As I have for the past few years, I served as a judge for the Newport for New Products competition at the recent Newport International Boat Show. My judging duties gave me a chance to scope out some of the latest boats and gear. Among the best stuff I saw—from the meticulous woodwork of the Spirt 46, voted best sailboat, to the multitasking display on the best new product, Simrad’s NSE 2.0—I noticed an unprecedented level of refinement.
Maybe it’s because manufacturers can’t afford to go back to the drawing board. Maybe it’s because we’re all getting into the mode of doing more with what we have. Whatever the case, throughout the show, the best new gear I saw was that which improved upon itself—or its competition—without necessarily reinventing the wheel.
Both Gill and Atlantis have reworked their salopette offerings. Gill’s Crosswind mid-layer salopettes have a more ergonomic fit, thanks to stretch material in the shoulder panel and an elasticized waist. The use of slippery lining material makes it easy to jump into the Crosswind when the going gets wet. Atlantis has adapted its popular Aegis Hybrid Bibs for women, giving the garment more flattering curves.
Similarly, ergonomics are the main attraction to Spinlock’s Zero life vest. Designed specifically for keelboat sailors—who frequently rely on a brick of horseshoe-style PFDs stowed down below to keep them legal—this not-United-States-Coast-Guard-approved vest achieves maximum comfort, range of motion, ventilation, and drainage by means of neoprene construction, mesh panels, and the Body Fit adjustment system. Before long, the U.S.C.G. will do what European authorities have done and certify floatation vests like Spinlock’s latest. In the meantime, you can still save your life with a Zero—a life vest you’ll always be happy to wear.
Holmatro unveiled its winch line last fall, but I hadn’t taken an up-close look until the Newport show. Holmatro’s Howard Seaver showed me how the winches disassemble quickly and without tools, and he explained how the Grip & Run surface encourages wraps to climb towards the top of the drum, avoiding overrides. The same surface allows you to ease sheets smoothly, avoiding the unpredictable jerking that sometimes occurs when paying out line on traditional winches.
Of all the gadgets I browsed, the one I most wanted to steal was Garmin’s GPSMAP 78sc. This handheld GPS unit combines the features of earlier models—a three-axis digital compass, waterproof construction, buoyancy—with the significant upgrade of pre-installed BlueChart g2 coastal charts and a map-style display. In essence, the 78sc packs a full-featured GPS system—the kind you’d install at your nav station—into a handheld unit. While the unit’s 2.6-inch display can’t compete with a full-size screen, with the 78sc, Garmin has dramatically narrowed the gap between traditional chartplotters and handhelds.