Southampton Boat Show Opens.


Yesterday saw the opening of the 2009 PSP Southampton Boat Show. Officially, the show was opened by pop-star Sophie Ellis Bextor representing the flashy ‘glamourous’ world of superyachts. Meanwhile waiting to catch the mooring lines of The Ellen McCarthur Trust’s Round Britain yact Scarlet Oyster, were round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari, and quadriplegic sailors Geoff Holt and Hilary Lister.

It was a stark contrast – one that runs through the show that last year was run over the weeks that Lehman Brothers closed its doors and the financial markets went into freefall.

The main entrance to the show has moved again and navigating the four sections connected by footbridges is quite confusing. It seems as though the show is designed like a modern supermarket – the things you really want are down the back and you have to walk past all the other stuff to get there.

The ‘record breaking’ stage is buried at the back of the event and the Volvo Ocean Race experience is the furthest possible point from the gate.

While we are on the subject of the Volvo Ocean Race, we checked out the Dome: a cinematic experience inside a large inflatable hemisphere. Ordinarily, we love the media output of the folks at VOR, but this film seems to be aimed at a younger audience with attention deficit disorder and the edits are so short that your eyes can barely work out what you are seeing before it cuts to another shot… After the intro, the film does give a nice short history of the race and convey why it is one of the premier events in the world of professional sailing.

The odd thing that always strikes us when we go to these shows is the massive disconnect between the racing or sport side of sailing and the business of selling boats. While the show organisers use pro-sailors like Dee Caffari and Ben Ainslie to attract guests – featuring them in the official show guide and using them for special appearances stage – walking around the show, you wouldn’t know that there was a sport side to sailing.

A couple of Mike Perham’s sponsors were proudly displaying their association, but elite athlete endorsement seems to be a missing chapter in the marketing handbook for marine companies with the exception of perhaps clothing manufacturers.

The show continues until the 20th September and we’d love to know your comments.