2023 Motor Boat Awards winners: Best motorboats of the year revealed
It has taken months of testing, weeks of analysing and days of deliberating amongst our judges but the 2023 Motor Boat Awards winners can now be revealed….
As always, we have chosen a winner in each of our ten categories based on how well the boat performed during our rigorous sea trials but also how well it meets the requirements of its target market in relation to its size, style and price.
In some categories, we have also awarded a Highly Commended, not because it’s the nearest runner-up but because the judges feel it has some exceptional talent or innovation that is worthy of recognition.
2023 Motor Boat Awards winners revealed
Customer Service Award
Sponsored by Garmin
Approved Boats, Boats.co.uk, Gibbs Quay Boat Sales, Haven Knox-Johnston
Winner – Gibbs Quay Boat Sales
This is the only award that is open to nominations from members of the public. However, the judges base their decision not just on the number of nominations each company gets (as this would always favour bigger companies with more customers) but also on the quality of service provided to these customers.
This year, we had more nominations than ever before, with several previous winners making it through to our shortlist of finalists, proving that good customer service isn’t just a passing phase but permanently ingrained in the culture of the best companies.
This year’s winner also enjoys a long track record of looking after its customers and particularly of helping new buyers take their first tentative steps into boating – a daunting prospect for many. This is what a few of their recent customers had to say about them:
“The after-sales experience has totally matched the pre-sales experience, dealing with minor niggles and providing us with unlimited technical advice.”
“They made us feel welcome from day one and had the patience of a saint as we chose our new boat. They are a credit to the marine industry.”
“Excellent after-sales service, prompt and professional boat service and good advice given at all times.”
Sportsboats up to 30ft
Winner – Quarken 27 T-Top
Quarken’s 27 T-Top is an object lesson in practical dayboat design. Proudly built in Finland, it uses a single Yamaha F300 outboard motor for a 43-knot top end and cruising efficiency only a shade over 1.5 litres per nautical mile.
It’s fun to drive, with a novice-friendly hull and an effective helm position with direct access to a ‘skipper’s cleat’ for single-handed work. And it looks cool too, with its sleek stepped hull, flared bow and contrasting tinted panels.
There’s also masses of storage on board and all of it is useable, thanks to sensible proportions, proper linings, dual access points and quick-lift one-handed cushions. But it’s the ease of movement that really hits home.
Even if you reverse the helm seats to integrate with the diners at the aft bench, you can still pass them freely on the starboard side. And when you reach the bow, whether the forward seats are rigged for dining or sunbathing, the step-through forepeak with offset anchor means you can still disembark without obstruction.
There’s no wet bar and the heads is an open-plan affair but if you want a proper open dayboat with a serviceable cuddy at a sensible price, this is a superb debut from Quarken.
Highly commended – Iron Boats 827
Fast, agile and well-priced, with a brilliant Mannerfelt hull and a cool military aesthetic, the Iron Boats 827 is one of the most entertaining boats you will ever drive.
Weekenders over 30ft
Winner – De Antonio D36
De Antonio has become well-known for its unique take on the outboard-powered weekender and its new D36 is a fine exponent of that approach. It uses a raised sunbed to cover its motors, with a clever transverse tender slot and a full inboard-style swim platform.
It counteracts that extra aft weight with a pair of hull extensions for extra buoyancy – and when you get the boat under way, that translates into the kind of flat-running 50-knot performance that thoroughly validates De Antonio’s way of doing things.
Further forward, there’s a central dining zone opposite a big transverse galley, with a pull-out cushion-topped coolbox that turns it into a dining station for ten. The bow adds another generous sunpad and yet, when you step down below, the calibre of the cabins is way beyond expectations for an open weekender.
There’s a central lounge, a starboard bathroom, a forward double berth with push-button convertibility and a huge full-beam mid-cabin that can be converted from a saloon to a second double in a matter of seconds.
With masses of user-friendly day space, versatile four-berth accommodation and whippet-like performance, this is a truly brilliant family weekender.
Highly commended – Jeanneau Cap Camarat 12.5
The imposing new 12.5 features a deepset cockpit, an expandable port terrace, twin or triple outboards for 45 knots and convertible sleeping for up to five.
