Review of the year and predictions for 2008

As Motor Boat & Yachting wishes all its readers and all boaters out there a happy and enjoyable Christmas and New Year, we look back at 2007 and forward to the coming 12 months.

What have been the big changes and what is there to look forward to in 2008?

There were some dramatic announcements in the boat industry in 2007, notably the news that the Government was set on introducing alcohol limits for leisure boaters and that that the price of red diesel was definitely going to rise.

We await the results of public consultations on both issues for the clarification of final details.

But two things are clear, 2008 will see the introduction of the same alcohol limit for leisure boat skippers as that which exists for car drivers.

And diesel-engined boat owners can expect the fuel’s price to rise on 1 November 2008, to a level probably close to current roadside prices.

How these issues will affect the way we enjoy our hobby has yet to be seen, but research by the RYA and BMF suggests the fuel price rise could force some to give up boating altogether.

Some consider biodiesel a way around the problem. With its current off-road price reduction, biodiesel is an appealing prospect financially and environmentally.

But it is not available at waterside pumps.

As Pete Bethune, the outspoken skipper of biodiesel-fuelled trimaran Earthrace, said recently, such changes in infrastructure and thinking need Government support. You can read Pete’s fears about the future of motorboating in full, in MBY February.

New Zealander Pete himself is in Limehouse Marina in London over Christmas on board Earthrace, preparing the boat for its second attempt on the Round the World Powerboat Speed Record.

He and his team set off in March from Valencia, hoping to break British boat Cable & Wireless Adventurer’s record of 68 days. Barring the kind of terrible mishaps that hit Earthrace’s first attempt, and with a proper fuel sponsor on board this trip, the New Zealand crew should break it comfortably.

June’s Round Britain Powerboat Race is a return to the classic days of powerboating. It is only the third time this mammoth event has ever been held and the field includes the world’s very best powerboaters.

Final numbers will be set in January, but organiser Mike Lloyd hopes for at least 50 boats and possibly 70.

One of the things which makes the event so gripping is that it sees the sport’s most famous names lining up alongside a small but very brave group of amateur motorboaters, who are using their own production craft to make the circumnavigation. The spectacle will make fascinating viewing.

Here are some thoughts and predictions for 2008 from MBY and from others in the industry.

Meanwhile, have a great festive season and see you out on the water next year!

MBY editor Hugo Andreae:”I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to the red diesel price rise, but nevertheless there are some great things on the horizon for 2008.

“In the market, the new Fjord 40 Coupé will be an interesting boat, as will be the new Sealine SC47. We will be out in both to bring you full reports as soon as is possible.

“The Round Britain Race will be very exciting, not least because MBY is giving a prize for the first production motorcruiser home. Meanwhile we hope to have a reporter on board one of the lead boats. Good luck to him – it’ll be a hell of a ride!

“Finally, MBY takes delivery of a new Bénéteau Monte Carlo 37 early in the 2008 season from UK dealers Dickies Southampton. We can’t wait to get out on the water in her.”

MBY news editor Rob Peake:”One of the most shocking pieces of news in 2007 was the demise of major boat dealer Peters Opal.

“The firm has been reborn as Opal Marine and remains a strong force in the industry, but the initial problems left some customers facing court cases to recover their deposits. The situation sparked questions about building greater protection for customer deposits.

“The BMF is already working towards creating a safer buying infrastructure for the customer in 2008, something we will welcome wholeheartedly.”

MBY technical editor Dave Marsh:”In terms of boat design, I think in 2008 we’ll see some quite hard-edged boats appearing, like the new Sealines and the Doma.

“I think we’ll also see the growth of the micro-flybridge, which you can see now on the Azimut 103S, some of the Pershings and the Princess V85. It’s just a tiny flybridge on the back of a hardtop.

“We’ve seen hardtop sportscruisers become much more prevalent over the past four years. Gradually, designers put doors on the back of them and fitted them out like flybridge saloons. The micro-flybridge is the next step and I think it’ll be a big trend.

“The big issue is whether petrol-engined boats will make a resurgence. Will they start to creep up in price through demand, or will diesel boats now have to trim their sails a bit because people will be looking more at petrol?

“At the 29ft mark, there’s quite a strong argument for petrol. Diesel is more economical, but it’s a balancing act because petrol-engined boats are far cheaper.

“I don’t know the answer, but I think now is a really good time to buy a petrol-engined boat. The change will come at the end of 2008 when the red diesel price increases.”

MBY marketing manager Richard Shead:”As the price of red diesel increases, I can see the return of the 23ft displacement gentleman’s launch.

“There are a few manufacturers producing some very sexy looking launches in this bracket and as boating gets more expensive, fuel economy will become more appealing than speed for many people.

“Meanwhile marina prices are continuing to rise and it will be interesting to see how boaters react.”

MBY technical writer Greg Copp:”We tried to take my RIB across to the Channel Isles in November and were stopped by the weather.

“In 2008 I want to take the Sunseeker Thunderhawk across instead. It’ll make a more comfortable passage, and it’ll be cheaper too, because it’s LPG-fuelled. When I have to run it on petrol, it’ll be 54p per litre in Jersey. I like keeping my cash out of the Chancellor’s pocket!”

Sarah Black, Project Manager, The Green Blue:”The recent report from the European Confederation of Nautical Industries caused a few smiles among leisure boaters when it revealed that leisure boating has minimal impact on the environment.

“It does give an important dose of perspective, and an overview of some of the key environmental issues facing our sector today. However it also highlights that it is important that we build environmental awareness into every new and existing boater’s experience on the water, halting or slowing any environmental impact we may have.

“The Green Blue has already established an online database of research into the environmental impacts of recreational boating which includes some important work into the impact of invasive species, end of hull life and emissions to air not included in the report. Search the primary research for free at our website
www.thegreenblue.org.uk 

“Recreational boats are responsible for up to 2% of oil and fuel discharged in to the seas and boat hulls have also been recognised as an important vector for the spread of alien species. Both issues can be addressed effectively by boat users taking care when using oil and fuel, for example when refuelling and careful cleaning of hulls and trailers when moving between water bodies.

“Research undertaken by ICOMIA into the disposal of hulls which have come to the end of their useful life, points to problems which the boating community will have to address in the near future but is not touched on by the report.

“It is important that we continue to see things in perspective but that we include the whole picture; full life cycle analysis has yet to be done to establish the true environmental impact of recreational boating.”

Picture:MBY reader Martin Stanley claimed a new world record in 2007 – 14 waterskiers behind a Windy Bora 40. Will the mark be bettered in 2008?