Industry Insider Perspective

Published on October 16th, 2013

Don Finkle of RCR Yachts shares his observations from last week’s boat show in Annapolis…

While the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis (Oct. 10-14) is still the largest show of its kind in North America, it is certainly a lot smaller than it used to be. The weather was atrocious and this impacted the attendance but boats were being sold and those who came seemed to be enjoying themselves.

When the crowds are lighter it sure makes it easier to move around. Another plus is that because of all the rain most exhibitors let you board without taking your shoes off. A joke within the business is checking out the shoes of the people who come to look. Rarely is this a problem at the sailboat show as soft sole non-marking shoes are the norm. The powerboat shows are a different story however, it is shocking to see what some of the women wear…..they obviously have not been on many boats in their past. You can’t let them board with high heel hard sole boots!

The number of race boats being displayed is telling for the direction of the sport. There were very few larger performance boats, reflecting the fact that this segment is really soft right now. Instead sportboats were much more in evidence. There were a number of small foreign-built racers under 30’, some of which were mentioned in a recent Sailing World magazine article on new boats. We were gratified to see how well our various J models stack up to the others.

The reasons for so much interest in smaller keel boats these days are many. It is harder to get crew for a big boat program; high tech sails are wonderful but expensive, big boats need more sails and burn through them; most racing sailors no longer spend much time below or overnight so they do not need a fully-fitted out interior or much space below; smaller boats are easier to transport making travel a lot less expensive, opening up the opportunity to do more events; sportboats are fun and exciting and those who sailed smaller boats when they were younger get a kick out of the performance they offer; you can still keep your big boat if you wish and buy a sportboat as a second boat, numerous J/70 owners have done just that; the economic climate discourages larger investments right now so smaller boats are a much easier decision; as handicap fleets shrink it means less competition and therefore less reason to buy or keep a larger race boat.

We could go on but you get the picture. This may be a cycle that will change down the road; we do not expect that any time soon. In the meantime there are very good buys on used mid and large size race boats for those who wish to play that game.

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