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Rain and shine for Annapolis shows

U.S. Sailboat Show sees boost in attendance, solid sales, but Powerboat Show is thwarted by rain

A growing of sense of optimism was the story at the U.S. Sailboat Show, which ran Oct. 8-12 in Annapolis, Md.

The U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis had sunny skies.

Nice weather all five days brought a boost in attendance — about 50,000 people total, according to preliminary figures — higher than last year, which was the third-best in show history. It was the overall mood of those in attendance, however, that had exhibitors enthusiastic.

“We were expecting lots of lookers and not buyers, but it was the opposite,” says Tom Wagner of Annapolis-based Passport Yachts.

“I spoke with almost all the exhibitors, and everyone came away happy. It seemed to be universal, from production to one-design builders,” says show manager Dee Newman. “It was amazing.”

Wayne Burdick, president of Marion, S.C.-based Beneteau USA, says the change in consumer mood was striking.

“It appears the doom and gloom is over,” he says, noting a dozen retail contracts “across the board” on boats from 31 to 49 feet. (The actual number of those that become sales will depend on the customers obtaining financing.) The company is also in negotiations with two potential buyers for the new Oceanis 58, introduced in September at the Cannes Boat Show in France.

“The tide is rising, the current is changing, and we’re starting to get some wind in our sails,” Burdick says.

The annual show, along with the United States Powerboat Show, which ran Oct. 15-18, brings about $51 million to Annapolis and area businesses, according to show organizers.

Attendees at the U.S. Powerboat Show in Annapolis had to haul out the slickers.

The weather certainly didn’t help the U.S. Powerboat Show as a nor’easter bore down on the Chesapeake, bringing rain and a biting wind during all four days of the annual event.

“And, naturally, today is beautiful,” Paul Jacobs, marketing manager for the show, said a day after the show ended.

Final attendance numbers for the Powerboat Show came in at fewer than 16,000 people.

The positive that emerged, however, is that those who braved the weather were serious shoppers.

“The people that were here were here for a reason: to buy,” show manager Newman says.

This article originally appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Home Waters Section of the December 2009 issue.