Nineteen products were recognized for technical advancement at the 24th annual International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition & Conference Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Tampa, Fla. The Innovation Awards, selected from 13 categories, were handed out at the opening-day IBEX industry breakfast. A record-setting 88 products were entered in the competition this year, a 43 percent increase from 2013.
Chris Brown, president of BluSkies International, says winning an Innovation Award drove immediate traffic to the company’s booth during the conference. “We were able to boast about our achievement to our customers,” he says.
BluSkies won the Environmental Award for its diurnal control valve. The valve is BluSkies’ solution to space issues associated with the bulky carbon canisters the EPA requires. It addresses space issues on bass boats and flats boats, where gunwale space is very limited. The valve is designed to replace the bulky canister. The acknowledgment associated with the award lends additional credibility to the use of the valve component, Brown says.
“It is difficult to quantify [the award’s effect] on sales this soon,” Brown says, “but I can definitely say there is no downside to winning an Innovation Award.”
Protomet founder and owner Jeff Bohanan says he was actually surprised by the amount of interest Protomet’s award generated in the boatbuilding methods and materials category.
“It’s definitely a plus to start off IBEX with an award,” Bohanan says. “It [speaks] to the credibility of how we do things.” Protomet won for the design of its G4 wakeboarding tower. The tower was a collaborative project with Malibu, which challenged Protomet to meet a set of wakeboarding tower design requirements.
“We met everything on their wish list,” says Bohanan. Protomet received an Innovation Award three years ago and used the publicity to boost its marketing. Bohanan believes the attention generated by the G4 tower award will be used in the same manner. “It’s tangible; it says we can do what we said we would do.”
“IBEX did a great job marketing the Innovation Awards and helping exhibitors and companies understand the benefit of competing in the process,” says Zuzana Prochazka, the awards chairwoman and a freelance marine writer and photographer. Prochazka, representing Boating Writers International and the BWI Innovation Awards judges, presented the awards at the breakfast. The breakfast featured a State of the Industry address by National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich and a keynote speech by legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight. The breakfast drew 700 people.
Gold Eagle Co. chose to enter its new STA-BIL 360° marine ethanol fuel treatment and stabilizer in the boat care and maintenance category because the company believes it is a truly revolutionary product, says Gold Eagle spokesperson Kelly Kaufman. The product delivers fuel tank corrosion protection above and below the fuel line by releasing a vapor, which coats all metal parts within the fuel system. It is safe to use with all types of gasoline — from ethanol-free fuel to E85. In addition to its marketing potential, the award also had an effect within Gold Eagle, creating a sense of accomplishment among sales, marketing and product engineering teams who have worked over a long period to bring the product to market, Kaufman says.
The largest concentrations of the 88 entries were in the mechanical systems, deck equipment and hardware and OEM electronics categories.
Seven judges, including Prochazka, arrived two days before the show opened and examined the field of nominees.
“The judges arrived with good shoes and an even better attitude,” says Prochazka. There were standoffs and tiebreakers, but in the end they were able to choose a list of winners.
Prochazka attributes the increase in the number of competing products to the industry’s post-recession upswing. She also says IBEX director Anne Dunbar successfully communicated the value of the awards.
BWI president Alan Wendt noted that the boatbuilding methods and materials category had bounced back significantly. “This is a category that virtually disappeared during the recession,” Wendt says. “We also continue to get a lot of mom-and-pop businesses entering products. They find that the marketing and advertising they get is priceless.”
During the industry breakfast several other awards were presented, including exhibitor video awards.
The best company video award was presented to Marinco/Mastervolt and the best product video award went to SeaStar Solutions, which also won the people’s choice award.
The Boating Industry mover and shaker of the year award was presented to Jim Lane, president, and Buck Pegg, founder, of Chaparral Boats and Robalo.
The Mel Barr Award, which honors an individual who has contributed to the improvement of the industry through personal involvement, was presented to Zach McLanahan, aftermarket sales manager at T-H Marine Supplies.
In his State of the Industry address, Dammrich pointed out that recreational boating in the United States is a $36.7 billion industry that supports 338,526 jobs at 34,833 companies.
Here is a complete list of IBEX Innovation Award winners in the various categories:
• Boatbuilding methods and materials
Protomet Corp., G4 tower
Honorable mention: Bogantec Marine,
• Deck equipment and hardware
Taco Metals, stainless steel ratchet hinge
Honorable mention: JL Marine Systems, Power Pole Micro
• Furnishings and interior parts
Kenyon International, Silken grill lid
• Mechanical systems
Dometic Corp., variable capacity chiller
Webasto Thermo & Comfort North America, BlueCool variable-speed chiller
• Electrical systems
Marinco/Mastervolt, ProInstaller Series clustering system
• Inboard engines
Mercury Marine, MerCruiser 4 5L 250-hp sterndrive
• Outboard engines
Suzuki Motor of America, DF25A
• Boatyard hardware/software and dealer equipment
Trimaco, E-Z floor guards
Honorable mention: Skudo, TackMat
• Propulsion parts, gauges and propellers
Gemeco Marine Accessories, offshore dual engine display
• Boat care and maintenance
Gold Eagle Co., STA-BIL 360 fuel treatment
Honorable mention: Intertape Polymer Group, SMT-1
• OEM electronics
Medallion Instrumentation Systems, Medallion Viper II Malibu command center
Honorable mention: Wet Sounds, WW-BT VC Bluetooth volume controller
• Trailers, parts and accessories
Magic Tilt Trailers, custom-reinforced tube trailer
• Environmental Award
BluSkies International LLC, diurnal control valve
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue.