This year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was the biggest in the 54-year history of the event, the top show executive told participants in a media breakfast.
At 3 million square feet “this is by far the biggest footprint in the history of the show,” said Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Show Management, the show organizer,
Revenues — boosted by healthy exhibitor turnout and more product on display — also were the biggest in the show’s history, he said.
“We’re really gratified by the exhibitor response,” Zimbalist said.
Show Management added 70,000 square feet at the new Sailfish Pavilion outside the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. He said more exhibits at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center and expanded dockage north of the Bahia Mar along the Intracoastal Waterway also boosted the show’s size.
Zimbalist said pontoon boats were notable for their numbers at the convention center and the Sailfish Pavilion. “Pontoon boats are selling like hotcakes around the country,” he said. “We’re glad to see a lot of them here at the show.”
Citing the show’s record size, the sunny skies, a recovering economy and the show’s half-billion-dollar impact on South Florida, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said of the show: “It’s the Super Bowl, it’s Christmas, it’s New Year’s — it’s all this rolled into one.”
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The Germans are coming. Bavaria Yachts CEO Constantin von Buelow believes Americans will welcome his company and the engineering that German companies are known for. Bavaria, one of Europe’s largest boatbuilders, introduced its motoryachts to the U.S. market at the Fort Lauderdale show. The German builder is entering the market with its Sport 39, Sport 44 and Virtess 420.
“They are German-engineered, a quality product — long-lasting, functional, very reliable,” von Buelow says — just like Bavaria’s other big-name manufacturer, automaker BMW, which has partnered with Bavaria on some of its designs. “The French and Italians are playing the game [and tapping the U.S. market],” says von Buelow. “We haven’t shown up.” Until now.
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Grand Banks Yachts introduced the 50 Eastbay SX at the show and expects to bring three more designs on line — one at the Miami show in February and two more after that — with money raised from a $10 million stock offering to existing shareholders, which it announced at Fort Lauderdale.
The capital raised through the offering will fund product development, acquisitions, training and equipment, says North American sales manager Tucker West.
“You’ll be seeing a new look, something a little more contemporary,” but still in the classic Grand Banks style, says production director Bruce Livingston Jr.
West says Grand Banks wants to acquire companies that could share its plant in Malaysia or possibly build smaller Grand Banks models in the United States.
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Beneteau and Monte Carlo introduced their MC (Monte Carlo) 5 at the show, but Beneteau marketing director Maryline O’Shea says that’s just the start of an aggressive campaign to grow the company’s motoryacht sales in the United States.
More new models are in the pipeline. Beneteau and Monte Carlo plan to introduce four in the coming year: a Barracuda 7 and MCY 86 at the Miami International Boat Show in February, and a Monte Carlo 4 and a Gran Turismo 35. O’Shea says the company’s philosophy is to spend on R&D and introduce new models, even in tough times.” “Never waste a crisis,” she says.
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Carl Amor, co-owner of Australian underwater light manufacturer Aqualuma, flew 25,000 miles for the eighth straight year to exhibit at Fort Lauderdale. “The show “has really put our name on the map,” Amor says. He and his brother Grant sell their lights through distributors, but use the show to educate boaters. The pair designed and patented their own light and waterproof casing after failing to find underwater lights for their 60-footer that wouldn’t leak or corrode. Amor says that once the casing is in the hull, you can slip the light out of the casing to replace or repair it without taking the boat out of the water.
Belzona Marine, a startup company that debuted its first boat, a 325 center console, at the 2012 show, came to Fort Lauderdale this year with its second model, a 327 walkaround, and a confidence born of surviving tough times from the get-go. The boats feature patented port and starboard sliding doors amidships for easy access. “Successfully designing two ground-breaking models in just under two years is quite an accomplishment,” says senior designer Karl Boehler.
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MarineMax was at the show in spades. Celebrating its 15th year as a publicly traded company, the boat and yacht retailer — the nation’s largest — was representing 21 brands and debuted four new models: the Sea Ray 50SLX, the Sea Ray 510 Flybridge, the Azimut 80 Flybridge and the Hatteras 100.
CEO William McGill says MarineMax also is carrying the new 19-1/2-foot Scarab jetboat built by Rec Boat Holdings and plans to sell a private-ownership version of the 44-foot power catamaran it builds for its charter fleet in the British Virgin Islands. He says the charter fleet gives his owners who live in northern climes a chance to boat in the winter in the Caribbean.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue.