Long-standing BBA judge Craig Ritchie reflects on the major design and innovation trends and themes that have defined and continue to shape our industry

One unexpected reward of serving on the jury for the Boat Builder Awards for Business Achievement, held in association with Raymarine, has been the opportunity to witness first-hand the extraordinary advances in technical innovation, and the eye-opening examples of business leadership, that have shaped the leisure marine sector over the past 10 years and which will lead it to a profitable future.


BBA judge and IBI’s North American editor, Craig Ritchie

New trends

An underlying trend the awards have reflected since their inception is the way the very concept of innovation itself is evolving. In the early days of the BBA, the concept of innovation was the closely related to functionality onboard – the awards flagged the neat and increasingly sophisticated ways designers and boatbuilders maximised space and the functionality of specific areas on board. At the inaugural awards in 2015, Galeon Yachts was named the very first winner of the Innovative On-Board Design Solution award, sponsored by Fusion, for its innovative Beach Mode that brought a level of big boat functionality and superyacht chic to its then-new 500 Fly.

The Icon 3

TYDE – The Icon dazzled judges not with one particular feature, but with the holistic way the entire vessel was conceived

Over the last three of four years however, ideas around innovation have extended to apply in the round, highlighting multiple innovations collectively transform how the boat is enjoyed. Witness last year’s Innovative On-Board Design Solution winner, tydeuniting multiple innovations across glazing, flight control, digital helm, safety features and sound system technologies.

How innovation is evolving

The scope of innovative advances continues to evolve. Over its 10-year span, the Boat Builder Awards have debuted significant developments in technical engineering that make boating better in every imaginable way. From advanced propulsion systems to groundbreaking stabilisation systems, to adaptable helms to computerized ballast controls and more, the Boat Builder Awards continue to celebrate our industry’s uncanny ability to continuously design and implement advanced technological innovations that enhance our onboard comfort and enjoyment in meaningful ways.

The BBA remains the perfect channel to flag the pace of change within your own company operations. That change, generally speaking, appears to have been most rapid in the sustainability space.

The eco revolution

Had there been an eco-focused award as part of the inaugural Boat Builder Awards, a likely winner might have been a builder of an aluminium boat utilising some sort of less carbon-intensive propulsion system. Now 10 years on, we’ve seen how companies of all sizes are leveraging engineering expertise to deliver remarkable advances in sustainability. Innovations such as lighter-weight fittings to reduce fuel consumption, new materials utilising recycled and fully recyclable materials, high-tech propulsion systems and solar power generation platforms that significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions all contribute to make boating more ecologically sustainable than ever. It’s why in 2022, when we introduced the Eco-Focused Boat award, Northern Lights Composites took the honours for its Ecoracer sailing yacht that took recyclability to another level and why IMPACD boats won the award in 2023 for its work bringing additive manufacturing mainstream. That we felt the need to split the Eco-Focused Boat award in 2024, in order to recognise eco-advances in vessels both below and above the 10m LOA sectors, bares testimony not just to the pace, but also to the scope of change.


Northern Lights Composites took the honours in 2022 for its Ecoracer sailing yacht that took recyclability to another level

It’s not just onboard, but in the manufacturing process too that we have felt the need to evolve the awards to reflect changing trends. Today the awards highlight the crucial environmental achievements won right on the factory floor, bringing international attention to important initiatives that reduce the impact of manufacturing boats and marine equipment. Important ventures to recycle used materials into new builds, implement new procedures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, achieve significant waste reduction milestones, and incorporate new technologies like 3D-printing to reduce material waste confirm the leisure boating industry’s commitment to sustainability is real.

The most important asset of any industry is its people, and from the very beginning, the Boat Builder Awards for Business Achievement have celebrated the people all around the world who continually push the boat building sector to all-new heights. We learn important lessons from industry icons as we celebrate their lifetime achievements, and we recognise the rising stars who create the fresh ideas and fresh approaches that will drive our sector forward. But the challenge to recruit and retain skilled personnel remains a major issue across the industry world-wide – it is frequently flagged alongside environmental concerns and increasing the diversity of the boating audience, as a top priority. In ten years, industry’s answer to skills development has been piecemeal, driven by a relatively small number of pioneers and fledgling operators, with isolated success. As an industry we need to take greater strides to attract and retain the right personnel. As we enter our second decade, we need to accelerate change on that score to mirror the strides we’ve made across other sectors.

Meet the Boat Builder Awards 2024 judging panel:

Hugo Andreae – Editor Motor Boat and Yachting magazine, UK

Davide Cipriani – boat and industrial designer, president of yacht design at Centrostiledesign, Italy

Alice Driscoll – marketing and communications consultant

Peter Franklin – ocean conservation and environmental sustainability consultant

Knut Frostad – board member Monte Rosa Sport/Odlo International AG/Henri Lloyd

Michel Luizet – Editor Neptune magazine, France

Lars-Ake Redeen – Chief Editor Batliv magazine, Sweden

Craig Ritchie – North America Correspondent, IBI magazine, USA

Klaus Röder – yacht designer at Carpe Diem Yacht Design, Germany

Ed Slack (chair) – Editorial Director of IBI magazine, UK

The panel is supported by a non-voting secretary, Kim Hollamby of Hollamby Partnership, UK

Be part of the 2024 Boat Builder Awards

IBI and METSTRADE’s Boat Builder Awards for Business Achievement, held in association with Raymarine, will cast a spotlight on remarkable industry advances across 11 categories spanning design, innovation, collaborative working, environmental responsibility, marketing and personal achievement, culminating in a celebratory dinner under the starlight canopy of the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam on Wednesday 20 November.

Nominate now

Entry is free and open to all boatbuilders, shipyards, and leisure boat and superyacht manufacturers, or, for some categories, those employed by them. Submit your nominations early to ensure our judges have the maximum time to evaluate entries. Nominate yourself or someone exceptional in the marine industry today.

Full details of the 11 award categories and how to nominate are available at www.ibinews.com/bba2024.