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Sea Ray impresses with test drives at Florida event

CAPTIVA, Fla. — Sea Ray wrapped up its 2014 Yacht Expo early Tuesday morning with the weekend’s $40 million sales total sure to draw holiday cheer to the company’s bottom line.

Trade Only Today had a chance to experience the performance levels of the new L Class 590 Fly and 650 in the Gulf Mexico on Monday on a cool, overcast morning. Both boats topped 35 knots while remaining stable and comfortable in a light chop and light breeze. The 590’s flybridge, with a sky-high view of miles and miles of the Gulf’s gray-blue water, was the best seat in the house during the morning’s runs, even during sharp turns and 360-degree maneuverability tests.

Engineers and designers have maximized exterior and interior space on the new L Class yachts and other new models, said Ron Berman, vice president of product development and engineering for Sea Ray. These designs are developed from consumer input and feedback and are several years in the making, he said. “What we hear from our customers feeds into the design and that feeds into the innovation of our new products.”

Berman and Sea Ray vice president of marketing Matt Guilford, along with Brunswick director of engineering Bill Gowan and Sea Ray program manager for yachts and sport yachts Chris Walker, took 20 media representatives through the high points and features of the new models during onshore presentations and on-water test runs.

The customizability of the new boats, with more than 200 available options, was a strong selling point across all classes, as was the maximization of space.

Berman said engineers and designers worked together to get more interior volume into the same space with the same beam. Sea Ray was able to gain 7 inches of interior space in the new 270 Sundeck, which has the same 8-foot, 6-inch beam as the older 260 Sundeck.

“Maximizing space, on the 270 and on other models, was made possible by new configurations, and by new integrations,” he said. ‘We want [the boats] to be first reliable and durable, but we challenge the engineers to find space for the boat’s systems in a creative way.”

The exhaust system on the 650 is virtually hidden behind the sofa, he said. This extra space plays into another design trend of open, airy interiors, he said.

Build times on the new 650s are targeted at 10 to 12 weeks, from laminates to delivery, Berman said.

“If you’re going to get a paint job on the outside, add four weeks,” he said.

The 590 and 650 are built to order, with customers often visiting the factory in Palm Coast, Fla., and then meeting with Sea Ray representatives at the company’s Merritt Island design center. The 590 has about the same build rate as the 650, but right now both models are six months to a year out because of high demand, Guilford said.

The new SPX models are one of Sea Ray’s high-value products, Berman said, and highlight the maximum use of their 19- and 21-foot footprints. In the Sundeck series, Sea Ray is a true market leader, Berman said, and the new Sundeck 270 and 290 have added storage and space, along with new bold styling.

Berman said the 290 Sundeck Outboard features a “no-compromise” transom in which the outboard is placed off the stern in a way that the space on the transom is clear from one side of the boat to the other and is not divided from port to starboard by the outboard engine.

There are several top options with the new Sundecks, including a standard Bimini and an aluminum watersports tower. The gelcoats are made in the mold, in the factory, Berman said, and allow better finishes on the multicolored boats.

Features on the 470 Sundancer include a bold look, fresh styling and big upgrades, Berman said, along with a large sunroom. The boats blend interior and exterior space and include a strong focus on social layout, advanced ergonomics at the helm and Zeus pod drives with joystick control.

After a small group boarded the 590 Fly, Gowan used the Zeus drive to ease the 59-foot yacht away from the dock and out the channel.

“It makes docking a piece of cake,” he said. “It’s so easy it should be a crime.”



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