its innovators

Products geared to pontoon boats and millennials share award spotlight with a ‘game-changing’ Doppler radar from Garmin
The Honda BF6 won for outboards.

The Honda BF6 won for outboards.

Problem solvers, game changers and technology designed to appeal to millennials stood out in a field of 85 new products that competed for the 2016 IBEX Innovation Awards in Tampa, Fla.

Judges from Boating Writers International recognized 13 winning products at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibtion & Conference. The winners were announced at the IBEX industry breakfast on Oct. 4.

Garmin’s Fantom 6 Doppler radar stood out to judges as a game-changer, says BWI past president Alan Wendt, chairman of the Innovation Awards. Garmin’s Fantom 6 was a co-winner in the hotly contested OEM electronics category, sharing the win with Wet Sounds’ SYN-DX 6-DSP marine amplifier.

“We introduced Fantom 6 at last February’s Miami show, and the response has been fantastic,” says Garmin representative Gene Quindlen.

The Doppler radar increases navigational safety without replacing other safety features, Quindlen says. “It’s an extremely complex technology designed to simplify your experience on board.”

Furuno also uses Doppler radar (the DRS4D-NXT).

Sound is critical to the on-board experience for millennials, Wendt says, and developments such as the Wet Sounds amplifier show the millennial effect on the industry. “When you look around, you see younger people at the show, but also, look at the people making the products,” he says. “A lot of innovation is coming from the younger generation. They understand the mindset of the buyers.”

The award-winning Mercury Vessel View mobile app, which gives users access to their boats’ SmartCraft digital data via smartphones, and the VIRB camera from Garmin, which takes high-definition action photos and videos in extreme environments, are also geared to millennials.

During two days of judging, the panel could see the pontoon industry’s effect on product innovation this year, says Wendt. UFLEX USA introduced a steering device for pontoons and for any boat in the low-to-midrange-horsepower category. The steering wheel is attached to an electromechanical drive system coupled to the UFLEX planetary gear design.

Mercury’s VesselView app won for propulsion parts.

Mercury’s VesselView app won for propulsion parts.

“This technology from the automotive sector really made steering very easy,” Wendt says. “The UFLEX made steering of pontoon boats, which typically can seem like arm wrestling, more like driving a car with fingertip control.”

Amertex, another company that addressed challenges in the pontoon sector, entered three products that it says solve consumer and OEM pontoon boat issues. They include a travel cover— the MDC Cover System by Taylor Made.

Wendt says the judges were able to see more products demonstrated on the water, such as the new steering systems on pontoon boats, thanks to the expanded IBEX dock exhibit. Although much of the innovation continues to borrow from the auto and other industries, Wendt says the real challenge continues to be “How do we make it work with boats?”

Judges recognized dual winners in two of the 10 categories, and gave a special Environmental Award. The hottest competition was in the OEM Electronics category, which saw 26 entries, the largest concentration. The deck and hardware category, which had 23, was also highly competitive.

Volvo Penta’s Easy Drain won for inboards.

Volvo Penta’s Easy Drain won for inboards.

Here is the complete list of winners:

  • Boatbuilding methods and materials: Banova, 3A Composites Baltek Inc.
  • Deck equipment and hardware: dual winners — Ros­well Marine, Triton board rack; T-H Marine Supplies, Snapflex LED stern navigation light
  • Furnishings and interior parts: Kenyon International Inc., Texan grill with IntelliKEN touch control
  • Mechanical systems: Xylem, Rule bilge pumps
  • Electrical systems: Mercury Marine, electronic steering helm
  • Inboard engines: Volvo Penta, Easy Drain
  • Outboard engines: Honda Marine, BF6
  • Propulsion parts, propellers: Mercury Marine, VesselView Mobile
  • Boat care and maintenance: Pettit Paint, SeaGold
  • OEM electronics: dual winners — Garmin USA, Fantom 6; Wet Sounds Inc., SYN-DX 6-DSP stereo amplifier.
  • Environmental Award: Fireboy-Xintex Inc., CG / MA and GA 3M Novec 1230 fixed fire extinguisher.

Several other awards also were presented at the IBEX industry breakfast on Oct. 4.

Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin was named the 2016 Boating Industry Mover and Shaker of the Year. Yeargin was chosen from more than 50 nominees and four finalists who have “shown the vision and leadership to move the boating industry forward.”

“From his reshaping and building of Correct Craft to his involvement in the industry, he stands out as one of the top leaders in boating,” says Boating Industry editor-in-chief Jonathan Sweet.

Sweet cited Yeargin’s work in Washington, D.C., advocating on key industry issues such as trade and work force development while managing Correct Craft’s numerous acquisitions.

 There were 85 new products in the 2016 Innovation Awards at IBEX. Mercury Marine was the only company to win in two product categories.

There were 85 new products in the 2016 Innovation Awards at IBEX. Mercury Marine was the only company to win in two product categories.

“If I have learned anything over my career, it is that it takes a great team to accomplish much, and I am very thankful for those in our Correct Craft family,” Yeargin says. “We have a great team that has accomplished so many amazing things, and I am thankful to be along for the ride.”

The National Marine Manufacturers Association inducted Bob Menne Jr., CEO of Premier Marine, and Victor Porter, chairman of Formula Boats, into the NMMA Hall of Fame.

The two are pioneers in the industry who have “paved the way for its future with unwavering dedication, innovation and passion for boating, their communities and families,” says NMMA president Thom Dammrich.

“Bob’s and Vic’s legacies will continue as they join the ranks of NMMA Hall of Fame inductees, including industry founders Christopher Smith, Charles Chapman, Alan Freedman and Ole Evinrude, and such contemporaries as Dusty McCoy, Bob Long, Robert Deputy and Pack St. Clair.”

Rob Gueterman, president of the National Marine Representatives Association, and Sweet, presented the Mel Barr Award to Johnny Thomerson, national sales manager of Lenco Marine.

Thomerson’s “integrity and professionalism are highly regarded by all those who come in contact with him,” says Sweet. “He is a true marine industry professional and friend.”

The award honors the memory of Barr, an independent marine rep who was one of the founders of the NMRA and its first president. After he died in 1967, his family, along with the NMRA, established the award.

The innovation judging panel included:

  • Wendt (chairman): past president of BWI and contributing writer for Lakeland Boating and Southern Boating, Yacht Rendezvous event planner of manufacturer-based customer cruises
  • Zuzana Prochaska (co-chairwoman): 100 Ton USCG master, Sail magazine charter editor, freelance writer and photographer for 15 marine and travel titles, international speaker
  • Gary Reich: editor-at-large, Chesapeake Bay Magazine; contributing writer, Anglers Journal, PassageMaker magazine, Soundings and Lakeland Boating magazines
  • Frank Lanier: marine surveyor and contributor to Practical Sailor and Southern Boating
  • Craig Ritchie: contributing writer to Boatguide and Boating Business magazines, which serve the Canadian market — along with trade titles Boating Industry, Boating Industry Canada, Marine Business (Australia), International Boat Industry (global) and The Naval Architect, journal of the Royal Institute of Maine Architects
  • Peter Robson: former editor and current contributor to Pacific Yachting, contributor to Canadian Boating Guidebooks
  • John Wooldridge: writer, editor and photographer in recreational marine journalism since 1977
  • Capt. Lou Gainor: Nautical Talk — Northeast radio host.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.


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