Jibs and Mids

October 07, 1993

The prolonged recession has hit many Americans hard, but this is a nation that never stands still for long. After enough bad news, optimism picks up. One person's misery becomes another's opportunity. America moves on.

This upturn of mood can certainly be detected in the preparations for this year's U.S. Sailboat Show, which today begins its 24th annual run at the Annapolis City Dock and goes through Sunday.

Truth be told, the optimism isn't just renewed American spirit kicking in. This is the first sailboat show since the repeal of a 10 percent federal luxury tax on yachts which hit this important Chesapeake-area industry so hard. No wonder that the number of boats at the show is up this year. Sailors as well as manufacturers are looking beyond the recession. Higher sales (no pun intended) in the United States and export opportunities around the globe beckon.

Over the years, the U.S. Sailboat Show has developed into one of the most important such exhibits for yachting enthusiasts.

It is a boon for Annapolis' important tourism industry, too. Visitors are not limited to boaters but include hundreds of landlubbers who simply want to see majestic sails flapping. Indeed, on a pleasant autumn weekend, the sailboat show offers the backdrop of an enjoyable sea-flavored festival throughout Annapolis.

"Boat shows in this community are always big crowd attractions," said Peggy Wall of the Annapolis Conference and Visitors' Bureau. Area hotels have been fully booked for weeks and the closest lodgings last-minute visitors may find are likely to be as far away as Glen Burnie or the Baltimore-Washington International Airport vicinity.

Is the boat show that big? Not exactly. But the show has traditionally coincided with the Navy-Air Force football game, a duel that will be played again Saturday (with the Midshipmen playing their most competitive ball in years.)

"Trying to separate the economic impact of those two events is pretty impossible," Ms. Wall observes. But the combined pull of those two leisure-time events makes this weekend one of the year's biggest in Annapolis.

Actually this year, the sailboat show and the football game have a lot in common. They feature two of the state capital's most unique institutions, its sailing community and the Naval Academy. After several tough years, both appear poised for a comeback.

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