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That’s how the dive-industry trophy-winners are feeling after being informed of their success in the latest DIVER readers’ poll
The DIVER Awards are democratically voted for by you, the readers, and it is no surprise that in their 14th year many old favourites are up there fighting it out to be winners once again.
It isn’t all cut and dried, however, and the front-runners have exchanged a few places
It is said that the reason actresses take handbags to the Oscars is that it gives them something handy into which to throw up, such can be the disappointment of the near-miss.
We don’t know how many handbags came into play when the DIVER Awards winners were announced, but placings were tight.
As the Duke of Wellington said after Waterloo, it was a close-run thing – and will certainly stimulate the competition for the first places in the coming year. Which can only be good for the contenders’ customers – you!
|PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Trust Suunto to win with one of its computers. It always does! This time it was the SUUNTO D9TX, the stylish advanced computer-watch that is wirelessly gas-integrated and can be used for diving with air, nitrox or trimix, in which case it employs a technical-diving algorithm developed for it by Los Alamos scientist Bruce Wienke.
“It’s winning awards like these that drives us to do better and try harder,” said personable Ryan Crawford, boss of Suunto UK.
“We would like to thank the ever-critical DIVER Magazine equipment reviewer for always pointing out where we could do better next time. Our ultimate goal is to make a computer that he finally fails to criticise in any way.”
The voting was very fragmented. There are a lot of good products out there. PADI is making waves with its new training programme for leisure rebreather divers, originally based around the POSEIDON DISCOVERY MK6 CCR. Although not an entirely new product, it was no surprise that so many people voted for this leisure rebreather, even though they may not have actually used one, such is the anticipation of these new developments. It came second.
Not all our readers use a drysuit, but it appears that many of those who do, and many of those who have thought about it, aspire to a suit by O’Three, the Portland-based manufacturer. Its work is typified by its Ri 1-100 CCN lightweight Neoprene drysuit, which is what took third place.
|BRAND OF THE YEAR
SCUBAPRO has almost appeared to own this accolade, having won it so many times over consecutive years, and it was no surprise after its concentrated spring advertising campaign and a big presence at the Dive Show in Birmingham in the autumn of 2011 that the effect has been sustained.
SCUBAPRO products have found their way into the hands of sufficient numbers of satisfied divers that the company swept all before it when it came to garnering those precious votes for Brand of the Year.
Andy Shears, the UK boss of Scubapro, told us on hearing the news: “We’re delighted to have won Brand of the Year yet again. It’s the most coveted of all the awards. Our strong brand image enables us to cover all product categories, which we will be expanding even further during the next 12 months, with more innovative premium products.”
APEKS, now with its even closer association with Aqua Lung, is always a force to be reckoned with as a brand in the UK. However, as the products of these companies are split between the two brands, both have to be content with second and third places respectively, with dive-computer manufacturer SUUNTO very close behind.
|DIVE CENTRE OF THE YEAR
Sharm el Sheikh and Na’ama Bay in Egypt’s Sinai is a world centre for diving that is unprecedented in its scale of operations. The big dive centres here fight it out every year to gather the most votes from their happy and satisfied visitors.
This year, although many times the bridesmaid, CAMEL DIVE CLUB gets to walk up the aisle to collect the long-awaited bronze statuette that comes with winning this award.
RED SEA DIVING COLLEGE will have to come to terms with a gap in its huge collection of trophies, after being relegated at long last to second place.
Hesham Gabr is the founder of the Camel Dive Club & Hotel. On hearing that his dive centre had finally broken through into first place, he commented:
“We’re especially proud to have won the Dive Centre of the Year Award for 2011, because this is the same year in which we celebrated Camel Dive Club’s 25th birthday, and in which Sharm El Sheikh was voted Dive Destination of the Year in the World Tourism Awards.
“British divers have shown us huge loyalty during what was also a momentous year for Egypt, and I’d like to thank all the divers who have supported us. We look forward to enjoying world-class Red Sea dives with many of you in 2012!”
EMPEROR DIVERS SHARM, always up there among the top places, was a worthy runner-up in third position.
|TOUR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR
This accolade is closely fought for every year by two main protagonists, nowadays the titans of the dive travel business. The voting is always neck-and-neck. This year blue o two crept ahead of SCUBA TRAVEL by a whisker, to the chagrin of its close rival.
“We’re delighted about winning the Tour Operator of The Year award!” said Jason Strickland from blue o two, on hearing that his company had breasted the tape.
“As the only UK tour operator to operate and manage our own fleet of Red Sea liveaboards, it’s fabulous for the team to stand up and be recognised for their outstanding effort. We’d like to thank all our customers for taking the time to vote for us, our team for all their hard work and of course DIVER for hosting the awards!”
Scuba Travel had to be content this year with second place, while REGALDIVE made a good showing in third place.
|RETAILER OF THE YEAR
With online voting possible, it came as no surprise to find that an online retailer, augmented by its retail store, had garnered the most votes in the closely fought battle for this award.
In this case it was SIMPLY SCUBA that took the honours.
Its boss Gerrard Dennis was ecstatic when he heard the news: ”It’s a hat-trick! We’re thrilled to have won Retailer of the Year for the third year running.
