US Sailboat Show marks success in 50th year

The United States Sailboat Show closed the gates on a successful 50th edition in historic downtown Annapolis on Monday, Oct. 14.

The gates flooded – in more ways than one – over the holiday weekend as the show hit record numbers. Educational programs and workshops sold out in advance of the show, proving the sailing lifestyle is not beginning to diminish. Rented exhibitor space eclipsed the previous record set in 2017 by over 8% and overall attendance resulted in a 14.7% increase over the previous best year attendance record set in 2015. 

“We could not be more thrilled with the support we received from the industry, our exhibitors, and the massive number of consumers who visited from around the world,” said Paul Jacobs, President of Annapolis Boat Shows. “Not only did they come out in large numbers, but they were excited to see this impressive display and went on spending sprees to support all who displayed.”

Saturday brought in its own record numbers, one of which was not predicted as a nor’easter churned in the north Atlantic. The aging city infrastructure was put to the test as a historic tidal flood took over City Dock. Levels of 4.15 feet above normal record came ashore and remained for over 24 hours. Gates were closed and booths were flooded out. Contractors, crews, and show management pressed on as they built walkways, created a makeshift gate, and assisted exhibitors as needed. Devoted attendees hiked up their pants, took off their shoes, and waded through the water as they joked about the unexpected turn of events. Even with the additional water volume, Saturday’s attendance was just 200 people shy of the all-time record set in 2010. 

Event organizers said exhibitors were thrilled to welcome an “extraordinary number of qualified buyers to their space” as the days continued to bring in the “busiest crowds they have ever seen.”

Big manufacturers such as Jeanneau and Kintetic even took new approaches to increase visibility. Jeanneau partnered with other exhibitors on site, such as Harken and Raymarine, to “bring real experiences” to the docks. Kinetic partnered with Annapolis Green to house a refillable water station and “handed out over 400 water bottles” over the course of the weekend.

This year several important awards were presented to sailing industry professionals and exhibitors. Robert Lipkin was presented with the Sailing Industry Distinguished Service award by Gary Jobson, last year’s recipient. Excess Catamarans received Best in Show, Beneteau America received Best Display (five or more boats), Bali Catamarans/Dream Yacht Charter received Best Display (under five boats), Sailrite received Best Booth (over 200 sq. ft.), and Vesper Marine won Best Booth (under 200 sq. ft.). 

A record boat show exhibitor space, record attendance, and near record high tides combined to make this one of the most memorable boat shows in history. 

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