(La Rochelle) France has the largest boating industry in Europe, with two events to officially launch the fall boat show season. The first, Cannes Yachting Festival, is the most famous, set in the glitzy port on the French Riviera. It is filled with hundreds of motoryachts, tenders, sailboats and superyachts. Many builders plan their model-year launches around Cannes. It concluded last week with a record number of exhibitors and strong international visitors.
France’s other show, La Rochelle Grand Pavois set on France’s Atlantic coast, is much lesser known internationally, but it attracts almost twice as many visitors each year. And most of them are French. The show, which ended yesterday, was created in 1973.
It has been growing ever since. The show continues to be designed by an organizing board of management, exhibitors and boaters so it will stay attractive to visitors. The organizing board is regularly changed every few years to keep the event fresh.
“It also allows the event to stay in touch with the nautical market and its needs,” Christophe Vieux, general manager of the show, told Trade Only Today.
The Grand Pavois is also dedicated to boats that are smaller than those at Cannes. The boats, rather than Canne’s larger yachts, average from 12 to 45 ft, with about 65 percent being motorboats and the remainder sailboats.
"The proportion of sailboats, ultimately quite high in relation to the overall market, is linked to our history,” says Vieux. “La Rochelle is the historical headquarters of many sailboat builders and is still very active in the sailing industry.”
This formula works, since Grand Pavois had around 800 brands at this year’s event. French manufacturers comprise the majority, though 35 countries were represented at this year’s show. There were sailboats for the family, but also models for racing or cruising. There are also fishing boats, open hulls, ribs and several dozen catamarans models, a booming sector in France.
"The show really represents the French industry,” says Vieux. “It's a very nice picture of the French market, because 95 percent of the boats registered in France are less than 50 feet long. These are the boats we have here.”
The show covers 25 acres, 108, 000 square feet is covered, with about 300 boats on the water.
Vieux said that the show has progressed so much in the last year that the event will look for more space to hold its growing number of multihull and fish-boat hulls.
Organizers continue to question themselves on how to improve the show going forward.
"We like the boat show to evolve by improving its layout,” says Vieux. “We’re already thinking about next year.”
Vieux’s organization has also exported its expertise by organizing boat shows in China. “We are currently being asked to organize another one just outside Beijing,” he says.
Le Grand Pavois will remain unapologetically French, says Vieux, and a true buying show. "The profession continues to come in such numbers every year because it's a boat show and not just an exhibition,” he says. “It's really a show for enthusiasts, for people who like to sail and who like to share their experiences.”