Design Challenge 1

The Pursuit of Pleasure at 2 Gallons Per Hour

Now closed for submissions, judging is underway.

Design Parameters:

  • 16′6″ to 18′6″ overall length, stem to stern (transom)
  • 25-hp maximum power
  • Must burn less than 2 gallons per hour while maintaining a 15-knot cruising speed and carrying 650 lbs (four adults or equivalent)
  • Trailerable weight (with engine) must be less than 2,700 lbs
  • Must be able to safely (if not comfortably) get home against a steady 15-knot breeze with higher gusts, and a 2′ to 3′ chop

Submissions must be the designer’s original work and should include lines, profile, sections, table of offsets, accurate weight study, cost calculations, and performance predictions.

Judges will look favorably on any reduction in power or fuel consumption below the contest maximums. In addition, they will consider originality, aesthetics, onboard details and appointments, and construction costs. Remember, the goal is a powerboat that’s visually appealing and fun to operate; at the same time, it must be efficient and safe for a family to make daytrips in coastal or inland waters. The best designs will balance all these elements.

The magazines will publish the winners, runners-up, and most imaginative designs.

Designers will maintain all rights to their original work.

As costs rise for the necessities of modern life—fuel, food, fuel, shelter, and fuel—the average boater is left with fewer dollars to spend on his or her well-chosen pastime. Calls and letters from boat builders, brokers, and buyers have put us at Professional BoatBuilder on notice that the marine market is changing more rapidly than we might have thought: a lot of boats simply are not being ordered, launched, or run this year because fuel costs are too high, and disposable income scarce. One builder of custom sportfishermen wryly and succinctly summed up the cause of his problems: “There just aren’t many people placing orders for boats that burn 200 gallons an hour.” Indeed there aren’t.

In conversation with some middle-class New England boaters about their recreation plans this summer season, it became obvious that with fuel nearing $5 per gallon, burn rates of even 4 gallons per hour are making them think twice about spending a day on the water—and those are committed boat owners. Imagine how prohibitive leisure time on the water appears to a prospective boater who stops to figure out the likely costs of boat ownership at today’s rates.

We’ve talked informally with several designers about finding more efficient smaller boats to meet the average boater’s needs in a slow economy with high fuel costs. They were looking at trailerable models under 20’, but most suggested powering them with at least 70-hp motors, yielding burn rates around 4 gallons per hour. We can do better. One need only look back to outboard runabouts of the 1950s and ’60s to find modest, attractive, and fun family boats produced by the likes of Lyman, Thompson, and Lone Star (to name just a few iconic builders) that could be easily powered by a 25-hp outboard.

With that in mind, the editors at Professional BoatBuilder and WoodenBoat magazines are offering a design challenge for new, creatively designed powerboats in any material that are efficient, fun, and could possibly be the only vessel a boating family of modest means might actually afford.

We will award two $1,000 prizes—one each to the first-place designs in wood and composites/metal—as selected by a panel of judges from the magazines’ editorial staffs and some non-competing professional designers.