Alex Smith hunts down 10 of the best and most novel boats from the world’s biggest indoor show.
The Dusseldorf Boat Show is a wonderful event. Set in 17 halls (each of which could gobble up an entire tray of London Boat Shows at a single sitting), it brings together an astonishingly diverse mix of marine products. Even as a boating journalist, you routinely see 40 or 50 builders you’ve never even heard of – some with exhibits too wild to make any great sense, and others with boats that do a fine job of reconfiguring the way you look at design. It’s an education as well as a treat, so rather than sticking solely to the mainstream makers, our reflections on the highlights of Dusseldorf 2017 include a spattering of more obscure makers who deserve to be better known …
1. Keizer 42
Designed by superyacht powerhouse Vripack, and built by prolific German yard Bavaria Yachtbau, this open 44-footer is the very first craft to emerge from new Dutch yard Keizer. Inspired by the traditional runabout, it comes with a choice of Volvo Penta motors (twin D4 300s or twin D6 400s) or a pair of Mercury 320hp petrol engines. Inside, the 4m beam creates plenty of practical living space, including a huge cockpit with a single-level deck and a full external galley. The hotel-inspired accommodation, meanwhile, offers a master bedroom with two sofas and a king-size bed, plus a fully equipped heads compartment and an additional guest suite aft. The whole point of the new boat is to combine a high-end experience with a price that undercuts the existing market by a massive margin – and while the finish on the debut boat is yet to match up to the hype, the price (from 282,000 euros) is already a major talking point.
2. Ranieri 21 S
The ever-so-Italian Ranieri 21 S is a fine-looking sports boat. It uses a succession of angles, bulges, curves and flourishes in the hull, the topsides and even the cushions to create a very dynamic but natural-looking profile. Despite a very modest price, it also drives exactly like a small open boat should. With the top-rated 200hp outboard, you get tremendous pickup allied to a very balanced hull and plenty of rewarding helm response. This seven-man boat comes with a generous 240-litre fuel tank, plus a very handy heads and storage compartment inside the helm console. There is seating for five aft of the helm, alongside a secure, family-friendly space in the bow for at least two people to stretch out and sunbathe. It might not be exotic by the standards of an international yacht exhibition, but it continues to represent a very complete and satisfying package.
3. Olympia 570 Holiday
While it doesn’t exactly scream ‘flagship model’, the 570 Holiday is actually the largest boat this Polish yard currently produces. Designed as a family overnighter, it features a secure cockpit with rotating helm seats, an aft bench and an optional table. Down below, you get a basic double berth with plenty of storage lockers and an optional deck hatch. Access to the foredeck doesn’t look great, and the low-rent graphics are all a bit ‘charity shop shell suit’. But this is a simple five-man, 18ft, outboard-powered sports cuddy with a starting price of less than 10,000 euros. With average UK package prices of around £25,000 for entry-level boats of this scale, that leaves you a very big margin for the engine, the import duty and a fresh set of hull stickers.
4. Aquador 35 AQ
If you used to consider Aquador’s fleet a bit tame and uninspiring, it’s time to think again. Having invested in the design flair of Espen Thorup, the company has just unveiled what it describes as ‘a new history’ for Aquador’s cruiser range. Known as the 35 AQ, it combines a low-profile, offset pilot house built almost entirely from glass, with a superbly contemporary arrangement of raked windows and a hull that looks far more aggressive than those of the established fleet. Inside, it employs a single-level deck running all the way from the swim platforms to the helm station. That is paired with a clever twin dining arrangement that enables you to eradicate the division between internal saloon and external aft cockpit by means of simple seat and table infills. The use of a starboard galley keeps the lower deck free for a pair of double cabins and a starboard heads compartment, but it’s the detail that really pleases here. From the pale angular wood fit-out to the huge all-round visibility and the lovely convex heated windscreen, it’s a class act and a very capable flag bearer for the future of the brand.
5. V2 7.0 Open
This Spanish family runabout offers a very large and flexible platform for a boat of such modest length. Both the cockpit and the entire space forward of the helm can be configured as sunbathing platforms, leaving just the two helm seats perching in the middle of a floating 23ft lounger. It also caters for the water sports fan with radically extended swim platforms that go way beyond the back end of the engine cowling. Up front, it uses a fully squared-off, beam-forward, deck boat-style bow, which means that with the table fitted, you could easily dine as many as six people in the bow space as well as in the cockpit. And if you fancy it, there’s also a Sundeck model, which elevates the forward section in order to generate a cabin space down below. In either case, with its 200hp rating, this is a 40-knot, eight-man leisure boat with massive internal versatility and a rapidly expanding fan base.
