Boat show unfurls for 5 days of 'party' Annapolis: The U.S. Sailboat Show, considered one of the most prestigious in the country, is expected to attract 30,000 visitors a day to the docks of Maryland's historic capital city.

October 09, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Since sunup Monday, a huge effort to line 234 boats side-by-side has been under way, culminating in today's VIP opening of the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis.

The opening, combined with the Navy-Air Force football game Saturday and next week's powerboat show, will bring with it the usual congestion, parking problems and crowding, city officials said, in addition to the economic boost 30,000 people a day can bring to a city.

Officials at the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Conference and Visitors Bureau said all hotels in town are booked, and most restaurants that take reservations are full.

"At this point, if people are trying to come to the show, they probably won't find a room," said Sandy Wicker, the bureau's marketing associate. "We have extra police, traffic duty, parking signs being put up. Restaurants all have extra staff."

Show organizers are touting the return of 25 international companies that disappeared during the recession in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in addition to 234 boats on display -- the largest number since the mid-1980s.

Donald Walsh, vice president of Dufour Yachts, a French company, is returning to the show after a 15-year absence.

"This is the most prestigious show in the country," he said, watching four new Dufour yachts, two of which just sailed in from France. "If you're not here, you've got a problem."

For most company owners and representatives preparing for the show, it isn't the number of spectators that matters but the type of clientele the show draws.

The show typically draws buyers and sincere sailors, said organizer Jeffrey Holland.

And the day to prepare for is today, VIP day, when trade representatives and private buyers tour the boats. For boat owners and sailors sprucing up the boats, this is the day that matters.

"On Thursday, you know people are serious," Walsh said. "On the weekend, you're mobbed. You're really just directing traffic."

Many of the hired sailors also felt the urgency.

"It's a party all the way up to the day of the boat show, and then after," said Shawn Ryan, on board a 43-foot yacht he and others sailed from Rhode Island.

"It's a lot of work to get these boats here safely, get them in without a scratch and get them all cleaned up," he said. "It looks beautiful, but, man, you don't know how much work goes into making them look this way."

The show is open to trade representatives and VIPs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. It will be open Monday, Columbus Day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $25 a person today, and $12 for adults and $6 for children 12 and younger afterward.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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