WHEN THE U.S. Sailboat Show comes to Annapolis, parking becomes impossible, every restaurant table and hotel room seems to be booked and throngs of people flood the historic downtown's narrow streets.
Blessed with unseasonably warm weather and a booming national economy, this weekend's boat show may attract more visitors than ever. This is good news for exhibitors, but also good news for Maryland's state capital.
In its 28 years, the boat show has become one of the most important national exhibits for the yachting community. Just about every American company involved with sailing -- from boat builders to life jacket manufacturers -- has a booth at the show.
A record 234 vessels will be on display this year, indicating few domestic boat builders are willing to pass up the opportunity to exhibit in Annapolis. What may be even more telling is the reappearance of 25 international companies after a 10-year absence.
Exhibitors couldn't ask for a better environment for selling luxury sailboats. With the sustained, record-breaking performance of the stock market, potential buyers of large and expensive boats abound. In addition, it has been four years since the repeal of the 10 percent luxury tax on leisure craft. The industry has rebounded smartly and is selling a record number of boats and yachts.
Moreover, the publicity of the Whitbread Round the World race, which will call on Annapolis and Baltimore next year, has focused attention on the glamour and excitement of sailing. People who might have been enthralled by the prospects of racing down the bay in a souped-up cigarette boat may now focus on considering the purchase of a 40-foot sloop.
The boat show is also a boon for Annapolis' burgeoning tourist industry. The 30,000 daily tourists expected to visit Annapolis now through Monday won't be limited just to serious open-ocean sailors. Thousands of landlubbers will flock to City Dock to satisfy Walter Mitty fantasies of going to sea under sail.
If that isn't enough, the Navy-Air Force football game takes place tomorrow afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The combined pull of these events makes this weekend one of the year's biggest for Annapolis.
Pub Date: 10/10/97