Blasting atop the Bay of Cannes aboard Fairline’s highly anticipated F//Line 33, at an easy 40-knot cruise, I couldn’t shake the thought: Competition is alive and well on the British Isle. Within a year, the Big Three (Sunseeker, Princess and Fairline) returned to their performance boat roots, launching edgy dayboats between 33 and 38 feet.
Princess’ R35 was the first to debut with a launch at the 2018 Cannes show. With a bright red paint scheme and a gala thrown at a French castle (yes, really) the boat’s foiling technology lifted its profile to new heights. It appeared the other British builders would have a tough act to follow.
Sunseeker didn’t take the challenge sitting down; they tapped late, world-renowned race boat designer Fabio Buzzi to create a hull that, when paired with a pair of monstrous outboards, would truly soar. After one of the sportiest boat tests of my career in choppy conditions on the Solent, I can attest: Mission accomplished.
All this brings me back to the Bay of Cannes on a postcard-perfect morning. Joined by the hull designers from the Slovenia-based J&J Design who were aboard for their first sea trial of the F//Line 33, we jumped to 47 knots and carved smooth banking turns. Hard over at the helm, I felt like I could reach out my hand and touch the glistening water below. I looked back and asked the designers what they thought. They simply smiled widely and nodded. Language barrier be damned, I knew what they were thinking. This boat can fly. Pride was written on their faces.
Video produced by John V. Turner
What is perhaps most amazing about this trio of highly advanced craft is not how they are similar, but how they’re unique. Straight shafts, outboards and gas-powered stern drives are as different as you can get. They each have different design briefs; attract a different type of buyer; and the learning curve to get comfortable at the helm also differs wildly.
It has been said that a rising tide raises all ships—that is certainly the case with these British builders who have pushed the design envelope to the razor’s edge. There’s no doubt that there will be a trickle down—or rather, trickle up—effect from this innovation. I predict they’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible with racing hulls, carbon fiber construction and foils. And it’s only a matter of time until other builders around the world take note and raise their game to compete with the British.
But besides healthy competition, what really spurred these builders to launch a dayboats invasion might be a bigger calling: Building boats that will attract younger people to their brand, and indeed, boating in general.
In that spirit of competition, with 2019 in our wake, my colleagues and I looked back on our digital offerings—the deep archive of reporting on our website, our social media channels and our industry-leading video program—and set out to determine which boats were the most popular among our audience. The exercise proved incredibly insightful and inspired our Reader’s Choice Awards on page 66. Filled with innovation and horsepower to spare, last year’s most popular boats showed me just how fast today’s up-and-comers are improving upon the status quo. There was a day, not too long ago, when quad outboards on a center console was an anomaly—now two boats on our list are powered by six.
The issue reminded me of two important truths. The first is that there is no stronger catalyst for change and improvement than competition. And the second is that it’s only when you stop and look back that you realize just how far we’ve come. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring.