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Yamaha debuts new joystick system

It’s official.

The much anticipated joystick-equipped helm control system from Yamaha — called Helm Master — has arrived.

The engine company’s press event — the biggest since the 2009 debut of the F70 and V6 series of 4-strokes — to unveil the product wrapped up Tuesday at its test facility on the banks of the Tennessee River in Bridgeport, Ala.

In addition to Helm Master, the engine maker debuted four-cylinder 200- and 150-hp outboards. The F200 is the lightest four-cylinder four-stroke on the market, according to Yamaha.

“It’s light, powerful and durable,” Yamaha communications manager Martin Peters said.

Yamaha president Ben Speciale called it “the perfect upgrade for the avid boater in the 21- to 26-foot boat class.” Look for a full report on those new engines in Thursday’s Trade Only Today.

About 34 journalists attended the two-day press outing. Yamaha installed Helm Master on five boats – a Regulator 34 center console, Contender 35ST, Grady-White Freedom 335, Everglades 355T and Grady-White Express 360. Yamaha had seven boats ranging from 18-1/2 to 27 feet powered with the F200.

“We want to emphasize that it is more than just a joystick controller,” Peters said.

Components include Helm Master Digital Steering Helm, Electronic Key Switch, digital remote control, control units, steering cylinders and pumps, joystick and Command Link Plus 6Y9 gauge.

Helm Master incorporates automatic trim control, speed control and steering friction control. The latter technology allows the operator to control the steering friction (the number of turns lock to lock) from the helm.

That impresses Regulator Marine president Joan Maxwell.

“We can set up the system here at the factory to what we see as appropriate, but owners can then adjust that setting to their liking, based on the conditions and the types of waterways they are piloting their boat in,” said Maxwell, who will offer Helm Master on the company’s 32- and 34-foot models.

Maxwell said she sees the system as an attractive alternative to customers who would normally install a bow thruster on their Regulator. But it also is a smart choice for anyone with limited experience operating a boat, she added.

Peters said the system will be available only through OEMs and unavailable for repowering.

“We’ll be working with the boat manufacturers to make sure the system fits their boats perfectly so the consumer is left with total satisfaction,” he said.

Pricing was unavailable. Helm Master will be showcased on demo boats in February at the Miami International Boat Show and will hit the market in March, Peters said.

— Chris Landry

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