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Bryant Boats debuting 18-foot model designed for millennials

A new model called the Wake Tractor is part of a brand-new company making boats that will be geared to millennials.

The Wake Tractor will be made by Bryant Boats, but will be its own brand, according to brand manager Ben Dorton, 26, who will be the face of the new line.

“Our whole approach to this boat company is that millennials are calling the shots on this boat,” Dorton told Trade Only Today.

In 2013, John Dorton, Ben’s father and the chairman at Bryant, partnered with Lawrence Technological University, a Detroit-area design school, and with Andrew Hanzel, a professor of industrial design there. Hanzel, who has deep design roots in the auto industry with General Motors, tasked his class of 19- to 24-year-olds with creating a boat that appealed to them.

That was how the concept for the Wake Tractor began. The boat, which will be part of a company for which the name has not yet been determined, will be launched at Surf Expo in September.

“It’s all about the wake,” John Dorton said. “The wake and the music.”

The 18-foot boat will have a 21-foot boat’s wake because it has the same amount of hull in the water as a 21-footer, John Dorton said. It’s built for six passengers, which gave designers more ballast capacity and made for more versatile interior space. It’s powered with a 5.7L engine from Crusader, one of Correct Craft’s latest purchases.

A professional wakeboarder, Ben Dorton said the boat produces a good wake, which was crucial for its success with his demographic.

When designing the boat, Bryant tried to do three things.

“We saw a demand for a rugged boat,” he said. “It had to be able to be stored, clean easy, trailer easy. There are a few things we’ve done on the exterior to offer protective surfaces instead of gelcoat that can scratch really easily. So when they rub up against the docks, it won’t faze the finish. The interior vinyls are really dense, so they have no chance of tearing, scuffing, scratching when your friends jump on the boats with a 12-pack and their shoes on.”

“We knew we had to make the boat lighter and easier to store so they can tow it with their Xterra,” Ben Dorton said. “And we knew we’ve got to hit a price point where they were comfortable buying it.”

The Wake Tractor is set to retail for $39,900 with the trailer, tower, bimini top, speed control ballast and music system.

“We designed a lot of content out that’s not important to this group,” the elder Dorton said. “It’s a good-looking boat. You just won’t miss it. The boat’s a head turner. But there are significant content pieces in traditional boats that aren’t in this one.”

And as important, the Wake Tractor opens up a whole new realm to enable people to connect via social media, Ben Dorton said, using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and video integration with monitors.

“We knew we had to make it become that tool to communicate with friends,” he said. “They can connect GoPros to the tablet at the helm and record the ride. And when they’re done after, they can share it with everyone.”

The Wi-Fi-based boat will be driven off a smart tablet, where all of the gauge readings will be displayed. It will have Bluetooth connected to the system so the stereo head unit can be eliminated.

A proprietary docking system in future boats will allow the Wake Tractor to dock in a uniquely social way, John Dorton said. “If you’re not in a Wake Tractor, you won’t fit so well, if you can imagine four or five Wake Tractors floating on this dock on a busy day. Maybe you take turns on whose boat gets used for riding. From space it would look like a snowflake or a floating molecule.”

The Dortons also see the Wake Tractor appealing to Gen Xers, and even baby boomers looking for second or third boats. But the design is geared to the Gen Y group, John Dorton said.

“We need to keep those millennials to continue to love boating.”

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