STRICTLY SAIL MIAMI: CONVERSATIONS ALREADY UNDERWAY FOR 2011
Despite blizzard conditions in key boating states that stopped planes, trains and automobiles in their tracks and impacted attendance figures which dropped 5.5 percent from the previous year, the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail Miami had a few bright spots to report, along with some concerns expressed by Sail America members regarding the shift to Sea Isle.
“Miami was a huge success for us at Gill – we set an all-time record for the Miami Show this year,” said Lance Jones of Gill North America. “The overall attitude of the buyers was great. Customers were in a buying mood in general.”
Added Stephen Cockcroft of Prout Catamarans, “We had a great show and sold two of the models we had on display as well as two of our larger models. We found serious buyers and a strong interest in our larger catamarans.”
Another manufacturer pleased with the show was Hake Yachts whose Sales Manager Tim De Vries felt the show was “excellent.”
“We sold two boats and have received several great leads to follow up on,” he said.
Hunter’s Market Manager – North America Greg Emerson is also hot on the trail of five keelboat and trailerable boat deals in the works post Miami.
“The quality of the buyers was the bright spot of the show. There seemed to be a much better buying attitude than we have seen for some time now. The big problem we are all facing is the closing process and the customer being subject to financial approval.”
Show producer NMMA’s decision to shift the major sailboat-only display from Bayside to Sea Isle, however, remains controversial, as exhibitors expressed differing opinion about the outcome.
Bob Meagher, president of Super Sailmakers – Doyle Sailmakers of Ft. Lauderdale, is still evaluating the results.
“Those that we talked to knew what they wanted – they were much more discerning and slow to decide,” he said. “There are two opinions about the shared power and motorboats venue. Some say it was good and others feel it just won’t work. I’m undecided.”
Island Packet’s Bill Bolin shared Meagher’s mixed views.
“We did stay very busy with above average traffic and lots of powerboat folks who came to see what sailing is all about,” he said. “This did cut down on the ability to find qualified sailboat buyers (we don’t think there were many), although I think we did sow a few seeds among those powerboat folks.”
Added Hake Yachts’ De Vries, “I thought I would be ok with Sea Isle, but the true fact was the customers were disappointed that more sailboats weren’t there. Over at Bayside, it felt more like a true Strictly Sail show. I did see some power boaters that used to sail and that was a good opportunity.”
Hunter’s Emerson concurred about the traffic increase, but also noted some issues of concern including lack of restrooms, food and the need to purchase floats due to the tide levels, the latter an issue not previously experienced at Bayside. Other complaints? Loud noise resulting from powerboats coming to Sea Isle to fuel and the perception of the size of the sail show, due to the dual locations and overall decrease in number of sailboats exhibited.
Roger Underwood of Nance and Underwood Rigging and Sails, Ft. Lauderdale, noted that the percentage of serious buyers was surprising, with many making orders at the show and an impressive roster of prospects generated for follow-up.
“We actually had a good turnout, and were happy with the crowd. We would have still preferred Bayside, but the layout as it was did send all traffic by us.”
One exhibitor who was very positive about the layout was Gills’ Jones whose location directly across from the entertainment area paid dividends.
“We loved the new layout – don’t change it,” said Jones. “We caught all the traffic into and out of the show. I liked having the single entry point – it funneled the traffic by the entire length of the street, twice.”
Sail America leadership is actively engaged in discussions with both exhibitors and the NMMA to address the issues and venue change options for 2011.
Strictly Sail Show Manager Kevin Murphy admitted, “Having the boats in two different locations created some confusion for a few attendees and left an impression of a very small sail section for those that did not find their way to Bayside.
“Considering everything, I think the show went pretty well for many of the Strictly Sail exhibitors,” he added. “Given the option, I think most would prefer to be all together in a separate ‘all sail’ location. But to do so we must have critical mass and an earlier commitment so that we can plan properly.
“That said… there are others that feel the days of all sail shows are behind us and in order to maintain and grow we need to be in shows with “boaters” and work to bring new people over from power to sailing. Over the next couple months we’ll brainstorm with the committees to determine the best strategies for success in 2011.”
In other news, nearly 100 seminars were held and presented by experts in comfortable, air-conditioned facilities. The Eric Stone Band performed live during Saturday night’s popular Latitude & Attitudes Cruiser’s Bash. Other key events included the free Discover Sailing sailboat rides, “Kid’s Aboard” boat building workshop and a two-day marine meteorology weather course taught by 38-year marine weather forecaster Lee Chesneau.