David Foulkes takes great pleasure in adjusting his thinking now and again, the way the rest of us adjust our boat’s trim tabs until we have it riding just so. He serves as both chief technology officer for Brunswick Corp. and vice president of product development, engineering and racing at Mercury Marine — a title that sure seems long until you realize all it has grown to encompass during the eight years he has been on the job.
Before, his team might have focused on a core product, like the 115 Pro XS FourStroke outboard engine that Mercury introduced in February. But today, Foulkes has to think about the other products a yacht owner already has in his life, and technology that Foulkes hopes will “cascade down” to the tenders that Mercury outboards propel.
“People with smaller cars now, they get a lot of the comfort features and convenience features that used to only be present in larger, more luxurious vehicles,” Foulkes says. “That’s what we’re trying to do in our environment.”
In addition to the outboard that premiered in February, Mercury also released a SpitFire CT propeller, which has extra blade area for better fuel efficiency. In March, the company released Active Trim, which constantly adjusts the tender’s trim.
“There’s a GPS chip integrated in the panel,” Foulkes says. “It knows your boat speed exactly, and it talks to the engine, so it knows what the engine is doing exactly. It can replace everything you do when you’re manually trimming, but it can do it instantaneously, and it’s constantly monitoring and adjusting. From my angle, it’s like moving from a manual transmission to an automatic transmission.”
Tying it all together are VesselView502 and VesselView702 multifunction displays that went on sale in May, adding to the just-released VesselView Mobile app (see sidebar above) and VesselView Link.
“VesselView Link is an electronic black box that connects to our engine,” he says. “It will feed the whole graphic interface into a Simrad or Lowrance display.” If all of that sounds like big-yacht thinking for a tender, it is.
“We pride ourselves on producing great engines,” he says, “but that’s just not enough anymore.”
Mercury Marine’s VesselView Mobile got a lot of buzz at the Miami International Boat Show. It transmits engine data via Bluetooth, so users can download an app that displays the data on iPads, iPhones or Android devices. It also has a dealer locator, maintenance reminder, troubleshooting database and route feature that saves photos. “It’s not just a display,” Foulkes says. “It’s like a marine assistant in your hand.”