I attended the Cape Town
International boat show recently and frankly I saw little if any innovation. A few local manufacturers were present besides the expected Robertson and Caine Leopard
catamarans. (Even all the other Cape area cat. manufacturers were not present.) What is well understood is that SA has a low cost labour force that should be reflected in more affordable products, but I could not see this happening.
I could not find any marketing
expertise or advocacy for Dyneema
type products which was also rather disappointing.
What also seemed conspicuous was the near total absence of smaller sailing craft. Nothing much happening here I suspect.
There were a few displays utilizing solar
deceives but little else. Most of the displays showed company product lines that seemed to have had very little change. I specifically went looking for deck
vents that could be closed off from the inside. These have been around for decades and the ones I have used suffer from UV breakdown. I was looking for some "improvements'". Nothing.
Probably the item that attracted most attention was the monster 600 hp outboard motor
. Innovative? Possibly. Just what I want on my 3.2 m inflatable
. A product looking for a market?
I suspect that what we are all seeing is a real shift in the entire small boat
industry. The costs of just simply keeping a vessel afloat is now a major distraction to many. Insurance
, marina fees
, requisite registration fees
requirements etc. seemed to have sucked the blood out of much of the sailing market.
I become an observer when I first started cruising in 1978 and the market has dramatically shifted, maybe for the better or worse depending on your circumstances, but the innovation aspect seems to have died.
It's a bit like modern cars. They all look the same perform much the same and even an outrageously expensive version isn't all that much better.
A part of the issue may well be that people just don't consider cruising as a valuable adventure when for a small amount they can hire a shared charter
vessel or fly to exotic places.
Maybe the evolution has reached a plateau that reflects some of this.
When we see long established manufacturers closing, then something is certainly changing.
A killer for many is the hassle and cost of lifting and antifouling. What would you pay for a vessel that did not lifting out for 25 years? I bet it would sell like hotcakes. But nothing is happening in this space at all.
The biggest innovation (after the advent of mass produced plastic hulls) area seems to have been in communications
and instrumentation and I believe these have actually plateaued as well