Harken Derm

Taking the pulse on the yacht industry

Published on February 3rd, 2019

Held in January, the Dusseldorf boat show in Germany is massive. With almost 2,000 exhibitors from 73 countries and displays covering 220,000 m², nearly 250,000 people came from over 100 countries. The ‘boot’, as it is known, is the leading public boating exhibition in the world.

Paulo Pernão of Interesting Sailboats shares his impression of the 2019 event:


Let me say that for the ones that really like sailboats, Dusseldorf boat show is a bit like Christmas, a yacht Christmas, where one is able to see many new boats, revisit some favorite ones and take the pulse on yacht industry.

The relative importance of bigger cruising yachts has become dominant. Brands chose to expose mainly boats 44 feet and over and the number of exposed cruising boats with 40ft or less is shrinking every year and the few that are there almost pass unnoticed among the bigger ones.

What is the explanation? I believe we have to look at the global sailing picture and regarding that it is also true that weekenders and daysailers, some of them quite luxurious, are presented in large number. This probably means that more and more sailors only buy cruising yachts when they retire and before, besides doing charter, they buy much smaller boats to enjoy sailing or week end cruising.

Like on cars and houses, Europeans have become used to travel and live in increasingly bigger spaces and since cruising boats are bought mostly at retirement age (or close) to live considerable time aboard, most cruising boats that are now bought are 44ft or more. The increase in yacht size has a parallel in the increasing living space in houses.

Of course, not all have the money for a new boat but the ones that can’t buy a new 45ft boat prefer to buy one with that size on the used market, than buying a new 37 or 40 ft boat. People become used to living with more space and small cruising boats that were once considered more than enough to live aboard are today considered, by most, cramped and uncomfortable.

A more unfortunate tendency regards the diminution of the sailing market and the increasing of the motorboat market. In that regards, Dusseldorf boat show is by far the one where that disproportion is smaller but even so, talking with people from brands that produce sailing boats and motorboats, they all say that they are making much more motorboats than sailboats and in many cases they were brands that started doing exclusively sailboats.

And cruising sailboats are becoming less and less sailboats and more and more second houses that can be moved around and that can also sail.

They are used for sailing almost exclusively coastally, downwind or on a beam reach and never on demanding conditions and therefore sailboat design follows the trend: the engines have become bigger, money is saved on sailing hardware and on designing boats with low B/D, because that will only be needed to sail upwind or to sail in demanding conditions. – Full report

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