U.S. Sailboat Show reports attendance boost

Early indications of attendance figures suggest a 3.5 percent increase.
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Crowds gather at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. Organizers said attendance increased and dealers and exhibitors reported strong sales. CREDIT: Josh Davidson for the U.S. Sailboat Show

Crowds gather at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. Organizers said attendance increased and dealers and exhibitors reported strong sales. CREDIT: Josh Davidson for the U.S. Sailboat Show

Hurricane Joaquin might have threatened the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, but the show ran as scheduled Oct. 8-12 with largely gorgeous weather and tremendous crowds.

“From our standpoint, it was amazing,” Jeanneau America president Nicolas Harvey said. “I think I haven’t seen such a busy Thursday of the Annapolis show in years.”

Though it is too early for hard numbers, this year’s show surpassed 2014 exhibitor space and was sold out by mid-September, said Paul Jacobs, president and general manager of the Annapolis shows.

“Early indications of attendance figures suggest a 3.5 percent increase,” he said. “Final totals will be determined once all special-events tickets report and exhibitor guest pass accounts are settled. But 3.5 percent is a pretty good number — though it may rise to 4 percent.”

In its 46th year, this year's in-water sailboat show played host to more than 200 boats, 50 brokered boats, virtually every major sailboat manufacturer and hundreds of dealers. Online ticket sales outpaced previous years, and exhibitors and sponsors expected to greet as many as 50,000 boaters during the five-day event.

“This year's show was one of the largest in our history, with all land spaces sold out weeks ago and docks chock full of all imaginable sailing platforms,” Jacobs said. “Family cruisers, racing sleds, inflatables, daysailers, offshore cruising vessels and the largest collection of multihulls anywhere were available for viewing.”

“Most important to all boat shows is the level of business conducted by exhibitors,” Jacobs said. “If sales reports by dealers and manufacturers are accurate, this will prove to be the best sailboat show since pre-2008.”

Harvey confirmed that was true for Jeanneau. “We had a great boat show. We had a lot of sales and there were many people who were interested in our brand,” Harvey said. “It was very encouraging, the interest we saw for cruising sailboats.”

That segment is challenged, but Harvey said owners and prospective owners are realizing they have to stop making excuses and embrace the lifestyle that owning a cruising sailboat brings with it.

“This past weekend, we saw a lot of young couples come up — say, 45 years old — and several with kids in their low teens, and really embracing the idea of the lifestyle of cruising on a sailboat. This is finally the payback of a lot of efforts we’ve all been putting in through Sail America and the Grow Sailing effort.”

“Maybe it was a little different demographic,” he added. “I wouldn’t say it was a 180-degree shift, but we saw a clear trickle of a certain buyer we hadn’t seen in a while.”

The group, which won Best in Show for its booth display, had “significant sales” at the show. “I can’t reveal how many, but we sold at least 30 percent more than the year before, which is a significant increase,” Harvey said.

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