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Two continents, two courses

It surely comes as no surprise to you to learn that as editor of PMY, I attend a lot of boat shows every year. But you may not know I attend as many foreign shows as I do domestic ones.

Besides beefing up my frequent flyer mileage, this gives me the chance to compare European and U.S. boatbuilding. I don’t mean the actual boats, since they’re largely the same, except that European models typically appear overseas a year or so before they do here. I’m talking about something more general.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed that European builders are introducing more really new (as opposed to refreshed) models than Americans. I haven’t kept an exact tally but I’d guess that for every new American model I’ve seen 30 feet and larger, I’ve seen three new European ones.

I’m notsure what this means. Is the European industry healthier than that in the United States or just more daring? Are the Americans playing it cautious and conservative while waiting for the recovery or do they simply have less money for product development? I don’t know the answer, but it is worth noting that the general economic recovery in Europe seems to be ahead of that over here.

What I do know is that when it comes to new designs, the Europeans are more daring. Take the Wider, a totally unique, expandable sportboat you’ll see in next month’s “Boats” section.Or the baia 100,with its all-glass canopy forward of the helm, covering a big dining area that spills out onto the foredeck. The question is whether in crafting such radical offerings, are the Europeans ahead of the curve or misreading customers’ tastes?

Then there’s Europe’s embrace of hybrid propulsion. At the Cannes and Genoa boat shows I saw a number of such boats, from a 25-footer up to Azimut’s new Magellano 60 (above), which has an optional hybrid system that will also be available in other Azimuts and some Benetti yachts. American boaters are decidedly skeptical about hybrid powerboats, and frankly, it remains to be seen whether buyers of any nationality will pay for such technology.However, if they will (or have to), European builders will definitely have a technological advantage.

Overall,my experience over the last year tells me that European and American boatbuilders are heading into the next decade with significantly different strategies. It will be interesting to see which one you, the boat buyer, embraces.

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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