Evolution, not Revolution
October’s Annapolis Boat Show opened as Wall Street experienced one of the biggest sell-offs in history. With the scary economic news, it was easy to think that many people would put off investing in a new boat. That idea went out the window as VIP Thursday appeared to be more crowded than ever. Instead of panicking, sailors seemed to be turning to sailing, much as they did after 9/11—as a constant, welcome, and meaningful antidote to crazy times. And if you were one of those people who were on the fence about buying a new boat, those tumultuous days in October made investing in a boat look a lot safer (and more fun) than keeping your money in the market.
Believe it or not, now is the perfect time to buy a new boat. Builders are eager to make deals, financing is available, and the overall quality of the fleet at this year’s shows was as strong as ever. The large production builders all debuted new models that combined refined aesthetics with excellent systems, interesting accommodation plans, and incrementally improved sailing performance. A host of new racing boats in the 28-to-40-foot range were launched. A diverse group of smaller boats, running from the amped-up Melges 20 racer to a host of rotomolded and fiberglass dinghies, are all new, fast, and fun. Some of the dinghies have retractable bulb keels to ease the need to hike, and the new Bug made a strong case to be the boat that could actually unseat the Opti as the default starter/trainer boat for kids. Now that would be a real sea change.
We judged the ’09 new boats at the Newport and Annapolis shows. And the winners of SAIL’s Best Boats Awards for Innovation and Excellence are…