Boat show opening for five-day run 30,000 people daily expected at noted U.S. sailing event

'It's a party all the way'

Every hotel in town is booked

restaurants are expected to be full

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 every hotel in town is 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. Most of them have been telling their staff, 'If you want to take off, tough.' "

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

The day that matters

And the day to prepare for is today, VIP day, when trade representatives and private buyers spend an extra $13 to 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.

A half-dozen buckets filled with cleaning supplies waited outside the polished cherry wood interior of the boat.

"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."

Josh Summers of North Carolina sat on the deck of a white yacht polishing a 4-inch-square piece of copper for almost an hour. One drop of saltwater could instantly turn the piece green.

"Most people Thursday won't even notice this one little piece," he said, glancing out at the water while reaching for another can of polish.

Importance of camaraderie

For Summers, like many of the others laboring on the dock this week, the show isn't just about sales. It is also about camaraderie.

"If you think about it," he said, "the boat show itself is sort of silly. People are looking at boats they can't afford, or if they can afford them, they've already spent months looking into them. People maybe come here to sign contracts."

On the dock, a South African couple bent down to offer advice on repairing a chip on a boat from the Netherlands.

A sailor from Maine shouted past a dozen masts to a sailor he saw at the show last year.

An Annapolis company representative helped struggling French sailors tie down their catamaran.

Lending a hand is nothing new to sailors, Summers said.

"Maybe it's that no matter how much money you have or how much sailing experience, sailors will always need each other's help sometime."

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 also will be open Monday, Columbus Day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $25 per person today, and $12 for adults and $6 for children 12 and younger the rest of the weekend.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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