by Bob Wonders
One of the most prestigious events at the annual Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail is the announcement of the Innovation Awards chosen by an experienced panel of judges from the BWI (Boating Writers International).
The awards are arranged by the National Marine Manufacturers Association to recognise products that best meet the following criteria; innovative distinction from other products, benefit to the marine industry and/or consumer, practicality, cost effectiveness and availability to the consumer within 60 days of the award receipt.
Zuzana Prochazka, President of the BWI board of directors, described the 2011 entries as 'outstanding.'
'We have seen innovations that are sure to pave the way for boating industry advancement,' she said.
Eleven Innovation Awards and one Honourable Mention were presented in a range of categories.
Chaparral Boats was named top vessel in the category Cruisers (25’60’ including fishing craft) for its 327 SSX Bowrider.
Judges were impressed with the spacious cabin area and cockpit design, one saying 'This boat shakes up the bow rider category by providing a truly liveable space below.'
BRP took out the PWC/Jet/Boats/Pontoon Boats category for its Sea-Doo GTI SE 130 watercraft.
According to the judges, this is one smart package, featuring a new ergonomically-designed deck, Intelligent Throttle Control and fuel efficient operation.
Noted sailboat manufacturer Beneteau claimed its honour for the Beneteau Sense series, currently comprising two models, 40’ and 50’.
The Beneteau Sense 50, named top sailboat in the NMMA Innovation Awards.
Judges commented that the vessel had an enormous cockpit allowed for entertaining, a living space separated from unnecessary noise and a deck that was easy to navigate.
Simrad Yachting was named ‘top dog’ in the Consumer Electronics and Software category for its BSM-2 Broadband Sounder, the only recreational sonar to incorporate commercial-grade frequency sweeping pulse compression technology.
B&G claimed an award for its Zeus Sailing Navigation System, a comprehensive package designed exclusively for sailors and destined to prove of assistance to both cruisers and racers when making routing decisions.
Suzuki was named top of the outboard engine category for its DF40A and 50A three-cylinder engines, offering 15 percent more displacement and are five percent lighter than their predecessors.
In the Watersports and Equipment category, renowned ski boat manufacturer Mastercraft took out the ‘top gong’ for its Zero Flex Tower 5P.
This tower raises or lowers to three different positions and can tow a skier in all three. One judge described the tower as ‘a smartly designed, tower of power that looks like mechanical muscle.’
There’s a category called Consumer Installed Non-Electric Hardware and Selden received the award for its Selden Reversible Winch.
One judge (and I’ll catch up with him some day….) said the unique winch was so easy to use that 'even a power boater could use it.'
In Consumer Safety Equipment category, joint winners for different products were Navionics and Lake Lite.
Navionics developed and app that allows users to add their knowledge to the Navionics database and help identify the latest conditions that can then be transferred wirelessly to the vessel’s navigation system.
Lake Lite was honoured for its Solar Powered Illuminating Buoys, making night time navigation easy for all.
The stylish Chaparral 327 Bow Rider, given top honours in the NMMA's Innovation Awards in its category.