Join Date: May 2002
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Re: Boats of the Year
My somewhat vague understanding is that manufacturers self-nominate their boats for inclusion in the judging. IIRC, Cruising World especially looks at a lot of boats. One of the limiting factors appears to be that the boats have to be new models for that year. That excludes the grand majority of boats produced.
As for how "honest" the judging is, it seems self-evident that the magazines are not overly critical. But remember, they're featuring the boats they see as the best, so there shouldn't be major flaws in the design or construction. One would hope that a rat's nest of wiring or visible voids would knock the boat out of the running. And the only boats that get more than a few sentences are the winners. Based on that alone, I wouldn't be using the write ups on any of the boats as the equivalent of a Consumer Reports or Practical Sailor article. The BOTY reviews sure look to be more in depth than the regular reviews, with multiple judges aboard each boat.
Having said that, the magazines' editorial slant on boat reviews are more evident in the monthly editions. And those are clearly handled with kid gloves. I don't think I've ever seen more than one less than favorable reference to a boat feature in any one article; and even those seem to be tempered.
It seems to me that the reviewers are honest people making valid observations within the very limited circumstances they are given. They don't spend more than a few hours aboard, and they can't judge how the boat sails or handles in anything other than the conditions that exist then and there (most reviews seem to take place in very light winds for some reason). The reviewer doesn't get a chance to look at anything in depth or under stress. In short, most of these reviews wind up sounding like infomercials. When reading a review, I can tell within the first paragraph if it's going to be more of the same old, same old. If so, I skip it. But every great once in a while, you get an actual enthusiastic review. Those I read. I can't remember the boat, but one recent reviewer was raving, and I mean raving, about the sailing characteristics of the boat.