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Annapolis sailboat show sees larger crowds

Perfect weather for five consecutive days, more than 600 exhibitors and an estimated turnout of 50,000 underscored the positive mood at the 41st annual United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md.

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More than 25 new boat models were presented, approximately 1.2 miles of docks were lined with boats of all sizes - from children's dinghies to the 160-foot three-master Arabella - and all of the booth space on land sold out.

"It is very impressive the way the sailing industry decided it was time to put economic problems and labels behind them and put forth an effort unlike any in recent history," said Paul Jacobs, general manager of United States Yacht Shows Inc., producer of the Annapolis Boat Shows.

"All major sailboat manufacturers reported sales that exceeded their expectations [and] many retail vendors reported numbers way above last year," said Jonathan Banks, executive director of the industry group Sail America. "It's a little premature to call it a turning point, but it sure feels like one."

People traveled far to attend Annapolis, Banks added, because dealers no longer carry large inventories. "A boat show, and especially Annapolis, is the place to see all the new boats and products with experts at hand."

One of the most crowded spaces was Beneteau's dock, where the new Beneteau Sense 50 made its U.S. debut among other models. In front of dozens of spectators at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. each day the company held demonstrations of the boat's Dock & Go joystick docking system. It spun the 15-ton 50-footer around in a full circle inside a 60-foot-square basin without the boat touching the dock.

The performance that the helmsman carried out with one hand and no sweat drew repeated cheers and applause. "We sold four of these during the show and three others are in the works," said Mike Lecholop, Beneteau USA vice president of sales. "It was a delightful event and I heard several competitors did well, too."

Attendance increased more than 10 percent from 2009 and people were reported to have spent money in all areas of the show.

"Not only was the number of attendees up considerably, but the quality was up immeasurably," said Ed Hartman, president of United States Yacht Shows. "Coincident with the stock market rise over 11,000, wallets opened up and sales of merchandise, services and boats were surprisingly strong," he added.

Comments, photos and videos are available at www.usboat.com.

— Dieter Loibner

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