Under the auspices of the AMIF and sponsored by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, Navman Limited and Saint-Gobain RF Pty Ltd, the awards were judged during April, and a ceremony to announce and present the awards was held on May 20.
For the first time this year, all the major boating publication groups in Australia worked together to provide expert judges and other resources for the awards. Club Marine, Modern Boating, Trader International Group and Yaffa Publishing Group co-operated with the AMIF in a major step forward for the annual awards process.
Whilst most interest focuses on the various boating categories, awards are also presented for outstanding marinas, innovative products and high achieving exporters.
Overall, entries for the 2004 awards were down on the previous year, but the AMIF says a strong showing by imported boats added depth and extra quality to the field.
The boats were judged in sessions held both in Sydney and on the Gold Coast, with each craft being assessed by at least five and up to eight judges. As well as experienced boating journalists from each of the co-operating publishing groups, specialist judges rated the key aspects of safety and ergonomics.
The boats ranged from 4.75m fishing craft retailing for around A$25,000 to 15.6m luxury flybridge cruisers valued at A$1.3 million or more. Imported entries competed in their own categories, split between trailerable and non-trailerable craft, as they are not eligible for the overall Boat of the Year title which is reserved for the best Australian boat.
The local craft were categorised by application such as fishing or cruising (again with splits for trailerable and not) or day boat, and there are separate sections for power and sailing craft.
No distinction is made in the award's judging between construction materials such as aluminium and fibreglass, as the emphasis is much more about how well the boat suits its intended application.
Altogether 29 boats faced the judges - 14 local and 15 imported - and were assessed in areas such as innovation, appearance, construction, presentation, performance and passenger comfort, as well as in the aspects of safety and ergonomics already mentioned. To win a category, any boat needed to score well right across the board and the top boats displayed a commendable mix of design ingenuity and high quality craftsmanship in structure and finish.
Some boats were disadvantaged by detail oversights, although the AMIF says one of the benefits of the awards programme is the feedback from judges to the boat builders that hopefully will result in better craft next year.
In some cases, Category Awards were not made when the top scoring boat did not achieve a sufficiently high percentage of the overall winning score.
The 2004 Boat of the Year (overall), Category Award winner, was Powercat Marine for the Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet.
The winner in the Cruiser Non-Trailerable Category was the Riviera Group for the Riviera 51 Flybridge Convertible.
In the Cruiser Trailerable Category the Category Award winner was Powercat Marine, again for the Powercat 2600 Sports Cabriolet.
In the Imported Non-Trailerable Powerboat Category, the Category Award winner was Boatarama Cruiser Sales for the Four Winns 250 Horizon.
In the Imported Trailerable Powerboat Category, the Category Award winner was Cobalt Boats Australia for the Cobalt 220 Bowrider.
The winner in the New and Innovative Product Category was Swing Moorings Pontoons, and winner in the Exporter of the Year Category was The Riviera Group. The winner of the Marina of the Year Category was Mandurah Ocean Marina.