Large luxury boatsBy John Morris

BOOT, the Dusseldorf boat show, is often described as the largest in Europe. Its 17 (yes!) halls are divided up by category presenting a category of power, sail and miscellaneous boats, accessories, art, regattas, resorts, clothing, dock equipment, water skis, dragon headed pedal boats, kites and anything else you can identify as boating related.

Dusseldorf is a small city but with a huge exhibition campus that is packed year round with trade and a few consumer shows from Top Hair International to Valve World Expo. The complex has those 17 buildings that usually host several events simultaneously but for the annual BOOT, it’s wall-to-wall boats packing every square metre. While European consumers make their purchases differently than Canadians, it is a pleasure to see up close what those sophisticated continental boaters are buying.

Among the boats at Boot you will see quite staggering representation from the European boat builders as you might expect, but you’ll also find brands from countries you might not have previously thought of as boatbuilding hubs such as Turkey, Croatia and the Ukraine. Much of the show is populated by brands rarely seen, and not currently sold in Canada. Also striking are the large number of river cruising powerboats and sailing sport boats – both categories are very active on that side of the Atlantic.

never seen before boatsParticularly impressive (Wow!) was the number of super high-end luxury yachts like the largest in the show 100-footer Princess 30M staggeringly beautiful right in the middle of Hall 6. Around it were similar if slightly smaller beauties with astronomical price tags suited to the Russian oligarchs and other Monaco-moored types. Around the periphery of the hall were exhibits from custom builders like Michael Schmidt, founder of Hanse who left in 2011 to address the needs of owners who want something truly spectacular. (The Canadian connection here is that prior to Hanse, Michael honed his boat builder credentials here in Niagara-on-the-Lake.)

Plus superb adult refreshment
After a full day of crawling the show, we headed into the centre of Dusseldorf for a bit of tourism. One of the nicer aspects of going to the Dusseldorf Boat Show is that unsurprisingly, it is in Dusseldorf, a very sweet spot on the Rhine. Besides a never ending supply of Dusseldorf’s renowned altbier, the town offers shopping on a par with Europe’s fashion capitals. It also boasts great urban LRT transportation right to the boatshow door offered free to showgoers.

exotic sport sailboatsTo cap off a lovely day, we headed through the packed-with-restaurants Alt Stadt historic area to Hausbrauerei Zum Schlüssel. Schlüssel is just one of an endless supply of delicious brewery spots serving huge plates of traditional German edibles like pork knuckle stew and red cabbage. Bring your appetite as well as your deck shoes.

Europe, of course, has many huge builders like Hanse, Dehler and Bavaria but let’s look at Beneteau. The French builder had an array of 8 sail cruisers in Hall 16, 9 large power cruisers (including 5 in their MonteCarlo line) in Hall 6 plus a dozen or so smaller powerboats – centre consoles, small cruisers and runabouts – in Hall 9. Then they have another huge batch of craft under the Jeanneau marque. The scale is impressive and the booths displaying the many boats had a constant stream of traffic.

Many names you know such as Princess, Nautor Swan, Halberg-Rassy, Italia, and X-boats that we don’t see in Canada are prominent at the show. There’s even a hall dedicated to cruising multihulls – hard to believe at an indoor event. Dusseldorf is on Germany’s northwest side, barely a morning’s drive from Amsterdam or Brussels, so the market is huge and the boat builders can readily truck their babies to one central location to show them off.

dazzling sport sailboatsIn the four days I spent at Boot, I tried to take in the majority of the boats and get onboard the noteworthy ones. I failed to accomplish that goal; a reporter could easily take up a week exploring the massive show‘s 1,800 exhibitors from 60 countries. You could comfortably spend a full day in the super yachts building, much of it in full tilt envy of the international moguls who stopped by to negotiate on one. This year just shy of 250,000 visitors passed through Boot’s automated turnstiles.

A few exhibits struck me as indicative of the treasures among the many halls at Boot, and as boats that Canadians might love, if they could get ahold of them.

Pollard of Steenwijk, Netherlands builds steel hull cruisers that somewhat resemble trawlers in function but express cruisers in style like the Coastliner 35. Heavy-ish at nine tonnes, diesel-powered, this stunning swift cruiser is aimed at the canals of Europe, but appears plenty seaworthy enough for coastal waters. Inside, it is lovingly finished in stunning blonde oak with luxury features and a brilliant (looking) computerized control centre that provides comprehensive navigational and operating info on customized screens. It’s a boat not available in North America but certainly has appeal for the owner looking for that gentle cruiser with panache. Check the line-up, and practice your Dutch at http://www.pollardjachtbouw.nl.

XO from FinlandIn Hall 15, I stopped in my tracks when I ran into the 10-meter Blackpepper Code 0 speedster, a sport boat with a twist. Different than on this side of the ocean, the performance sailboat category appears to be booming in Europe and there were quite a number of race designed hot boats – Melges 24 looking - with state of the art construction and materials. The sailboat market in Canada is not exactly booming and that is particularly true in the sport boat/daysailer category. But judging from the proliferation of sporty designs and builders, the appetite for this sort of boat on the other side of the pond must be healthier than here. Is there a lesson?

The Code 0 is a French sexy rocket with almost no freeboard and dual rudders but is described as a family sailer with offshore capabilities. Its website shows it’s unusual cutter rig with a removable bowsprit, hardwood decking, 2.2 m (!) pivoting keel and its microscopic cruising interior complete with a salad bowl sized sink and a bottle of champagne on the flower-adorned tiny table. http://blackpepper.fr. While you’re at it, take a look at the Brittany-built equally crazed-looking family including the Mojito 8.88 at idbmarine.com.

Fresh outta Helsinki comes XO Boats, dark, brooding and funky deep vee aluminum 27-foot twin outboard with a heritage in the Finnish archipelago. It looks like a nasty piece that could spit out even a stormy Lake Superior with ease. While the company has dealers in Bulgaria and the UK and everywhere in between, there are none here. Enjoy the company’s avant-garde website at http://www.xoboats.fi.

Fun Paddle BoatsMore serene is the very relaxing line of rock solid cruisers and tenders from Dutch yard Interboat. Powered by diesel inboards, these beauties are aimed at European lakes, rivers and canals but would certainly turn heads in Port Carling with classic looks and rope rub rails. Again, not available so far in NA.

Family run Sunbeam Yachtbau builds about 100 luxurious sail cruisers that rival most semi-custom builders. Traditional looking but with every possible mod-cons, and very well thought-out interiors I had never seen these boats before but was delighted to take the tour. Built in Austria and sold even in Australia, they are not so far available in Canada. The 36.1 would be a fine addition to our fleet. Have a look at www.sunbeam.at/36.

That’s just the tip of a very wonderful iceberg. Walking this enormous show offers an excellent opportunity to look at a market that is similar, but very different. The sheer size of the show breathes life into your boating heart, even in the winter. You might not be able to buy the boats but you’ll certainly catch the fever at this huge show. Plus, if you might enjoy a schnitzel and a fine beer, you’ll certainly love Dusseldorf.

Photo Captions
Photo 1 - Large luxury boats inside make Boot quite spectacular and perfect for January
Photo 2 - At Boot, never seen before boats (big ones!) are a feature
Photo 3 & 4 - The wide range of exotic sport sailboats at Boot is dazzling
Photo 5 - A gnarly looking XO from Finland
Photo 6 - Fun paddle boats, roto moulded all over the place take up almost a whole hall.

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