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Rain doesn’t deter sailors at Annapolis show

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Despite cool temperatures and drenching rain, the mood was bright at Thursday’s opening of the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md.

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Wearing foul-weather gear, a hardy battalion of serious buyers braved the docks — dodging puddles and dripping awnings — to the delight of exhibitors.

“Amazing,” said Tom Armantrant, of Boat Leather, a Seattle-based manufacturer of wheel coverings, chafe gear and other leather products. Even as his 10-by-10-foot tent sprung leak after leak, he said, “There are an amazing number of people walking through — hardcore buyers and sailors shopping. They’ve seen product at other shows or on the Internet, and they are coming in today to buy.”

Many exhibitors echoed that sentiment. Informed and dedicated buyers paid $35 for Thursday’s VIP pass, versus $18 Friday through Monday, in order to talk with exhibitors and dealers, avoid the crowds and sign on the dotted line.

Less-than-ideal weather hit both Annapolis shows with record heat for last week’s powerboat show. “It’s lucky for us the rain has come for the sailing community, as they’re more resilient,” said Tony Lippi, of the Panama Hat Company in St. Augustine, Fla. His Tilley Hat booth had a throng of buyers trying on various wide-brimmed waterproof hats so they could shop in comfort.

“This is the largest show we’ve seen, based on space sold and the size of boats exhibited,” said Paul Jacobs, general manager of the Annapolis boat shows. “We are happy to report a very large crowd today, with weather expected to improve over the weekend — and attendance hand-in-hand.”

Jacobs is part of a five-person consortium poised to take over ownership of the Annapolis shows. “To some extent the success of the show drives the industry, so we hope we are able to deliver.”

Some might say they already have.

Beneteau’s Julia Experton beamed beneath an expansive tented booth, where guests waited to tour yachts. “Our expectations were not high, based on the weather forecast,” she said. By 3 p.m., however, more than 200 prospects had come through, with two boats sold. “If every day is like this it will be a pretty good show.”

The U.S. Sailboat Show runs through Monday at the Annapolis City Dock.

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