A Brief History of BWI’s Writing Awards

Though it’s months until the 2010 Writing Contest gets underway, recent questions from members have encouraged this brief look at BWI’s highly prized benefit, biggest and longest-running undertaking.

The Contest was launched in 1992 (awards presented in 1993) by then president Joe Skorupa who was writing for Popular Mechanics and executive director Bob Black. Three inaugural categories were Lifestyles, Fishing and Ethics. First sponsors were, respectively, Outboard Marine Corp., Yamaha Marine and Suzuki Outboards.

Suzuki has the distinction of being the longest consecutive running sponsor since the start, while retaining its same name; OMC provided funding until 2000 when the firm went away. Award payouts were the same then as today, $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third.

Members soon asked for more categories and there were willing sponsors. Fishing Photography debuted in ’94 (Suzuki shifted sponsorship here and later to Fishing stories) but it fizzled out soon after. In ’95 three long-lived categories were added, Seamanship/Rescue/Safety, Technical Writing and Electronics. Long-supporting sponsors Sea Tow Services and Marine Development Corp. (which evolved into Dometic Marine) have respectively funded the first two all along.

In ’96 Star brite began its sponsorship with the original News category, but switched to Engine Care/Maintenance soon after and funded it for 10 years. Electronics became a stalwart category in the same year. Boating Books was a category for a single year in ’99; it only took one round to understand what a chore judging was.

By the new millennium year, nine categories became standard with the addition of Travel. Mercury Marine took over News and has continued funding it since. In ’01 the BoatU.S. Foundation took on Ethics for the next eight years and Boat Tests became a category.

KVH Industries helped launch Columns in ’02 and has been its exclusive sponsor. In the same year, Newspaper Features was added, but died a year after. In ’03 Gear joined the category list courtesy of C-Map (which became Jeppesen Marine and moved to sponsoring Electronics). ’04 saw the addition of Business of Boating sponsored by Home Port Marine Marketing while Discover Boating supported the addition of Boating Adventures in ’06.

Total categories have peaked at 17 with the latest additions coming in ’07 when Megayachts began sponsored by Awlgrip and last year’s Original Online Content debuted with support of the National Marine Electronics Assn. Categories changing sponsors in the last two years also included Lifestyles (Boats.com/Yachts.com), Profiles (ZF Marine), Travel (Island Global Yachting), Gear (Xantrex) and Ethics (Marlink).

BWI’s Grand Prize Writing Award, the single selection from all of the Annual Contest winning entries with the $5,000 purse, was first awarded in 2000 and funded by one of the early and short-lived boating dotcom entities. It was then sponsored by Genmar Boats for three years and West Marine from ’04 to ’08. Last year the sponsor preferred to remain unannounced.

A sponsor for this year’s Grand Prize Award is being actively sought. Those with interest in or recommendations of potential sponsors should direct questions to info@bwi.org, 847/736-4142.