Emerging technologies – lessons from the DAME Awards

Kim Hollamby
Monday, 26 June 2023

What can the DAME Awards tell us about the pace and direction of marine equipment design and innovation? DAME Jury Secretary and former Chair, Kim Hollamby, analyses a snapshot of winning entries across two decades to see what they have to tell us about future trends.

The DAME Awards brings together a unique field of new products each year that are placed under very close scrutiny. The Jury looks at every detail of the design, not just innovation but also form, function, price to performance and increasingly of course, sustainability. The judgement process is thought provoking at the individual product level and offers tangible signals about the leisure marine sector’s collective priorities and focus points.

What the Jury rarely has time to do is to cast an eye over the shoulder to look at where the industry has come from in terms of the characteristics and proposition of products that have been presented. Much as you can discover the direction of a boat by looking at the trail of its wake, in this blog we’ll look at the overall winners and some category headliners in 2002, 2012 and 2022 to consider some notable emergent design changes over that timeframe.

Overall DAME Winner

2002 winner – Besenzoni G 326 Magic Davit

The first decade of this century saw boat design shift from crafting new models in relatively predictable forms towards more adventurous shapes and layouts. Suddenly, the standard catalogue of marine components looked less well integrated onboard and equipment manufacturers responded by creating more products that blended harmoniously. This more integrated approach is now taken for granted but the Jury in 2002 recognised “Besenzoni’s harmonic balance of space-saving design, aesthetics and innovation” as sufficiently notable step away from “ugly and large cranes” to name the G 326 Magic Davit as DAME Winner. 

2012 winner – Torqeedo Deep Blue Electric Outboard

A decade later and we were just getting used to the idea of Torqeedo producing highly practical small electric outboards with fully integrated batteries for small tenders when the German company launched its Deep Blue Outboards. Suddenly there was a brilliantly researched and designed electric outboard capable of propelling motor launches at planing speeds, powered by automotive derived batteries. It was notable not so much for what it achieved but also for hinting that electric propulsion was getting serious. For context this was the same year that Tesla released its Model S Sedan, which woke the world to its intent as a mainstream car maker. Perhaps the only surprise is the time it has taken since Deep Blue’s unveiling for electric propulsion to gain more serious traction – although the sudden explosion of interest across METSTRADE’s show floors last year indicates the focus may finally be shifting.

2022 DAME Winner – Ocean Signal RescueME PLB3 AIS Personal Locator Beacon

Fast forward again to 2022 and Ocean Signal’s incredibly compact and fully featured PLB3 locator beacon, its form factor made possible by the adoption of ultra-small mobile phone derived microchips. This product not only demonstrates what we might expect in terms of the art of the possible in design miniaturisation – it also signals an emerging era where more attention will get paid to equipment for the person, rather than the boat. If indications of socio-economic change follow through, then the value may well be in what you can put in the kit bag of a transient boat user rather than the boat locker of an owner.

Marine Electronics and Marine Related Software

2002 – category winner Raymarine ST290 instruments

To see a Raymarine ST290 now you need to search on eBay and most will have forgotten what this relatively short run range of instruments represented. It was not only an early pioneer of NMEA 2000 but provided the first steps towards much more user definable modular displays. Everyone’s instrument heads are getting pensioned off now in favour of multifunction displays and glass bridges, but the ST290 deserves credit for paving the way towards the development of more user friendly, faster onboard information just wherever you wanted to view it, connected by relatively fast bi-directional data links.

2012 – category winner SonarCharts by Navionics

The term ‘crowdsourcing’ was first termed in 2006. Six years later Navionics sought to bring the wisdom (or more specifically, the sonar data) of crowds to its SonarCharts bathymetric software by building in community mapping. Perhaps quirky as a concept at the time, but well executed and forward thinking too. Given that a large percentage of the world’s water doesn’t have up-to-date surveys and government budgets are always under pressure, was this a product ahead of its time and the future of boating will rely on a lot more sharing of user data?

2022 – category winner Raymarine YachtSense Link 4G Marine Router

For 2022 we return to Raymarine, this time for a product which epitomises the recent market acceleration towards the connected boat with its YachtSense Link 4G Marine Router, designed to manage multiple communication protocols. This product is one of a growing number of fit and forget black boxes coming into the market that are designed to enable interconnectivity and – ultimately – the customer’s onboard experience. YachtSense Link also reminds us that looking back to move forward is never a bad thing. It includes ports for a communication technology invented in 1973 – Ethernet – that was only embraced much more widely in recent times across the marine leisure sector, thanks to its low cost of implementation and its robust and proven nature.

Three of the rest

Space and the limit to how much you might want to read in one blog prevents carrying on through every category for comparisons, so let’s close with a wild card pick of three category winners from each era.

2002 – Secumar Window lifejackets – category winner Life Saving Equipment and Safety

The Secumar Window lifejacket was one of those brilliant examples of how you can pick a product that has been around as a concept for decades and then improve it through applied design and thinking outside of the box. The Jury noted features like “chunky securing clips, front zip pockets, soft fabric neckline and retail packaging that doubles as ventilated storage bags.” It commented especially though on a window in the bladder cover that allowed easy inspection of the inflation bottle status – a feature that has gone on to be used throughout the Secumar range. The number of other design improvements seen in lifejackets alone across 31 years of the DAME Awards illustrates perfectly how the industry can always improve what it makes and sells.

2012 – Nuance by Vision Systems – category winner Interior equipment, furnishings, materials & electrical fittings used in cabins 

Nuance solar protection glass controls levels of heat and light entering the yacht through adjustable shading. In the decade since this product won its category, glass has become an even more important part of the architecture of many boats. The desire to connect people with the sea through wide expanses of glazing is a standard feature on many motor and sailing yachts today but countering that is the need for more environmental control through HVAC systems with an impact on power consumption. Products like Nuance, shading solutions and improved insulation materials will surely take more emphasis in the drive for carbon neutral boating?


2022 – Aceleron Essential – winner Environmental Design Award Winner

We close with Aceleron Essential, the DAME Awards first ever Environmental Design Award Winner. This cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate battery has replaceable and upgradeable parts using compression rather than welded assembly to enable servicing in the field. Faulty individual cells and components can be swapped out. The push in recent years for more aesthetically pleasing yacht and equipment design and production efficiency has often pushed maintainability down the priority list. As the marine sector seeks to evolve an authentic circular economy, design practices encouraging repair rather than scrap and replace will surely become more commonplace?



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