In just about every Boat of the Year contest, seemingly out of the blue, a nominee is so unique in its design and execution that the judging panel decides to honor its bold vision and innovation with the Judge’s Special Recognition prize. For 2024, this prize goes to the HH44.
Judge Herb McCormick provided the overview: “We almost didn’t have the opportunity to sail the HH, which was offloaded from a freighter and rigged up near the close of our test days. Our test boat was Hull No. 2, called Titan, owned by a vastly experienced Caribbean sailor who was on board for our trial. He was one of more than three dozen sailors who purchased the boat sight unseen, from renderings, and was clearly thrilled with his choice. After our inspection and test sail, we could understand why. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any off-wind sails to truly put the boat through the paces, but we were still making close to 10 knots with just the working sails. So, as a high-performance cat, the boat gets high marks. Amazingly, with everything else going on with the boat, the sailing prowess was almost secondary.”
Judge Tim Murphy added: “It was far and away the most sophisticated hull-deck structure in the 2024 fleet: epoxy-infused E-glass and carbon fiber over thermoformed foam core. It featured the most sophisticated house systems and propulsion, starting with what the builders called ‘parallel hybrid’ drive. I have never seen this system on any boat before this one, with electric motors on the same shafts as the Beta Marine diesels (a marinized Kubota block). There are no alternators, but there’s 43 kilowatt-hours of solar on the cabin top. It’s possible that this was the best boat in this year’s fleet, but because there’s so much here that we’ve never seen in any boat before, I feel that we need a year to watch these boats and customers in the field and ask how they’re doing.”
Finally, judge Mark Pillsbury offered this assessment: “After stunning the Boat of the Year judges several years in a row with its carbon-fiber high-end cats, HH Catamarans introduced a second generation of cruising boat this year with a powerful sail plan and a unique hybrid form of propulsion. The 44 has both diesel and electric engines connected to its two prop shafts, and a lithium battery bank that can provide energy-efficient electric power or be recharged quickly when running in diesel mode. It’s an interesting boat for anyone looking to ride on the cutting edge when it comes to marine technology. But the propulsion systems aside, the HH was just a ball to sail. Tiltable wheels let you lean out in the breeze or stand inboard under cover, with a clear view through the salon’s vertical windows. With daggerboards, the boat handles well to windward. Cracked off to a reach, well, sit back and enjoy the puffs.”
Club Boat Charter and Highfield RIBs: A Sweet Ride
For our 2024 Boat of the Year contest, the judges arrived for our test sails in style, aboard a 2023 Highfield Patrol 540 with a four-stroke 90 hp Yamaha outboard, dual jockey seats and a rear tow/roll bar. Our team wishes to thank sponsor Club Boat Charter Company, which provided the sweet ride.
Club Boat Charter Company was started by Lindsay and Alfredo Lopez in 2021 when their home club in Virginia, the Hampton Yacht Club, needed a coach boat for the summer-camp season. The Lopezes quickly recognized that sailing coaches, clubs, regatta organizers and parents never have enough charter RIBs available for events. The Club Boat Charter Company offers its fleet of seven RIBs, which range from 15 to 23 feet, for any sailing event where there is a need. Or, if you’re looking to purchase a new or used RIB, the club and its dealership, Hampton Roads Inflatables, can help. As they demonstrated during our Boat of the Year tests, they are committed to supporting the sport of sailing.