The Show Goes On
I was somewhat afraid to attend the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis last weekend, and not because the last time I road-tripped without Mer I ended up in jail. No, I was worried to walk the docks of this show under the same black cloud that enveloped it last year, a cloud that had halved the stock portfolios of so many attendees and exhibitors just days before. Would I be visiting hundreds of my industry friends only to find them in an alcoholic depression, desperate to sell whatever baubles they had left from the last order they placed 16 months before? Would the slips be empty, nothing but inexpensive sportboats and rotomolded boats left on display?
Thankfully, the answer was no. And surprisingly, the attendance was strong, the exhibitors positive, the manufacturers had a few new products and even some interesting offerings among them, and most importantly, people were spending money. Some industry execs were positively rosy; there were some who were liquid enough to have acquired competitors for a song, and others who’ve followed the advice of some legendary marketeers who preach "spend spend spend" in a down market when market share is so much easier to gain – and they have. Have we turned a corner? Probably not. But the general feeling among those assembled was that they’ve been able to adapt enough to weather the worst of it and remain alive, and that when they make it to the other side, life’s gonna be just fine.
My highlights were the Weta trimaran (which has sold a LOT of boats), some great new ways to deal with onboard energy requirements (Bruce Schwab’s new battery and the ReGen comprehensive charging/electric drive system), 3rd Coast Composites’ Eko Mini, the surprisingly well-built First 40, and the sexy Pure Yachting carbon-fiber RIB, and I even liked the new centerboard/dual rudder J/95, though Rod Johnstone’s enthusiasm for his new boat may have infected me slightly.
The big losers were the stubby, already outdated and poorly constructed Summit 35, some porky shitters from Hylas and the other big producers, and the lack of anything sporty from most of the big manufacturers. Plus the electro-shock back massage thing that screwed my whole back up. "It’s approved by the FDA," said the snake-oil salesman.
You can check out the almost thirty video clips of all the above products and many more right here