Rivalry is renewed as boat show opens Annapolis: As powerboats took over the City Dock, observers were reminded of the fierce rivalry between those who ply the waters by the wind's power and those who prefer motor-driven travel.

October 16, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

As 234 sailboats glided out of Annapolis harbor Monday night, 300 powerboats revved their engines, waiting to move in, and the City Dock switched gears from the "world's largest sailboat show," which closed Monday, to the "world's largest powerboat show," which opens today.

Signs of an age-old rivalry were everywhere.

Plush powerboats with four decks, leather couches, tinted windows and Jacuzzis taunted their counterparts, which boasted nothing more jazzy than brass and teak interiors well-polished for the U.S. Sailboat Show.

Sailors in khakis and polo shirts pulling at their sails grimaced at the boaters in jeans posing at their wheels, throttles and beers in hand.

Some sailors would not even wave as they passed.

But by some accounts, the once-separate worlds of boating and sailing are converging. Many aging sailors yearn for effortless travel, and increasing numbers of powerboaters are coming to appreciate the graceful movement of sailboats. Along the waterfront, longtime sailors have been buying powerboats, and more powerboaters are attending sailing school in Annapolis.

Still, powerboaters and sailors grumbling about each other were not in short supply this week as they navigated Spa Creek.


"Snobby." "Clan-like." "Always in the way."


"Lacking in skill." "Impatient." "Obnoxious."

As the U.S. Powerboat Show gets under way today with "VIP Day," powerboaters are quick to point out the numerical superiority of their exhibits. Boaters paired their 300 in-water yachts with almost 300 more on land, compared to 234 sailboats docked just last week.

Sailors scoff at such counting.They point out that Annapolis is home to more sailboats per capita than most other East Coast cities. This is sailing territory, they say.

"What's a sailboat?" asked powerboater Dennis Deans as he tied down his multitiered Strike Yacht from Virginia. "When we see something on the horizon, we go there," he said. "Sailors spend all day getting there."

"Powerboaters fly fast and think fast," added his partner Ron Stoops. "Some people apparently like to think at 2 to 3 knots."

Sailors -- in polite conversation -- refer to powerboaters as "impatient."

Rick Franke, general manager of the Annapolis Sailing School and an exhibitor at last weekend's show, says he's probably one of the last sailors in town this week. He is lying low.

"Powerboaters are generally not as well informed about their boats as sailors are," he said. "Powerboats have an engine, a steering wheel and key. It's like a car. Powerboaters can jump in and go. Sailors seek instruction."

Donald Walsh, vice president of Dufour Yachts, which cleared out of the harbor Monday night, agreed.

"It may appear snobbish," he said, "but sailors have a mutual recognition about each others' skill. Powerboaters' skill level is at best 50 percent the skill level sailors have."

It's all about multiple television sets, said Paige Petr, preparing a line of $300,000 yachts for Pasadena-based Shady Oaks Yacht Sales.

"People work their whole life to get these boats," she said. "Why would they want to work just to get somewhere in the water? And you've got to see the green leather couch they've got in there."

Brian Zak worked at both the powerboat and sailboat shows this year, preparing boats for display. He sides with the powerboaters.

"There's a whole aura about sailors," he said. "Even the pants they wear. Everything. They think they're a step above the rest."

They do look different, agrees Jeff Holland, sail and powerboat show organizer. "Sailors all have 300 suits for foul weather, which they wear even when it's not raining," he said. "Powerboaters use umbrellas."

The show is open to trade representatives from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. It opens to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $25 per person today, and $12 for adults and $6 for children 12 and younger the rest of the weekend.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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