Weather drives Atlantic Sail Expo attendance down

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Snowstorms and winter temperatures that reached record lows drove attendance at Atlantic SAIL EXPO down 11 percent compared to last year, show producer Sail America reported in a statement yesterday.

Still, Sail America said it continues its commitment to producing “a great winter event for sailors and the sailing industry.”

“We know how important it is to have a winter show where the sailing business can connect with consumers in this region,” said Scot West, executive director of Sail America. “We’re committed to producing events that our industry will be enthusiastic about, and venues that will give them the greatest chances for success. As we’ve always done in the past, we’ll continue to monitor the feedback from both exhibitors and consumers as we plan for 2005.”

Sales remain solid

However, despite the decline in attendance, sales were solid at the four-day sailboat show, held at the Atlantic City (NJ) Convention Center January 15-18, according to Sail America.

“In 2003, we had one of our strongest years [at this show]. But this year’s record could prove to be better than last. This show was a good start for the year ahead,” said Jeff Jorgensen of Bay Yacht Agency, the Annapolis dealer for Jeanneau.

Jorgensen left the show with several sales in hand, for boats ranging 40 to 43 feet in length.

According to Bruce Mundle of Bavaria Yachts USA, boat
buyers’ desire to catch a favorable tide on low interest rates may be creating a sense of urgency to purchase or trade up soon.

“This show went very well for us,” said Mundle, after returning to his Annapolis office and reviewing leads from the show. “We saw a lot more people looking to buy in the next three to twelve months. . . In the past, there’s been more uncertainty. But I sense people now feel more confident in the future of the economy. Some buyers know interest rates may be rising and I imagine they are thinking, the difference between what I am paying now and what I could pay on a new boat is quite acceptable.”

Sales of big boats are a key index, as each sale generates the need for a range of accessories such as winches, rigging, deck hardware, and other equipment, stated Sail America. Exhibitors in other categories found that business had picked up over their results at ASE 2003.

In the small-boat arena, Scott Steele of Vanguard Sailboats gauged sales at this year’s show to be an improvement over those at ASE 2003.

In addition, Offshore Sailing School CEO Doris Colgate tallied their sales of instruction courses at an 8-percent increase over last year’s show, reported Sail America.

Atlantic SAIL EXPO is co-produced by Sail America and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). Sail America also runs Discover Sailing, a national introduction-to-sailing program, and six sailboat shows held each year throughout the United States. ASE 2004 was sponsored by BoatTraderOnline, West Marine, Yanmar Marine, and New Jersey Transit.

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