Winner – XO DFNDR 9
Very few boats under 30ft offer anything like as much all-round ability as the XO DFNDR 9. Slender and soft-riding, with raised hull sides and a lofty but deepset pilothouse, there is virtually no cruising ground where its practical but innovative walkaround layout wouldn’t excel.
You can slide it onto the beach for a party. You can spend the night in the comfy forward cabin. You can open up the aft end of the pilothouse and enjoy a relaxed sunbathe or a six-man lunch – and you can achieve precisely that same feat up in the bow.
Back in the pilothouse, the helm is superb, there’s ample standing headroom and visibility is also first class. But if you slide those vast glass side panels aft, you can also enjoy the DFNDR 9 in much the same way as an authentic open boat.
Having taken it across the Baltic, we can vouch for its performance too. With twin 225s on the transom, it’s fast, frugal and beautifully balanced.
The fact that it’s built like a tank and looks like a film star is just the crowning glory for an all-action adventure boat that proves just how much can be achieved when intelligent design, quality build and rigorous development come together.
Highly commended – Axopar 45 Cross Cabin
With its stepped hull, sliding wet bar, vast sunroofs, two-part side doors and fold-down bulwarks, this is a fast, versatile adventure boat.
Sportscruisers up to 45ft
Winner – Marex 330 Scandinavia
The Marex 330 is full of ideas that directly upgrade your life on the water. There’s a fold-down bench at the aft swim platform and hidden fender slots beneath the side decks. There are aft and side doors, plus a mix of sunroofs and sunshades, so you can tweak the conditions to your needs.
In fact, with an aft curtain that wraps around the cockpit, you could easily use this boat as a four-season cruising machine. But it doesn’t stop there. The cockpit is deep and sociable for large dayboating parties and the saloon dinette uses a pop-out stool and reversing co-pilot bench to make best use of the space.
But the fore and aft dining zones also convert into double berths. And that means you can add another two beds to the forward double and the low-slung mid-cabin and sleep up to eight at a time.
Under way, the 330 makes a mockery of its restrained looks with plenty of poke, outstanding poise and pinpoint handling. You can spec it with single or twin V-drives or sterndrives.
And a beautiful helm position with multiple adjustment points, a wide overhead sunroof, a skipper’s side door and the option of joystick control makes single-handed helming an absolute breeze.
Highly commended – Dale Classic 37
Designed by celebrated Dale stalwart, Arthur Mursell, the new four-berth Classic 37 is built like a tank, styled like a work of art and equipped with a delightfully soft-riding semi-displacement hull.
Sportscruisers over 45ft
Winner – Fairline Phantom 65
This may be Fairline’s first attempt at a sportsfly design but you’d never guess it from the way it looks, performs and feels. With those sleek, flowing lines, it strikes the perfect balance between elegance and sportiness, yet somehow still manages to pack in up to four cabins below deck and masses of sociable living space inside and out.
Even the flybridge itself, while compact by Squadron standards, has plenty of secure seating, sunpads and a proper wet bar, as well as a comprehensive outside helm station.
However, all of this would count for little if the driving experience failed to live up to Fairline’s usual high standards. Thankfully, it’s even better than we had anticipated, delivering effortless acceleration up to a top speed of 38 knots, responsive handling and the kind of refined, long-legged cruising that feels perfectly in keeping with that
other legendary Phantom built by Rolls-Royce motor cars.
Last but by no means least, those impressive dynamic characteristics are backed up by sound practical thinking, a beautifully finished interior and reassuringly solid build quality.
As we said in our original test, the Phantom 65 really does feel like it offers the best of both worlds with the looks and driving characteristics of a traditional sportscruiser but also the comfort and practicality of a flybridge.
Flybridges up to 60ft
Winner – Galeon 500 Fly
The Galeon 500 Fly is a supremely innovative boat. Up at the helm, push-button windows aid ventilation and a rotating seat integrates the driver with the starboard bench and the rest of the upper saloon guests.
There’s a pleasantly sociable helm on the flybridge too, with forward sunbeds and a wraparound lounge, plus a port wet bar and a huge dining space aft.
And back down on the bow, a big triangular dining area with comfy backrests provides all kinds of convertibility, including incline control for the sunlounger and sliding forward benches for a larger party.
