Cream of the crop

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The AIM Marine Group Editor’s Choice Awards recognized the ‘best of the best’ in boats and more. And the winners are …

The editors and writers of Active Interest Media’s Marine Group recently selected more than three dozen boatbuilders for special recognition.

Ocean Alexander 120

The awards were among 42 given for individual achievement and for best boats in their categories during a banquet at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which benefited Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach, Fla.

“The Editor’s Choice Awards were developed to recognize the best of the best in production and semicustom yachts,” AIM Marine Group publisher Gary DeSanctis says. “It is the only event of its kind that honors these builders on a global perspective. Not only was it a spectacular event, but in the process of honoring these top builders in the world, we were able to raise a significant amount of money for the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center.”

The AIM Marine Group consists of PassageMaker, Power & Motoryacht, Sail, Yachts International, Soundings, Trade Only, BoatQuest.com and Show Management. AIM tapped its editorial experts in each category to make the choices. George Sass Jr., the Marine Group’s editorial director and editor-in-chief of Power & Motoryacht magazine, says the awards reflect renewed vigor, confidence and innovation among the builders and manufacturers that displayed at this year’s Fort Lauderdale boat show.

“One undeniable trend in the current marine marketplace is that new product is back in force,” he says. “Look back to where we were, say, just seven years ago and compare that to where we are today. You’ll see innovative products that weren’t present not so long ago.”

Much of the new product is intended to reduce the barriers to boating and make it safer, more fun and more comfortable, Sass says. “After a significant time in the field testing and evaluating these products, the editors of the AIM Marine Group realized it was time to recognize the innovators and the innovations,” he says. “These are the companies that are keeping this industry alive and vibrant. So last summer we implemented a process that allowed our 30 editors from the individual magazines to nominate the best product in categories aligned with the expertise of their individual brands. The nominees were reviewed at length, discussed internally and reviewed against the competitive set.”

Among the boats selected, the Ocean Alexander 120 was named Best Overall Boat of the Year, a 121-foot trideck that Christensen Shipyards engineered and built. The yacht features a full-beam master suite on the main deck and four guest staterooms on the lower deck. Each stateroom has its own private head, media arrays, custom cabinetry and cedar-lined lockers. The company says the yacht’s “revolutionary new approach to the helm layout” will be a signature item for future Ocean Alexander motoryachts.

At the smaller end of the size spectrum is the Boston Whaler 210 Montauk, Cutwater 28, Contender 30 ST, Hinckley T34, Beneteau Swift Trawler 34, the Hunt 44 and others.

The decisions were not always easy, but the criteria were clear. “The boat has to be a solid, all-around performer,” says Soundings senior reporter Chris Landry, who has tested more than 200 powerboats during his career. “It has to have a smart design and layout, and the construction needs to be detail-oriented and of the highest quality. The ride needs to be smooth, and it has to behave well in all sea conditions. If the boat doesn’t execute its mission and purpose, it won’t be a top choice of mine.”

Of course, a 22-foot bay boat won’t perform like a 40-foot express boat or a 110-foot motoryacht, Landry says, but sometimes boats try to do too many things and don’t do any of them well enough to meet the highest standards. He says he is impressed by the number of high-quality new boats introduced in the past couple of years. “For consumers, that’s a great thing,” he says. “It’s good to have these builders pushing each other to develop better and better boats.”

Additionally, Madame Annette Bénéteau-Roux, former chief executive and president of Groupe Bénéteau and now vice chairperson of its supervisory board, received the AIM Marine Group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Robert C. Arzbaecher, CEO of Actuant Corp., received the Good Samaritan Award.

Madame Annette Beneteau-Roux

Bénéteau-Roux, known as the “First Lady of Yachting,” is the granddaughter of Benjamin Bénéteau, founder of the French boatbuilding company. She took charge of the struggling commercial fishing-boat builder in 1963 at age 22 and with her brother Andre grew it into a world leader in sailboat and powerboat production.

Arzbaecher, who leads a $1.6 billion diversified industrial company that includes Marinco and Mastervolt, and his 11-person crew rescued six sailors in the Chicago Yacht Club’s 2011 Race to Mackinac whose boat had capsized in a violent storm. “To me it wasn’t even a decision — it was a reaction,” Arzbaecher later said.

Robert C. Arzbaecher

Proceeds from the banquet benefited Nova Southeastern’s Oceanographic Center, home of the 82,000-square-foot Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research, which is built on a 10-acre campus next to John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach. It will be the focal point for local, regional, national and international research into coral reefs and the study of solutions for coral reef decline.

See related article:

- AIM Marine Group Editor's Chice Award Winners

January 2013 issue