Sailboat, powerboat shows are time to float new products

Manufacturers take advantage of Annapolis to reveal `something new'

October 13, 2002|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hatteras Yachts is bringing out a brand new 54-footer, and Hunter Marine has a 42-footer to debut at the boat shows in Annapolis this year. J-Boats is rolling out a new cruiser and Endeavor has a new power catamaran.

In fact, some 48 manufacturers are debuting more than 50 new boats at the U.S. sailboat and powerboat shows this weekend and next, and nearly 100 shore-side dealers are exhibiting scads of new water purifiers, boat toilets, dry bags and motion sickness cures. There's even a sister-act apparel company that timed the launch of a new line of slickers for the boat shows.

"We always try to have something new for Annapolis," says Richard Hutchins, chairman of the board of Hutchins Co. Inc, makers of Com-Pac Yachts. "It doesn't happen every year, but it is our premier show."

Com-Pac is showing off its new Horizon Cat, a classic cat-rigged 20-footer.

The Annapolis shows - the sailboat display runs through Oct. 14 and the powerboat display opens to the public Oct. 18 - are the biggest in-the-water shows in the country. As such, they represent the best time to impress not only potential customers, but the rest of the marine manufacturing world as well.

"Almost the entire industry, in one form or another, shows up in Annapolis," says Cutter Smith, marketing development manager for Florida-based Hunter Marine. "If you really want to make a statement to the industry, this is the place."

Hunter makes its statement by raising the cabin on its 42-foot sailboat and putting in larger portholes to create a "light and airy" feeling below and installing DVD players and flat screen televisions with surround sound systems in the main salon. That may not be something you need when you're tacking against the wind, but it could come in handy when the day is done, Smith says.

"There are a lot of live-aboards on boats this size. And even if you spend one or two weeks on the boat, you might want that," he says.

The Annapolis show is where "we want to put our best foot forward," says Marnie Wright of Hinckley Yachts. The company, long known for its sailboats, has been building jet boats since 1994 and has two new ones this year, the Talaria 29R, a run-about, and the Talaria 29C, a center-console powerboat.

"Last year, people saw the prototypes for those boats," she says. "We did it for Annapolis specifically to get feedback."

Many manufacturers set production deadlines for new products to make the Annapolis show because it's so big, says Paul Matrangola, sales manager for Tidewater Yachts, an outlet for Hunter and Catalina sailboats. And they bring in dealers and brokers from around the world so they can take a look at the new products.

"It's a huge crowd, and it's a sacred deadline," he says.

The crowds - estimated at more than 50,000 for each show - are so large that the Annapolis city police department spends more than $100,000 a year in overtime to provide security and to direct traffic that jams the narrow streets of the downtown Historic District and backs up onto U.S. Route 50. Hotels in Annapolis and on its outskirts generally are booked solid for the weekends of the shows. Many residents rent their homes to exhibitors' staffs and flee the city for two weeks.

Annapolis is the "epicenter of boating in the mid-Atlantic," says Bryant Phillips, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Hatteras Yachts. "It takes in the Chesapeake Bay and on into the Virginia and North Carolina markets. We've even seen a respectable number of Great Lakes boaters at the Annapolis show."

Autumn, he says, is the "primary selling season for big boats." And though his North Carolina-based manufacturer of large sport fishing cruisers doesn't "necessarily design specifically for Annapolis," he says, the show is "one of the most important of the season."

The new 54-footer it is bringing to Annapolis is a high-speed, shallow draft boat that is "perfect for the Chesapeake Bay," he says.

The Annapolis sailboat show has "that buzz," says Rachel Sweeney, the marketing director for Beneteau USA. "It draws people from California, Canada and Florida to see what's the latest and greatest."

The French-based sailboat manufacturer sold 86 boats at the Annapolis show last year, compared to 18 boats at the recently completed Newport, R.I. show. "And we thought that was a pretty good show," Sweeney says.

Beneteau is introducing two 42-foot racing cruisers at the Annapolis show.

But it isn't just the yachting giants that have new products to show. There's also Liberty Gear, LLC, two sisters who have come up with the WaveSlicker, a water-proof wrap that buckles around the waist and keeps you dry when you take the dinghy ashore.

"When we're out sailing, we like to anchor out, but we like to get dressed and go eat dinner [at a restaurant ashore]," says Janice Clay, one of the sisters. "But when we went in on the dinghy, our butts got soaking wet. So we came up with the idea earlier in the year and we've been working hard to get it ready for the boat show."

Clay, who lives in Philadelphia, and her sister, Suzanne Geisemann, of Alexandria, Va., went through several sea trials with their wraps and used several different cuts of fabrics before they got what they wanted. Just in time, they've "narrowed it down to something we think is pretty nice," Clay says.

"So we'll go to the show and see what the reception is. If it bombs, we'll sew them together into one big tablecloth and have a party."

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