We spent an enjoyable weekend in Chicago for the 2012 Strictly Sail show, and the best part of the show wasn’t even the Winter Anarchy show. What got us charged up most was new boats, new products, and an optimism that, for the first time in years, was based on reality instead of hope.
After years of downward trending numbers, organizers of The Progressive Insurance Strictly Sail Chicago show told us attendee numbers were roughly the same as 2011 – just over 15,000 people walked through the gates. More importantly, the number of real sales was up sharply, as were the number of new boats and new products on display.
The show itself isn’t anything special – dropping revenue has led organizers to offer a bare-bones exposition at Chicago’s Navy Pier – but the addition of the old Andrews 77 Alchemy (there to promote a local fractional sailing/charter scheme) right in the middle of the hall was a real crowd-pleaser and made the show glitter like she hasn’t since the economy crumbled.
J/Boats probably had the best-attended booth of all the builders, the J/111 introducing concepts to the huge, largely neophyte crowd that they might not have seen before in a 36-footer. The show also saw the introduction of the new VX-One, the Classe 2M day racer, and the RS-100 singlehander debuted in the States as well. There were probably some new cruiser/charter boats as well, but we weren’t gonna brave the legion of sock-wearing tirekickers to see ‘em.
We did of course make the time to see all the new bits of shining metal and carbon on offer, and the most interesting may have been RBS Battens’ brand new rolling battens. These fully rolling but rigid battens may finally give roller-furling jibs the kind of performance that vertical or inflatable battens have never achieved. Certainly one to watch.
We always enjoy the dozens of college sailors at the Chicago show – each year, they come to promote MCSA sailing while fundraising by selling gear, and we encourage everyone to check ‘em out in the interviews below, and support them if you can!
For the rest of the Strictly Sail report, spend some time with the index of video interviews below. It’s better for you to get the info straight from the source, and Clean’s provided 16 videos from the show that do exactly that. Enjoy!