Oct 24, 2019
CY’s Publisher Greg Nicoll
The 2019 United States Sailboat Show concluded an epic 50th edition in historic downtown Annapolis last week. held October 10 to 14, over Canadian Thanksgiving this year’s show hit record numbers.
The US boat show, as many of us call the Annapolis Boat Show, came about through a conversation at the Annapolis YC, as happens with some beers and boaters sitting around a communal table, when someone said, “Why don’t we just have them come to see the boats already in the water?”
No city had an outdoor show at that time and lack of space and size of boat ruled out tall masts which in turn ruled out the imagination of sailors and a place of dreams.
The first show in 1970 claimed to have the largest display of sailboats ever exhibited at one time afloat, or on shore – more than 100 monohull models in the 25-35 foot range from US manufacturers.
Times have changed and now boats hail from France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Slovenia, South Africa and many other countries. They are luxurious production and semi-custom cruising or performance machines with huge beams and satellite communications, radar, sonar, wireless wind speed indicators, autopilots, emergency position radio beacons and chart-plotters. With more than 200 boats, the show now hosts more catamarans rather than monohulls. More than 80,000 visitors generate millions in economic activity for the city. The shows (both power and sail) share a portion of the entry fees with the city and pay an additional rental fee for using City Dock. The shows also support fund-raising by about two dozen charitable organizations that offer food, parking, and other services to patrons.
Education and training are now part of the show. Courses to introduce new people to sailing include a First Sail workshop with instruction on land and on the water. Couples can learn to manage together in the Two Can Sail seminar. The Take the Wheel program invites prospective buyers to try and compare two boats to narrow their search for the perfect one. There’s even a course this year in offshore emergency medicine. Cruisers University offers a full curriculum of 50 courses for the sailor aspiring to do long-range voyages.
The Vacation Basin displays boats available for charter around the world. Boat clubs are another innovation on display. Rather than owning a boat, you can buy a membership that allows you to use boats in a fleet managed and maintained by the club.
Creating the platform for all the excitement of the 50th anniversary show requires a creative pattern. In three days, the show creates a marina to accommodate more than 200 sailboats. This requires driving 50 temporary pilings, constructing and moving hundreds of floating dock sections and installing miles of electrical cable.
After the show, the break up of the marina is its own local party as boats leave with choreographed precision to cheers from an admiring crowd. Each year brings new equipment, new technology, new boats and new excitement.
Definitely a “must do” on your boating bucket list.