It’s fall boat show season and, as you can imagine, there are more odious duties in life than walking around looking at boats and being paid to do so. But the fact is, there are so many of these events this time of year and the job involves so much more than walking around looking at boats, that I sometimes catch myself muttering under my breath (in a semi-deranged and unconvincing fashion): There are more odious duties than walking around looking at boats and being paid to do so.
I recently returned from the Festival de la Plaisance de Cannes. (Only the French language can turn a boat show into something that sounds so sexy.) There was a lot to love. It was spectacularly sunny. La Baie de Cannes was full of gorgeous yachts. The majestic hotels and swanky boutiques along Boulevard de la Croisette were busy catering to early-autumn tourists from Russia while brightly colored cabanas tried in vain to keep the British tourists from turning painfully red.
There was a sense of cautious optimism about the future in Cannes. Builders were presenting lots of new models, but they were also incredibly eager to know about the economic mood in the United States. The last few times I was in Europe I found this to be true, and let me tell you, there’s something unnerving about it. It feels a little like spending your last few bucks on a meal from the McDonald’s dollar menu and then having your hungrier friends watch longingly as you wolf it down. That said, European builders seemed more confident about their own crises, and a slew of new models reflected that.
There was a notable trend afoot: Large builders were presenting new models but many of these were smaller. Instead of new flagships of ever-increasing length, luxury and complexity, there were the Sunseeker Portofino 40 and Sealine’s SC42 and C48 (see Yachting, October 2012 On Board), which are newly arrived in the United States. Beneteau introduced its new 29-foot Barracuda 9 and Swift Trawler 50, while its award-winning Monte Carlo Yachts marque unveiled a new line of powerboats under 60 feet, beginning with the MC5.
I have to say, I loved it. Each of these yachts presented its take on a new paradigm and one that many in the industry have been speculating on as the world financial crisis imploded: a return to the simpler joys of boating. These boats are smaller, yes — but they also are being built with the latest construction techniques that have trickled down from bigger vessels. I saw ingenious design that maximized space and light, a level of luxurious fit and finish that has hitherto been largely reserved for superyachts and helm-station technology that has migrated from much larger builds.
Of course, there were plenty of large yachts too — stunning additions to fleet lines with innovative features we couldn’t have dreamed of a decade ago. If you’re looking for a vessel aboard which you can explore the whole wide world, there has never been a better time to find a beauty. However, this was the first time in years that I remember being really excited about not just a couple of larger vessels but many boats across a wide range of styles and sizes.
The smaller debuts, especially, had me standing at the wheel and imagining myself with one … and many of these weren’t what I’d normally call “my kind” of boat. But what’s not to love about a mid-size craft that offers speed, (relative) economy and all the finishes of a bigger yacht? Each of these vessels seemed to hold out the promise of luxury that is manageable and geared not just toward owning a yacht but enjoying it. They were designed to impress, for sure, but that effect was meant for you and your friends and family — not the Joneses or the paparazzi. Tie up at a yacht club on one of these and people will admire you for your smarts, not your money. You’re out on the water, using your boat with the ones you love, and having the time of your life.
And isn’t that why we all got into boating in the first place?
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