Down below, there’s masses of natural light from oversized windows and skylights. But it’s the aft part of the main deck that really stands out. The port balcony folds down so you can perch on a stool and take advantage of the galley’s inside-outside bar.
On the other side, the saloon opens up, enabling the settee to reverse and face out over its own terrace. And in the aft cockpit, a spinning carousel enables you to face in whichever direction you choose.
In short, with its combination of rotating seats, twin terraces and inside-outside zones, the 500 Fly is more rewarding than any other boat in its sector.
Highly commended – Prestige M48
In addition to three double cabins, each with its own bathroom and staircase, the Prestige M48 provides a stupendous amount of day space and a drive as novice-friendly as any you will see.
Flybridges over 60ft
Winner – Sirena 68
It’s hard to believe that Sirena Yachts has only been making motor boats under its own name for a little over five years but with plenty of prior experience building high-quality motor yachts for Azimut, and the talents of world-renowned yacht designers German Frers and Cor D. Rover to assist them, it has gone from zero to hero in record time.
We tested two new models in 2022 alone, both of which made it through to our shortlist. But it’s the 68 which we feel is the more rounded package, offering the perfect balance of size, style, ability and price.
That starts with a modern yet elegant design that manages to pack a high-quality, high-volume interior into a surprisingly sleek exterior.
Then there’s the robust semi-displacement hull with its category A RCD rating that is just as happy batting aside heavy seas at displacement speeds as it is hoovering up the miles at 25 knots.
That low-speed comfort and stability also plays into the current trend for fuel efficient passage-making, giving a safe cruising range of almost 1,000nm at 9 knots. The result is a wonderfully capable all-rounder that is perfectly in tune with today’s needs at a price that belies its quality.
Highly commended – Absolute 60 Fly
With its versatile deck spaces, vast windows, innovative layout and refined IPS performance, Absolute’s latest flybridge is as comfortable as it is stylish.
Sponsored by The Moorings
Winner – Sunseeker 90 Ocean
We don’t mind admitting that this was the hardest of all the categories to pick a winner in. We could make a case for any one of these finalists winning. However, after much debate we decided to give it to the one we felt was most in tune with what today’s buyers are looking for.
The Sunseeker Ocean 90 has it all: acres of versatile deck spaces packed with innovative solutions like the X-TEND seating; an intimate connection with the sea thanks to the vast sea-level beach club, glass transoms and bulwarks; masses of storage space for tenders, water toys and cruising gear; a wonderfully luxurious interior that makes full use of the unusually wide beam; and a hull that feels very nearly as agile and sea-kindly as some of its overtly sportier siblings.
The fact that this all fits comfortably into a craft with an LOA of 89ft is all the more remarkable, enabling it to offer the same space and luxury as much longer boats but without the associated running costs.
However, the biggest achievement of all is that despite its extra beam and volume and a brand-new hull shape, it still manages to look, feel and drive like a true Sunseeker.
Highly commended – Grand Banks 85
With its slippery hull shape, carbon fibre superstructure and IPS drives, the new GB85 is exceptionally fuel efficient but still just as seaworthy, stylish and beautifully built as its much heavier predecessors.
Judges’ Special Award
Sponsored by Sleipner
Winner – Pearl Yachts
From its humble beginnings in 1998, when a former yacht captain teamed up with a local businessman to launch a stylish new range of aft cabin craft, Pearl Yachts has never shied away from doing things differently.
In the face of vastly bigger, better resourced competition, it has consistently managed to defy the odds, building spacious, cleverly packaged craft with the style and quality to match.
While many of its competitors have been bought, sold or even fallen by the wayside over the intervening years, Pearl Yachts’ small but enthusiastic management team, led by its founder and managing director Iain Smallridge with the backing of its owners Tony and Margaret Whittaker, steered Pearl Yachts through the tough times and continued to invest in new product.
The introduction of world-class designers, Bill Dixon and Kelly Hoppen, in 2012 has ensured that its latest range of yachts are as fresh and innovative as ever, while maintaining the quality-to-price ratio for which they are renowned.
Now boasting a thoroughly modern range of stylish flybridge cruisers from 62ft to 95ft, including a brand new 72ft model and an 82ft project currently in development, Pearl Yachts enters its 25th year in business looking stronger and fitter than ever.
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