NEWPORT, R.I. — About 40,000 people came to the 47th annual Newport International Boat Show, in line with last year’s attendance.
The Newport Exhibition Group, owner and producer of the Sept. 14-17 show, said there were a record number of exhibitors, with 450 exhibits and 600 boats in the water. Twenty percent of the exhibitors came from outside the country, representing 19 countries.
“We were delighted with the show’s outcome on many levels,” said Newport Exhibition Group show director Nancy Piffard. “Heading into September, we were concerned with the safety of our exhibitors and their families living in Florida and the islands — and unsure of the path Hurricane Jose was going to take. Fortunately our exhibitors arrived safely, the weather was perfect, attendance was great and exhibitors reported boat and product sales at the show — as well as qualified leads for future purchase.”
The VIP opening day Sept. 14 brought gorgeous weather, though a bit overcast, and buyers were out. Michael Myers, owner of Boston Yacht Sales, sold several boats, including a Sabre 45 Salon Express. The Sabre 45SE, one of several new-model debuts at the show, took the People’s Choice Award for best new boat.
“Newport was really very exciting for us,” Bentley Collins, Sabre and Back Cove marketing vice president, said after the show. “We had a lot of retail sales activity during that week. Most of it was centered around Newport.”
“People seemed much more willing to make decisions this year, and I’m not sure why that would be,” Collins said. “I really felt like people were feeling better about life, enjoying the show tremendously and ready to put down some money. So it was significantly better for us. We’ve always had a good show in Newport, but never what I’d call a really good show, and I’d say this was really good. Those don’t happen that often.”
The boat-selling season got off to a strong start at fall boat shows, Collins said, and the Sabre 45SE has been the “hot new boat.” The Norwalk Boat Show followed up on Newport’s success, and the Seattle Boat Show was also good for the two brands. “Overall when I look across the country, it’s been a very good season for us so far,” he said.
New models and awards
New powerboat debuts also included the Boston Whaler 380 Outrage, Grand Banks 60, Legacy 36, MJM 35z, Outer Reef 610 Motoryacht, Pursuit S-368, Sealegs Interceptor 9000, Zeelander Z55, Zodiac Cadet 270 RIB ALU and Zodiac Open 7. Sailboats on display for the first time in the United States include the Elan GT5, Hanse 588, Hartley 15, HH55 Catamaran, J/121 and the Lifestyle 26.
The Z55, presented by Zeelander, was named the 2017 Newport For New Products award winner for Best New Powerboat Over 35 feet and Best Powerboat in Show. The Best New Sailboat award went to J/Boats for the J/121.
The Hinckley Company’s Dasher, an electric-powered boat that debuted at the show, was named the 2017 Newport For New Products award winner for Best New Powerboat 35 feet and Under. It was also selected for the Green Boat Award. The Arid Bilge Hydrocarbon Notifier was named given the Green Product Award.
The SkyMate mazu iPad app and mSeries hardware was named Best New Electronics Product, and the Best New Boating Operation, Maintenance or Safety Product was the North Sails 3Di NORDAC.
Dasher, Hinckley’s new 28.5-footer with twin 80-hp Torqeedo engines, dual BMW i3 lithium ion batteries and zero wood, was introduced at a well attended media event. “This is the lightest Hinckley ever,” said Scott Bryant, director of new product planning at Hinckley. “The teak you see on this boat is not wood.”
Instead of actual varnished teak gunnels, the company used a patented hand-painted, lightweight composite “Artisanal Teak” that is tough to distinguish from the real thing.
The process took more than 2,000 pounds out of the boat, allowing it to travel 28 mph at top speed. The boat can run about 40 miles at a 10 mph cruising speed before it needs to be charged; at top speed its range is about half that. It takes about four hours to fully charge. The boat was designed from the keel up for electric power, Bryant said. “Building an electric boat for the sake of making an electric boat wasn’t going to be the right move,” Bryant said.
Hinckley used 3D printing to create the titanium hardware on the boat, as well as the console. That allowed the company to get the precision necessary to remove the weight and still build a durable and reliable boat that stayed true to its Hinckley roots, said Hinckley COO Michael Arieta. The idea for Dasher, named in honor of the very first Picnic Boat, came from a collaboration among Michael Peters Yacht Design, America’s Cup engineers, composites experts and others in innovation and the tech industries.
“I hear about this from our customers and all boaters — the guy running the boat wants to be part of the party,” Bryant said. “Talking to our customers, I’d ask them about what their favorite or most memorable experience was on their boat, and the call goes from a half-hour call to a one-and-a-half hour call. It was a powerful experience. Being with their loved ones is what they remembered. Electric propulsion really supports that because it’s totally silent.”
The Platinum Passport
Six companies presented at the Platinum Passport, a media event held by Rushton Gregory, the PR firm that handles media for the show. Alexseal, ArmIt Marine, Imtra, LH Financial, Sail to Prevail and Zim Sailing all made presentations to familiarize the media with their products and services.
Alexseal Yacht Coatings, part of the Mankiewicz Coatings Division, has grown its presence in the marine industry, having been used on several megayachts, including the 590-footer Azzam, the 512-foot Omar and the 482-foot Topaz, all built by Lürssen Yachts.
Internet of Things service provider ArmIt formally launched ArmIt Marine, which offers a suite of battery-powered wireless smart sensors that monitor boats and send notifications using cellular networks for connectivity. The Bilgemax Notifi sensor, for example, sells for $199.99 with a mounting kit. Network connectivity and monitoring are $69.99 a year.
Imtra introduced hand-blown glass light fixtures for boats that tap a Cape Cod glass-blowing business for the glass domes and shades. The fixtures have USB ports so that people can easily charge in bed without requiring a charger and synch chord.
LH-Finance outlined its VIP program at boat shows, which provides potential boat buyers with the opportunity to get prequalified for marine financing in advance of purchasing new boats from participating brands while allowing them an exclusive experience.
Sail to Prevail, a sailing program for people with disabilities that has locations in Nantucket, Mass., and Newport, R.I., was launched by CEO Paul Callahan, a quadriplegic and two-time USA Sailing Paralympian. Callahan, a Harvard College and Harvard Business School graduate, had worked at Goldman Sachs & Co. before landing in Newport to assist a fledgling nonprofit. The experience prompted him to launch his own nonprofit to help children and wounded veterans learn to sail on adapted sailboats.
Lastly, Zim Sailing outlined its growth; in 2014 its boats were being built in a 1,500-square-foot garage. The company plans to move to a 27,000-plus-square-foot facility it in Bristol, R.I., this month. The sailboat maker, which launched in 2009, says it’s the largest manufacturer and distributor of small sailboats in North America. It builds the RS Quest, RS Aero and RS Feva, and Hartleys between 10 and 15 feet. The Hartley 15 was launched at Newport.
During the show the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association honored the Newport Exhibition Group as the 2017 recipient of the Anchor Award. The presentation was made at RIMTA’s annual Industry Partnership Breakfast, sponsored by the Gowrie Group. The Anchor Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that draws international attention and promotion to Rhode Island’s marine trades.
Past recipients include U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Ken Read, Sail Newport; and Newport Shipyard.
“We are thrilled to recognize Newport Exhibition Group for the work they do in shining a global spotlight on Rhode Island and its hometown industry,” RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie said. “Every year, exhibitors and consumers from around the world make their mecca to the Newport show and see firsthand our beautiful waters, our facilities and all that the Ocean State and our industry offers to boaters.”
The Newport show will be held from Sept. 13-16 next year.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue.