Originally Posted by PCP
I don't understand your contempt regarding how Beneteaus looks (I don't want to design Euro decks. I hate the bloated tennis shoe look). That contempt is also a contempt by the tastes of the vast majority of sailors, being them Euro or American. After all Beneteau is also the leader in America or if not it is Jeanneau whose look is not that different. Sailors don't buy boats they don't like or find attractive and the vast majority find Beneteaus and Jeanneaus attractive band nice.
I don't entirely agree with "the market is always right" - even though, from a business perspective, it certainly is. From a design and aesthetic perspective, you have to deal with the reality of boats from firms like Hunter - they sell a lot of boats which, in my perspective, are not particularly pleasing to look at and certainly don't perform well with respect to sailing. What they do well is:
1. Maximize livable interior space
2. Optimize performance while motoring - i.e., their hull designs can resemble powerboats more than sailboats.
There is a sizable segment of the market that appreciates these qualities. But I'd side with Bob here and say I would never want to design a boat where those two objectives were primary.
Of course, I happen to think that Beneteau designers usually get it right, in terms of aesthetics, performance and functionality, though there are plenty of Beneteaus - the Oceanis line, in particular - that I don't find very pleasing. But that's because my tastes run towards what Farr delivers in the First line. And even there I don't think the results are always great - the First 40.7 and 36.7 were okay boats, especially the former, but I don't care for the looks of either one, which are often compared to "beach balls" because of their rather voluminous coach roof designs (compared to the extremely sexy Mills and Ker designs, for example - much more expensive boats, of course).
At the same time, I find the contemporary J/Boat designs to be very appealing aesthetically, and certainly those boats also perform very well under IRC - at the highest levels, in fact. Even in the early 90's, the J/105 was a sexy looking boat above the waterline, while being fairly conventional beneath it. I think most would consider J/Boats a successful mid-market design firm, by any standard, with broad appeal to sailors everywhere.
I would say that Beneteau's success can be attributed to pretty much getting all or most of the key variables correct, from both a business and a design point of view. And because they utilize NAs with significant racing experience and interior designers with deep understanding of ergonomics and functionality and aesthetics, they seem able to square-the-circle with respect to performance vs. comfort quite successfully.
For what it's worth, there's no question that Bob can draw sexy "modern" designs. I've seen Icon up close and it holds its own against any comparable contemporary design at that length. Quite competitive in PNW racing, as well.