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Sailing industry seeks ‘brighter skies’ ahead

The Sailing Company presented its annual "State of the Sailing Industry Report" during the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail and it was peppered with phrases such a "survival mode," "Darwinian gale," and "indulgence is no longer affordable."

Rick Walter, of MarketResearch Associates, delivered a sober assessment of the sailing industry, but one that promised "brighter skies" in 2010.

"The 'Recovery Consumer' is rethinking risk, value and consequence," Walter said, "and marketers will have to work hard to redirect decision-making [by the consumer] that is perceived as responsible."

Production was down 20 percent between September 2008 and August 2009, and the work force was down 29 percent. Cruiser production was down 55 percent, while multihulls were down 36 percent.

The estimated overall value of North American sailboats was down 58 percent to $258 million. A 12 percent increase is forecast for 2010.

Exports among all "developing nations" were down 46 percent, to 1,154 units while imports were down 33 percent - or 118 units - to 240 units. A 16 percent drop was forecast.

The decline was across the board by size, ranging from 31 percent (46 feet and larger) to 37 percent (20 to 35 feet). Multihulls held their own, declining only one unit to 113. This year's forecast is for an overall increase of 95 units.

"Delivering bad news is tough," said The Sailing Company's group publisher Sally Helme in closing, "but we are all here and we survived because we are the best and brightest. Get ready for a recovery."

— Rich Armstrong

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