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Innovation Awards honor top products

Ten marine products were honored for innovative achievement by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Boating Writers International on Thursday at the 72nd annual Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail.

Eight products took home 2013 Innovation Awards and two were recognized as Honorable Mentions during NMMA’s State of the Recreational Boating Industry Breakfast at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

"These awards highlight innovation in the industry," said Zuzana Prochazka, Innovation Awards judge chairwoman, editor of and immediate past president of BWI's board. "We are confined by a very narrow definition of innovation, which sometimes frustrates us ... but we're not just judging cool products that will sell like hotcakes."

The Innovation Awards, organized by the NMMA and judged by BWI, recognize products that best meet the following criteria: innovative distinction from other products currently being manufactured; benefit to the marine industry and/or the consumer; practicality; cost-effectiveness; and availability to the consumer within 60 days of receiving the award.

Seven judges find and test products and "relentlessly pursue candidates to understand products better ... while they are setting up booths, finding missing equipment and generally don't want to speak with us" as they prepare for the Miami shows, Prochazka quipped.

Rounding out the panel of judges for this year’s Innovation Awards were Nigel Calder, author of the Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual and Marine Diesel Engines; Charlie Doane, cruising editor for Sail magazine and blogger at; Ann Key, managing editor of Practical Sailor magazine; Lenny Rudow, senior editor for Dominion Marine Media, including and; Alan Wendt, first vice president of BWI and a contributor to marine industry publications, including Lakeland Boating; and Jason Wood, senior editor at Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Eight Innovation Awards and two Honorable Mentions were presented in the following categories:

Consumer Electronics, Mobile Applications and Software

Dragonfly by Raymarine: Raymarine’s affordable, high-performance Dragonfly Sonar/GPS makes the power and crisp detail of CHIRP sonar available to inland and coastal saltwater anglers. “In a short period of time Raymarine has not only brought high-dollar fishing power to low-dollar budgets, but has enhanced the capabilities,” Rudow said.

Honorable Mention: B&G SailSteer and SailTime by Navico

Mechanical & Electrical Systems

50-amp Inlet & Connector by SmartPlug Systems: SmartPlug Systems’ 50-amp inlet and connector offers an increased pin and connector clip contact area — maximizing electrical transfer while eliminating excessive heat. “The SmartPlug solves a longstanding problem which, over the years, has caused numerous fires and cost millions of dollars in damage,” Doane said. “They have demonstrated great persistence in overcoming regulatory hurdles and industry intransigence.”

Personal Gear, Soft Goods, Watersports and Fishing Equipment

Locking Pickup Truck Rod Rack by Boat Outfitters: The first locking removable rod rack for use in pickups is a unique stainless cable system that allows safe, theft-free transportation of the expensive rod-and-reel combos. “The Rod Rack solves an age-old problem all anglers face: broken or stolen rods in transit. If you own a pickup truck, a boat and fishing rods, you’ll want one,” Rudow said.

Pontoon and Deck Boats

Crowne 250 by Harris FloteBote: Harris FloteBote combines a comprehensive and innovative list of features and amenities in the Crowne 250, including a specially designed Sport Arch. Key said, “The Crowne 250 is an elegant pontoon with real feng shui that’s so comfortable you’ll want to drive it into your living room.”

Power Boats (25 to 60 feet, including Fishing Craft)

370 Venture by Sea Ray: The Sea Ray 370 Venture uniquely incorporates patent-pending outboard engine technology in a fiberglass express cruiser powered by fully concealed outboard engines. “Finally, we have another option when it comes to powering a mid-sized cruiser: a pair of hidden four-stroke outboards that increases interior volume and creates a luxurious master cabin,” Wendt said.

Honorable Mention: 325 Center Console by Belzona

Propulsion Inboard and Outboard

Deep Blue by Torqeedo: Deep Blue is the world’s first industrially produced 80-hp electric outboard powered by batteries and adapted specifically for the marine environment. “This is a fully engineered system from the propeller all the way to the batteries,” Calder said.

PWC and Jetboats

Yamaha 192 Series with Thrust Directional Enhancer by Yamaha WaterCraft: Yamaha 192 Series boats feature a single supercharged engine — an innovative yet inexpensive solution to maximize control and maneuverability. Doane added, “The TDE system is an effective and low-cost innovation that enhances low-speed maneuverability for jetboats.”

Runabouts and Fishing Craft to 24 Feet

230 Vantage by Boston Whaler: The 230 Vantage seamlessly blends comfort, versatility and handling in one remarkable dual console model. “The 230 showed amazing versatility in a small space defined by innovative seating and quality execution,” Wood said.

— Reagan Haynes