EDITORIAL - Skipper's Seat

Although the Gold Coast was declared a natural disaster area where the “beautiful one day, perfect the next” catchphrase was laughable, there was bright news at the end of the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (SCIBS) held late last month. And this was despite the four-day boat show being reduced to three days due to freakish weather.

People came, struck up deals, and sailed or motored away with new boats. Trade-a-Boat had its crew on site, too, striking out along the gangways and shooting video that you can now see online in case you missed the show. You will also see our verdict, live footage from press conferences, interviews with leading marine figures, importers and agents, plus our awards for best boats of the show.

Our flourishing website is a virtual boat show itself these days, what with daily news items, features, tests, video, pictorials and loads more. We’ll be covering most of the big state boat shows, the main marine events and latest cool craft in this way every day from now on.

In print, our boating bible Trade-a-Boat magazine offers yet more valuable and exclusive material, making us a multimedia marine powerhouse operating 24/7. The virtual world is useful but, to me and tens of thousands of others, there’s something more tangible and real about sitting up in bed or on your boat with Trade-a-Boat in hand.

Back in the boat-show wash, SCIBS general manager, Mark Jensen said total numbers for the three days were 36,479, an excellent result given the extraordinary conditions. On a pro-rata basis compared with the four-day show that attracted 50,678 last year (the second-highest SCIBS attendance on record), it would appear would-be boaters voted with their feet.

For the hard-hit marine industry, SCIBS was a show of strength. There were almost 600 boats and watercraft on display, with 224 yachts and cruisers bobbing in the somewhat miry Coomera River, and a further 365 boats and watercraft on the hardstand and in the pavilion, where rafts of cool kit and groovy gear fought for your attention. The Seakeeper active gyro stabiliser at the Twin Disc stand was typical of the groundbreaking gear found at the show. Prices start at $95,000 but for that you get 60 to 80 per cent less roll in your boat.

Meantime, if all the boats on the marina alone were lined in single file they would stretch almost three kilometres. It was here that the sellers of private luxury liners were crowing the loudest. Evidently, the top end of town hasn’t heard of the R word. Boats from about $2 million-plus are hot property again.

The thing I found most encouraging was the investment from our hard-hit local yards. Whereas mainstream American boatbuilders are sitting on their hands, perhaps adding new decals and different coloured upholstery, Australian boatbuilders have invested heavily in R&D to reinvigorate the market.

After putting itself into voluntary receivership two weeks before the show, Riviera said it took deposits for seven of its new 5800 Sport Yachts (about $2 million drive-away) and sold 11 boats amounting to $18 million. It also handed over the keys for its third 70-footer ($5 million-plus) to a South Australian couple, who made a speech designed to allay fears about the future of the big boatbuilder.

But in even bigger news, Riviera announced a new range of Motor Yachts in 73, 75 and 85 model designations —
the latter with a Jacuzzi on deck — to be built in Taiwan. Stephen Milne, director of brand and communications at Riviera, told Trade-a-Boat that inquiry for the Motor Yachts has already been strong. “We are in discussions and quoting prices as we speak. The first boat could appear at next year’s SCIBS,” he said.

Maritimo, the marque started by Bill Barry-Cotter after he sold Riviera in 2002, showed the fruits of its recent $10 million investment in new product development, with an impressive display of 10 Maritimos including three all-new models. All eyes will now be on the new 73 flagship debuting at the Sydney International Boat Show next month.

Meantime, the new 56 Cruising Motoryacht, without the usual moulded styling wings over its walkaround decks, looks like a much sleeker vessel than its sister ships. Yet its performance is in keeping with Maritimo’s reputation for efficiency rather than all-out speed. On paper, the consumption figures are compelling.

“I don’t want to say too much, as we’re firming up sales after the boat show. But we’re quietly confident about what came out of the show,” Barry-Cotter told us. Maritimo plans to expand down the line into the 40-footer league.

In respect of ease of use, the new C50 Sports Cabriolet proved a nice-sized single-level entertainer. But without question, the A60 Aegean Enclosed Flybridge is the most stylish new boat in the Maritimo fleet. In terms of design and creativity, it’s our best boat of the show. It had the wow factor.

Perhaps due to the times, there was more scuttlebutt at the SCIBS than I have heard in my entire life of attending state boat shows. It would benefit everyone if our industry worked as one. On with the Melbourne Boat Show opening July 2, Adelaide Boat Show starting July 16 and Sydney International Boat Show from July 30. Let’s present a united front and prove the doomsayers wrong — again.

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— David Lockwood,