Southampton International Boat Show drew to a close on Sunday 19 September with organisers, exhibitors, sponsors and visitors all hailing the show as one of the best yet.
The event retains its title as Britain’s biggest and best festival of boating, showcasing over 350 marine brands with 500+ boats on display, including many UK and global debuts. The show welcomed over 88,000 visitors across the 10 days – down 14 per cent on 2019 but still a fantastic achievement during a Covid-19 year.
‘Additional Covid-19 measures were introduced at the show, to help keep everyone safe, including proof of negative lateral flow tests. The majority of visitors seemed happy to have these extra measures and, given the circumstances, the Boat Show has been a phenomenal success which proves that confidence is back,’ says Ian Cooke, President of British Marine.
The spectacular show, set against the stunning backdrop of Europe’s largest purpose-build marina, had a buzzing atmosphere, as exhibitors and visitors alike were keen to meet face to face after a difficult 18 months. With the new exciting layout, larger footprint and 5 new dedicated zones – Watersports, Classic & Dayboat, Dinghy, On The Water and Festival Green offering a wide range of products, services and attractions, exhibitors have fed back great sales results and positive conversations with attendees.
Opened by members of the British Olympic Sailing Team, Ian Cooke, President of British Marine and Southampton City Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry, visitors were queuing at the new entrance at Westquay, eager to explore the new show format. It was a real privilege to welcome the British Sailing Team to the new Dinghy zone where Olympic enthusiasts could chat with them, ask questions about the games, see their boats on display, check out their medals and have their photo taken with them.
A whole host of celebrities were spotted in the crowds including Premiership footballer, Bukayo Saka (guest of the show’s Automotive Partner Bentley Motors), singer-songwriter Jamiroquai (Jay Kay), Georgia Toffolo (Toff) and Andrew Jordan from TV show Made in Chelsea, as they enjoyed checking out the boat displays and even having a go at some watersports.
The focus to get people out on the water has proven to be extremely popular with visitors given the opportunity to try something for the first time or brush up their skills. There was a Get Afloat Zone where you could try dinghy sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking for free with experts from Rockley Watersports on hand to help. And the popular Try-a-Boat where you could glide through the water in a high-speed RIB or float across the Solent under sail. Visitors could also check out the On the Water Stage for adrenaline-packed shows featuring awe-inspiring Flyboarder James Prestwood, along with flite board and jet ski stunt performances.
The show’s Quarterdeck bar and restaurant provided the ideal viewing point to watch all the on-water action. A waterside dining experience like no other, it welcomed crowds of visitors looking to relax and unwind while taking in the marina view along with flyboarding and jet skiing demonstrations.
The largest motor yachts on display were the Sanlorenzo SX88 and Sunseeker 88, while the largest sailing yacht was the Hallberg Rassy 57. Over 30 yachts made their world, UK or show debut either on the marina or on land.
With presentations from guest speakers on the Foredeck stage and the On The Water stage the show has been promoting accessibility and engagement, from SailGP’s Inspire programme to tales from round-the-world yachtsmen and women such as Mike Golding OBE and Pip Hare. The Women In Marine event was also a huge success and featured incredible tales at sea from Allie Smith, Group Events Director at Oyster Yachts.
There’s been a real focus on getting people into boating and watersports and actually giving it a go through Try-A-Boat and Try-A-Boat+. This year’s show saw a 25% in increase on 2019, with over 13,760 visitors taking to the water, from beginners to seasoned sailors and there’s been a real appetite to try something new.
Building on existing environmental initiatives, now 3 years into its 5-year pledge, the Southampton International Boat Show had asked exhibitors to commit to an environmental pledge that helped the 2019 show divert over 7.5tons of waste from landfills. This included a ban on all plastic straws, reduced use of single plastic and the use of e-tickets and QR codes.
British Marine also presented Exhibitor Environmental Awards to joint winners Premier Marinas and Bentley Motors in recognition of going above and beyond to reduce their environmental impact and to introduce sustainable working practices.
Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine said, ‘This year’s show has been a resounding success with a fabulous atmosphere as exhibitors and visitors alike have been enjoying meeting face-to-face. The feedback we’ve had from brands across the industry has been phenomenal indicating very strong sales from quality visitors.
‘We’ve put even more emphasis into appealing to visitors of all backgrounds and interests, ages and ability than ever before. We’ve welcomed everyone from boating newbies to seasoned sailors and watersports enthusiasts, whether trying something for the first time or sharpening their skills.’
‘Britain’s best loved boating festival has put a real smile on everyone’s face with a fantastic mix of products, talks, entertainment and refreshments. The wide choice of sailing yachts, motor boats, accessories, paddle boards, kayaks and services across the new layout over 10 days has been incredibly well-received. We are very much looking forward to building on the success of this resurgence and the new dates for next year, 16 -25 September 2022.’
Discovery Shipyard – Harry Lightfoot, Head of Sales
‘It’s the first year at the show for us and it’s been very positive, we get noticed at the entrance and we’re out of the water so that we can show off the swinging keel. It’s great to have the show back with a strong UK client base and many positive leads on top of 3 yacht sales.’
