SA-built multihulls dominate nominations for top international awards

We’re not renowned for cooking or generating electricity, but South Africans sure can build boats.   This year sees a record number of SA nominations for the world’s three premier boatbuilding awards, all scheduled to take place early next year.  And judging by the quality of the nominees we should expect quite a few awards to come our way.

“It’s our best year ever for nominations and accolades,” confirms SABBEX chairman Bruce Tedder. “New models, new designs – testament to the focus from our builders on investment in new moulds and tooling, which is now paying dividends.”

Sail Magazine Best Boats 2022, Cruising World Boat of the Year, and Multihull World Magazine’s ‘Multihull of the Year’ all feature South African multihull models in their finalist fleet. And it’s arguably the best-looking South African line-up since the 1995 Rugby World Cup. No doubt it will achieve similar success.

Tedder believes South Africa has attained a critical mass of yard excellence that augers well for an expanding global footprint in marine manufacturing: “The standards are being pushed higher and higher.”

He said the key to their success was a core of expertise concentrated in three main locations (Cape Town, Knysna/St.Francis and Durban). “The yards are learning from each other, sharing knowledge. The same applied to suppliers,” Tedder said. “The Subcontractors, sailmakers, mast builders, carbon component suppliers, the stainless steel fabricators – they all have new ideas, new concepts and have upped their game.”

“A key common thread for the nominees is solid and serious international sales and marketing agents and dealers. Or they have very close links to the world top catamaran designers. This wealth of cutting edge knowledge filters down.”

SA’s success is all the more impressive coming on the back of the coronavirus pandemic and repeated lockdowns. Local yards weathered the storm thanks largely to stringent workplace safety protocols. As a result they were in prime position to benefit from a resurgent boat market. “It wasn’t fair, but there’s no denying some parts of the global economy fared better than others this past year, and among the lucky ones was the marine industry,” said Sail Magazine in an editorial introduction to their ‘Best Boats 2022’ nomination. “The result is a Best Boats class of 2022 that’s as healthy as we have seen in years: replete with everything from borderline production megayachts to a fun new batch of daysailers and pocket cruisers and even a pair of high-tech scows for the foiling crowd.”

Two SA boats, the Leopard 42 and Balance 482, had the rare distinction of being nominated for all three awards, while Kinetic’s KC54 and Xquisite’s X5 Plus achieved two out of three. Completing the impressive list is the Vision 444 (Sail Magazine Best Boats 2022), the Voyage 590 (Cruising World), and the Royal Cape Majestic 530 (Cruising World).

Not a bad haul of accolades for a country by any standard, and a good return on investment for government’s trade and industry support programme.

Balance earned high praise from Sail magazine’s in-house scribe, who branded the new 482 as “vintage Balance with its svelte lines, well-thought-out accommodations plan and performance potential.”

“Although a relative newcomer to the multihull world, Balance Catamarans continues to grow by leaps and bounds, sending an increasing number of new boats down the ways in South Africa and steadily expanding its product line, with models ranging from around 40ft to over 70ft LOA,” Sail Magazine said.

Multihulls World said the 482 had “proven to be fast in all conditions, including upwind sailing thanks to its daggerboards.”

Balance Catamarans President Phil Berman said the ‘trifecta’ nomination was just reward for a quality team effort: “At Balance Catamarans, we are always working hard to achieve a perfect balance – quality, comfort and performance – so to have our team’s incredible work recognized on the international stage is gratifying,” Berman told SABBEX. “But, even with all these nominations we must sustain our focus on innovation and excellence in all we do.”

Balance Catamarans Cape Town Managing Director Mark Delany said: “Balance Catamarans Cape Town is honoured and excited that our Balance 482 has been nominated for all three prestigious boat and multihull awards – it is an achievement we are very proud of. An immense amount of effort went into the design and build of this vessel and we have indeed built a beautiful catamaran of incredible quality. Kudos also goes to our design partner, Du Toit Yacht Design, and of course Phil Berman, President of Balance Catamarans. Very importantly, our heartiest congratulations go to all the other South African catamaran manufacturers whose vessels have been nominated – it is fantastic to see the South African boat builders being recognised for the quality catamarans we build.”

Kay Oldenburg, Voyage Chief Operations Officer and Chief Boat Builder, said the Cruising World nomination was exciting: “A decade ago we entered the competition and had a positive outcome. Our VOYAGE 590 ticks all the boxes again, to be a strong contender for the top spot. The VOYAGE staff/family is holding thumbs.”

Kinetic’s Leon Scheepers said: “Obviously we are very very stoked. And we are really excited to have the 54 on the water at last for people to see it and sail it. We are really looking forward to next year.”

Sail Magazine heaped praise on all its SA nominees. In singling out the Leopard 42 it paid tribute to the “attractive new angular aesthetic coupled with an additional entertainment area in the form of a coachroof lounge and larger cabins.” The publication also commended the “handsome, well-built” Vision 444 which had “all the attributes of a good performer under sail.”

The Xquisite X5 Plus was declared “an evolution of the already outstanding X5”, thanks partly to the lighter displacement and more powerful rig.

Tedder said he expected international recognition would help the yards expand further and “get stronger both on the balance sheet and in the competitive market place.”

“The future is super bright,” Tedder concluded.

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