News and debuts at Newport show

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The big Rhode Island show saw new launches from Morris Yachts, Hinckley and Maine Cat

The big Rhode Island show saw new launches from Morris Yachts, Hinckley and Maine Cat

“How can you not smile when you’re on the water?” asked Rhode Island Gov. Donald J. Carcieri as he stepped off a boat to attend the Newport International Boat Show, held Sept. 16 to 19. “And what better place to come to than Newport?” he added.

Though heavy rain dampened the first day, organizers say attendance was up over previous years. The show is held annually along the waterfront on America’s Cup Avenue.

Morris Yachts introduced its new M36 daysailer, designed by Sparkman & Stephens. The Morris company unveiled its plans at last year’s show but since then several hulls have been built. Cuyler Morris, company president, says they expect the boat to appeal particularly to New England buyers, but several have already been sold across the country — plus one in Ireland.

Hinckley celebrated the introduction of three new yachts, and a change of command. New CEO Gerry DiSchino was on hand at a breakfast press conference. DiSchino was hired as general manager of the company’s subsidiary, the Ted Hood Co., in 2000. He was tapped in early September to replace former CEO Ralph Willard, who was named chairman of the board.

Although the new Daysailer 42 wasn’t on display at the show (it debuted in October in Annapolis), the company touted the new design as applying the principles that made the Picnic Boat so successful — such as ease of use — to a sailboat.

“Hinckley has made the art of sailing a picnic,” quips Bill Bennett, vice president.

The show also featured a new Talaria 55, which Hinckley says offers more power, space and speed. The 55’s owner, Reid Cameron, was on hand to talk about his new yacht, Charmer.

Also unveiled was the new SC series of powerboats, which offer prop-driven power instead of the jet drives Hinckley is known for. The company says the new design is in response to customer demand, but expects the new line to appeal to a whole new segment of the market.

In addition to its new yachts, the company also unveiled a pet project — the Lilly picnic boat. The boat is outfitted with renowned fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer’s signature pink and green, and florals and ginghams. According to company spokeswoman Nancy Austin, the one-of-a-kind yacht was Hinckley’s way of underscoring the importance a woman’s choice plays in choosing a family yacht.

Maine Cat debuted its new 41-foot sailing catamaran at the show. Company president Dick Vermuleun says he designed and built the larger cat to meet customer demand for more space than the 38-foot model.

“You’ve got to grow with your customer,” Vermuleun says.

Despite a bumpy economy the past few years, industry leaders at the show say they are optimistic about a rebound.

“Nobody talks about the economy, which means it’s improving,” says Vermuleun.

“The reality is all these baby boomers are reaching the target age,” where they have time, health and money, says Paul Fenn, president of Jeanneau. “Our sales, especially with larger boats, are going up and up.”

Jeanneau featured its new 40.3, the 49DS and 26-foot sleek, retro-styled 755 Runabout.