Nestaway Boats (inc ePropulsion) – Ian Thomson, Director
‘We’ve sold over 100 electric outboard motors and 70 inflatable kayaks. It’s the best boat show in history and we’re delighted with the new layout.’
Drascombe by Churchouse – Sharon Geary Harwood, Owner and MD
‘Best show for years, champagne corks popping, new boat orders coming in, fantastic weather and the visitors are even better!’
Borrow A Boat – Matt Ovenden, CEO and Founder
‘The show has far surpassed expectations, it’s the busiest show we’ve ever had and busier than we thought it would be. We’ve had good engagement on the Foredeck stage with our talks and we’ve had more leads and bookings than before.’
Cornish Crabbers – Peter Thomas, Managing Director
‘We were worried about coming to the show to be honest due to Covid and we are selling so well we don’t have much stock. However, we’ve had a lot of sales and it’s been quite successful so we will definitely bring at least 3 boats next year, rather than 1.’
Sunseeker International – Sean Robertson, Sales Director
‘Sunseeker are delighted to be back at this important show and as usual, it has delivered on both quantity and quality of visitors. It has been heartening to see packed aisles and pontoons; the UK leisure marine industry is in rude health with visitors keen to learn, try and buy the latest products. The response to our new models has been phenomenal and we have exceeded our goals by some margin. We’ll definitely be back next year for this key event in the boat show calendar.’
Princess Motor Yacht Sales – Jo Davies, Marketing Manager
‘It’s been a very successful show for us as boating is back and even stronger than ever before. We’ve been meeting a lot of new people coming into boating across new, used and brokerage Princess boats and sister company Argo Yachting that includes Chris Craft. We are thrilled that the show went ahead after a pause last year.’
Premier Marinas – Andy Lewis, Head of Marketing
‘We’re really happy. Everyone was nervous on the first day due to Covid but everything has been really positive and it proved there was a real eagerness for everyone to get out, enjoy the boat show and more people wanting to get into boating.’
Boatfolk – Simon Haigh, Director
‘The mood has been really positive, it’s been an excellent show and people have fallen in love with boats again.’
Suzuki – Mark Bealey, Head of Marina
‘The show has been fantastic, we’ve had great footfall on the stand and a lot of interest from serious buyers. We’ve got about 1000 people out on the water and given away 130 cups of coffee per day!’
Argo Yachting – Hamish Moffatt, Business Manager
‘It’s great to be back, nice to see so many people wanting to talk about new products and we’ve had a lot of interest in the Rodinn Board – electric surfboard.’
Gibbs Quay Boat Sales – Don Bissessar, Director
‘This is the 34th year we’ve been here and as far as I can recall, this year, surprisingly, has been the best show. I would say approximately 30% of visitors have been new to boating, 30% have been existing customers looking to upgrade, 30% were looking for the future and 10% were just enjoying the show and looking at yachts. We are so excited with the response from the show that we have put plans in place for 2022.’
Fairline Yachts – Miles Moorhouse, Marketing Director
‘Its great to be back at the boat show, there’s a fantastic atmosphere and visitors are clearly as enthusiastic as we are to be looking at boats. And we’re very pleased with the new date for 2022 and can’t wait to come back.’
Decathlon – Sharon Poulter, Project Manager
‘It’s been our best ever show and the new format has worked really well, customers are super happy and excited. It’s been a great show, full of happy customers and interest in new products especially those with a sustainable focus.’
Bentley Motors – Lee Wilford, Head of Marketing UK & MEAI
‘The Southampton International Boat Show has been a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with people and to be able to present our latest products and technologies, including our transition into electrification and sustainability. The highlight being our Limited Edition Bacalar and the work of our Mulliner bespoke division.’
Fischer Panda UK – Chris Fower, Sales and Marketing Director
‘Southampton is always a key date in our calendar, so we were very pleased to be back. Overall, we were happy with the show and the quality of customers seen. In the first four days, we sold seven units, with a sales value of circa £80k. Our small 4kw generators attracted the most interest, but there was also plenty of discussion around complete systems with supporting water makers and air conditioning. Many visitors to the stand were enquiring about our electric drive system packages from Fischer Panda and Bellmarine.’
Raymarine – Richard Marsden, UK Sales Manager
‘For Raymarine it was a pleasure to meet customers face to face again. We have had a number of product launches and updates since the 2019 Boat Show, including the Axiom+, LightHouse Charts, Mercury Engine integration, DockSense Alert and Control and YachtSense, and the show represented an opportunity to talk about these and all our products in detail. There were many support questions over the event which we were able to help with and we were happy to see the strong cadence of the boating market, and interest in boating, continue throughout the show.’
Vetus – Richard Lythgoe, Regional Sales Manager
‘It was a really good show with a healthy footfall of customers and orders taken from our team on the stand. We Introduced our E-LINE electric propulsion motor which has generated a great level of enquiries into boating going green.’
Fliteboard UK/ Extreme Marine – James Brooke, Director
‘Overwhelming response to the demos and displays and lots of orders from customers cross the range from those looking for a superyacht toy to personal use in the UK.’