Boat of the Year celebrates innovation, invention, envelope pushing and category busting. These things represent the means by which not just boats, but also boating itself evolves.
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Testing some 100 different boats a year provides Boating’s Tech Team with the ability to see how boats compare with others of the same type, and how a given boat fits into the bigger picture. Which one of these five finalists will be awarded Boat of the Year? Check back with us in January 2022.
Four Winns H4
This boat performs equally well using three variants of propulsion: outboard, sterndrive and Mercury Marine’s new Bravo IV, a forward-facing drive specific for those who enjoy wakesurfing. It runs fine on all three according to our tester, who gave the nod to the conventional sterndrive for overall nimbleness and maneuverability. Of course, the outboard delivers great corrosion resistance and is part of a Saltwater Package. Notably, the 23-foot-11-inch H4 rides a Beneteau-designed hull. The new vertical stem gives the boat a strong, contemporary look. Stand astern and observe that the beam pinches slightly abaft its widest point in a smooth line through the boarding platform—a subtle style point.
The H4 scored other accolades for a helm design incorporating a standard multifunction display and room for an optional second—so many bowriders lack helm space for the touchscreens boat buyers expect.
We liked the small touches Four Winns included, such as the ability to easily reach the swivel and slide levers for the helm seat, and were impressed by other appointments, such as the upholstery, designed and manufactured in-house, which delivered the tactile excitement and visual appeal of three textural layers. The fabric-covered speaker grilles also earned applause.
The Four Winns H4 brings the runabout lifestyle to a broader swath of boaters, and for a lower price than similar boats, and that is notable.
Read our test at boatingmag.com/story/boats/2021-four-winns-h4.
This 38-foot boat is a proa—a catamaran with asymmetrical amas. The port hull is narrower than the starboard one, reducing overall drag without giving up a cat’s stable footprint. That skinny hull also gets fitted with a proportionally smaller engine (115 vs. 200) thanks to the physics of drag and propulsion. The 115 burns less gas, of course, and weighs less, which means even less fuel burned. It also costs less. Underway, handling is normal, and it retains the maneuverability advantages of twins while docking. The Aspen C-108′s rugged build, luxury amenities and efficiency make it a cruiser for a crew of five, with a top speed of 30 mph and a long-legged maximum range of over 500 miles.
Read our test at boatingmag.com/story/boats/2021-aspen-c108.
Super Air Nautique GS 22E
The GS22E is a high-end boat that can fulfill its mission with batteries and a motor instead of dead dinosaurs and an engine.
Powered by an Ingenity electric motor and a 124 kWh battery sporting the highest energy density of any recreational electric-drive boat available, the GS22E boasts up to three hours of “typical watersports use” per charge. At idle, it is nearly silent. At speed, the cockpit is much quieter than an internal-combustion boat, with most of the noise coming from water breaking outside the boat. Charging intervals range from 12 hours to a 1.5-hour DC fast charge. At the helm, you can monitor battery power, temperatures and running time. The weight of the battery, combined with Nautique’s bottom design and shaping systems, enhances this boat’s ability to generate great wakes and waves.
Electric power, great performance, a top-notch build and luxury all combined to earn this boat its spot as a Boat of the Year finalist.
Read our test at boatingmag.com/story/boats/2021-super-air-nautique-gs22-e.
Aquila 36 Sport Hydro Glide
This catamaran cruiser boasts a hydrofoil between its hulls—aka sponsons or amas—that markedly increases efficiency. To prove it, we ran it side by side against an Aquila 36 Sport without a foil installed. The Hydro Glide achieved the same top speed as the nonfoil boat despite being powered by twin 300 outboards compared to the other boat’s twin 400s. It proved 30 percent more efficient at cruise, and a wide-open throttle still achieved 1 mpg, while the other boat managed just 0.5 mpg. It planed faster, reached 30 mph faster, and our tester reported it delivered a lighter feel at the helm. On top of all that, its 14-foot-7-inch beam houses luxury cruising accommodations.
Read our test at boatingmag.com/story/boats/using-a-hydrofoil-to-improve-efficiency.
Boston Whaler 240 Vantage
Boston Whaler’s unsinkable 240 Vantage earned its spot on the BOTY finalists list for more than just safety.
This dual-console boat is intended for fishing, day cruising or a day of watersports fun. It does so with remarkably few compromises for a modestly sized, trailerable boat. It sports a lounge that can be configured five ways plus hides a cooler within. A folding aft bench couples with this lounge to create wide-open space or maximize seating. Details? Every seam and fitting appeared perfect to our eye, and items like the built-in bucket holder and trash chute are sure to be copied. Rated for more horsepower than competitors, attention to detail is readily visible from the curvaceous lines of the hardtop to the amenable enclosed head. Boston Whaler’s 240 Vantage raises the bar for trailerable, do-it-all boats.
Read our test at boatingmag.com/story/boats/2021-boston-whaler-240-vantage.