”It was an exciting 2011, with our new shop, an improved website, extended customer services and more product videos and stock than ever before. We have some exciting developments planned for 2012, so hopefully we can continue to impress our customers!
“A huge thankyou to everyone who voted and, of course, to all of our staff who made this possible.”
Also with a big online presence as well as its big retail shop in Cannock and others in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Solihull, SCUBA + OUTDOOR PURSUITS came in a close second.
DEEP BLUE DIVE, located in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, took third spot.
|DESTINATION OF THE YEAR
The political upheavals of the Middle East have done little so far to dissuade British divers from choosing EGYPT as their favourite diving destination. and there’s no surprise as to why. It’s cheap, it’s near to Europe and the diving is fabulous.
It’s the home of British diving!
The MALDIVES too offer fabulous diving, but lie that much further away and are therefore that much more expensive to visit.
The vast area covered by INDONESIA offers a vast variety of diving, but it can be very remote. Egypt, Maldives, Indonesia – that is the order in which the places were taken, and this is a regular occurrence.
“This is great news,” said Khaled Ramy from the Egyptian Tourist Office, himself is a diver. “I’m delighted that the readers of DIVER have voted for Egypt. Thanks to everyone for this vote of confidence, which will make us work even harder to maintain the top spot.”
|LIVEABOARD OF THE YEAR
Worldwide, there are some fabulous liveaboard diving boats. Vessels such as Truk Odyssey, Galapagos Sky, Aquacat and the Siren fleet come to mind. However when it comes to the voting, it’s naturally the ones most often booked by you the readers that always win though.
That’s not to say that they are not equally fabulous, and of course they have high volumes
of customers to satisfy.
As usual, the Egyptian-based arch-rivals of Tornado, Sea Serpent and the blue o two fleets struggled for supremacy, and the battle of Trafalgar was hardly fought less fiercely. In the event, Tornado prevailed and the ever-popular WHIRLWIND, embarking from Sharm el Sheikh, took the all-important first place.
blue o two’s blue HORIZON, a regular winner in the past, came a close second, while VIP ONE, recently rebuilt after a fire, came third.
“What a fabulous award!” exclaimed Tony Backhurst of Scuba Travel, the main agent for all of Tornado Marine’s diving vessels. “Thanks to everyone for voting for Whirlwind in 2011. All of us at Scuba Travel are extremely proud to be able to offer this outstanding liveaboard to our customers.
“Tornado Marine Fleet has a long tradition of award-winning boats, and it’s great to see Whirlwind top the charts. She’s one of the team’s all-time favourite dive-boats, and the long-standing crew on board must be one of the best in the Red Sea.”
|NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
It sometimes appears that the vessels of Worldwide Dive & Sail are taking over the diving world. Every year a new one seems to be operating in a different area. The pinisi-rigged INDO SIREN made its first appearance in 2010 and cruises the waters of the far eastern reaches of Indonesia, including Ambon and Raja Ampat at times.
All the boats are the brainchild of likeable giant Frank Van Der Linde, and have acquired a name for luxury and efficiency that might be the envy of other operators.
“Wow, what can I say?” exclaimed Frank. “I’m not usually lost for words, but winning the DIVER Newcomer of the Year Award leaves me speechless!”
This wasn’t quite true: “All the team at Worldwide Dive and Sail are thrilled with the news,” he went on. “A lot of hard work, sweat and tears goes into building a new boat and putting all the special Siren Fleet touches, so it’s great to know that our efforts are recognised. We have built a fantastic boat, have put together a really strong team and look forward to many more years of sailing in Indonesia.”
The all-new Italian-made CRESSI LEONARDO computer took second place. With an algorithm by Bruce Wienke and an easy-to-use interface, it makes a very viable alternative to other leisure-diving computers on the market.
Third place went to the THERMALUTION heated vest. It can be used to 100m deep under a wetsuit. Brilliant! It has been joined lately by a wirelessly controlled version suitable for use with a drysuit, so no worry about drysuit leaks affecting electrics there!
|TOBY SCOOPS TRIP
The winner of the Prize Draw for this year's DIVER Awards is TOBY NOWLAN, who lives in Frome, Somerset. Toby's £3000 prize is a trip for two to the island of Dominica, and he'll be taking his regular dive-buddy and best mate Stephen Spencer along with him. "You've made my year!" said Toby when we called him.
Toby, 24, is a researcher for wildlife documentaries, and a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver building up to Rescue Diver, with some 55 dives under his belt. He has been under water in the Caribbean before (Panama) but much of his logbook has been filled in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as some diving in Scotland.
Toby and Stephen will fly to the ”Nature Island" courtesy of the DISCOVER DOMINICA AUTHORITY, to spend seven nights at the ANCHORAGE HOTEL, which has its own Whale Watch and Dive Centre. Five days' diving is included. The trip is being arranged by tour operator dive worldwide.
Dominican diving features steep drop-off walls and thriving reefs and the chance to see creatures not always found in the Caribbean. The island is known for the variety of topside activities available while degassing. Learn more at www.dominica.dm