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ABC 2014: Big turnout for opening-night cruise

Jim Malone (left), Nautic Global Group board member and the company’s former interim chief executive, and the company’s new CEO Brad Gates are shown Monday evening aboard Virginia’s Jewel during the American Boating Congress welcome reception.

Jim Malone (left), Nautic Global Group board member and the company’s former interim chief executive, and the company’s new CEO Brad Gates are shown Monday evening aboard Virginia’s Jewel during the American Boating Congress welcome reception.

WASHINGTON — The 2014 American Boating Congress opened with a welcome reception cruise along the Potomac River Monday evening as some of the biggest names in boating sipped cocktails and casually discussed marine industry topics ranging from boat shows to Grow Boating initiatives.

“This is the biggest ABC ever, or at least in a long time, isn’t it?” Cobalt Boats CEO Paxson St. Clair asked National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich.

“It’s the biggest one in 20 years, or at least since I’ve been here,” Dammrich said.

This year’s ABC has 38 co-hosts and 20 sponsors, and response to the welcome reception that the NMMA introduced this year — a cruise on Virginia’s Jewel — was so overwhelming that the group had to add a second boat, Celebrity.

Today the legislative part of the event will start with registration and breakfast, followed by a session on effective lobbying techniques and a recap of ABC issues.

Lunch will include a panel discussion about fishing issues, as well as the presentation of the Eddie Smith Manufacturer of the Year Award, won last year by former Yamaha president Phil Dyskow. Smith helped found the Center for Coastal Conservation, a coalition of advocates for marine recreational fishing and boating.

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