6. ZAR ZF-0
We’re used to seeing compact jet tenders at and around the 10ft mark, but how about this delectable little outboard-powered machine from Italian builder ZAR? This tubby little boat (the smallest of the five new ZF models) comes with a 6ft beam, seating for four and a transom capable of handling anything from 20 to 30 hp. It also features a beam-forward design alongside a hard, moulded nose section for extra internal space, better spray deflection and a more practical stepping point for beaching. Happily, it manages to retain the charming central dip between the fore and aft mouldings that is so characteristic of ZAR’s larger RIBs; and it also comes with excellent side embarkation points as well as compact steps on both sides of the swim platform. It’s a deeply cool-looking boat with remarkable space, storage and stylistic appeal. If it handles as well as it looks, it will be a very dangerous adversary to the more established tender names.
7. Lupa CR29
Described by Turkish yard Lupa as ‘the ultimate open cruiser’ and enjoying its world debut at Dusseldorf, the CR29 slots neatly into the fleet between the CR21 and the CR38. Like those existing models, it uses faceted panels and unapologetic alien swellings wherever the internal solutions demand a little extra space. It looks superb externally, and when you step on board, the benefits are stark. The deep-set cockpit, with its port helm and starboard dining station, uses an elevated wrap-around moulding that extends well aft over the swim platforms, but keeps you and your family securely contained while underway. Down below, the main cabin in the V of the bow also enjoys impressive breadth and headroom courtesy of those angular elevations on the foredeck. And the private guest cabin further aft features a queen-size bed positioned along the centre line axis in a bid to minimise movement and improve comfort. With a 380hp Volvo Penta sterndrive, this sub-30ft cruiser offers 40-knot performance, lovely looks and generous sleeping for four. It’s tough to argue with that.
8. Super Air Nautique GS20 Electric
This wakeboarding machine represents the coming together of a new 12-man water sports platform and a purpose-built all-electric propulsion system. The boat itself offers a traditional set of assets, like a beamy cockpit with aft-facing loungers and swim platform seats, plus easy accessibility all round and some dramatic stylistic flourishes, like the vertical LED docking lights. In terms of shaping the wake, you also get a three-tank ballast capacity of nearly 840kg plus the Nautique Surf System wave plate. But the really exciting stuff comes in the form of an electric motor with nearly 50 per cent more torque than a MerCruiser 5.7-litre V8. A sophisticated touch screen interface at the helm enables you to use it to the utmost, conditioning the wake and the power delivery to match exactly the type of water sport you want. At 223,000 euros, this top-of-the-line 20-footer is well over twice as much as the conventional platform, but such is the price you have to pay for a first-class tow on an eco-friendly lake.
9. Chilli Island
From the same country that brought us Frauscher comes a (slightly) more pedestrian marine conveyance. Known as Chilli Island, this two-man Austrian design innovation is powered by a MotorGuide electric motor of between 0.5 and 1.0 kW, hooked up to a pair of AGM Deep Cycle batteries with 150 Ah each for a running time of around five or six hours. An on-board computer gives you all the relevant data regarding your batteries and motor, and it also governs the sound system in tandem with a Bluetooth interface that enables you to play music directly from your smartphone. Speed and direction, meanwhile, are controlled by a simple trackball in the centre of the platform. With three adjustable overhead palm leaves for shade and an integrated bottle cooler for wine, plus cup holders and storage boxes on both sides and a ladder at the bow, it’s a very impressive recreational platform. And at just 2.5 metres in length and 360kg in weight, this robust polyethylene plaything looks tailor-made for deployment from a larger vessel.
10. Quicksilver Activ 755 Cruiser
If Quicksilver’s 755 Cruiser looks unlike any Activ model you’ve seen before, that’s because (as luck would have it) it’s basically an Uttern D7. Brunswick own both brands, and that means that all the Scandinavian design savvy of the Swedish model has now been shunted into the Quicksilver camp. In line with most Nordic day cruisers, you get a big cockpit with a very slick starboard galley and a port dining station that is easily converted into a sunbathing pad – and with the fold-down backrest on the aft bench, this sunbathing space can even be extended out over the swim platforms. The platforms themselves are enormous, which is ideal for water sports, and the power rating of between 150 and 300 hp also brings plenty of flexibility into play. Down below, you get long, slender hull windows for excellent light, as well as lovely views from the bed. The quality also feels like a substantial step up from most of the Activ fleet, and the best part is that, with the Quicksilver badge in place, this bona fide 23ft Nordic day cruiser can now be yours for less than £50,000. Sounds like a bargain to me.