Düsseldorf: A Walk Around the World’s Biggest Boat Show
As if there was any doubt, January’s Boot Düsseldorf show once again lived up to its billing as the world’s top boat and watersports show. A quarter of a million boat nuts flocked to the massive exhibition center on the banks of the Rhine for the nine-day event. Although this show caters to just about anything you can do on, in or under water—from fishing to wakeboarding, surfing, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, kiteboarding or paddleboarding—you’ll no doubt be happy to know that, unlike power-centric mixed shows Stateside, it’s sailing and sailboats that draw the biggest crowds. Hence, this is now the prime venue for boatbuilders to introduce their new models.
As always, there was no shortage of new product for boat aficionados to feast their eyes upon. Bavaria unveiled—literally, the boat was enveloped in a white shroud—its new Cruiser 34, which features the now obligatory twin wheels along with a three-cabin layout that looks ideal for coastal cruising with a young family.
Dehler introduced a pretty new 42-footer, a fast sport cruiser that looks just as sharp as the 38 and 46 that preceded it. No hull chines or twin rudders for the Dehler 42—designers Judel/Vrolijk are sticking with the tried and tested deep fin, deep spade rudder and balanced hull combination they’ve been refining for so many years.The Europeans do this kind of boat really well, and there were several other debutantes of the sport cruiser ilk. Sirena Marine showed its new Azuree 33C, a colorfully decorated boat that shows lots of original thinking. Various elements of the interior can be unbolted and removed at will to optimize accommodations for cruising or racing.
Italia Yachts brought two new boats, both featuring the clean styling and first-rate build quality this relatively new brand has become known for. The 42ft Italia 12.98, a nicely laid-out cruiser that would take one or two couples along the coast or around the cans in great style, and the 9.98, a finely honed sportster that benefits from the latest thinking in deck layout and sail handling gear.
At the opposite end of the hall, the classy new Solaris 47 sat alongside its two bigger sisters, minus keels and rigs, in an artsy display that showed off these boats’ immaculate moldings and keen styling. With a self-tacking jib and all sail control lines led aft to the helm, it’s designed to be easily handled by a couple while still providing a rewarding platform for a race crew.
The queen of the sports cruisers, though, was the new Swan 60S. Although it shares a hull with the 60FD, which has been around a for a few years, everything else is new, from the rig and deck plan to the accommodations. It’s a design in which the scale has tilted from out-and-out performance to a more accessible cruising layout that harks back to older Swans, but in a thoroughly modern package.
The new Garcia Exploration 52, complete with beautifully fair aluminum hull, well built and tough as nails. If you’re heading for high latitudes put this on your wish list.
In terms of hardcore cruising boats, one of the standouts was the Garcia Exploration 52, a bigger version of the twin-rudder, swing-keel aluminum workhorse aboard which Jimmy Cornell transitted the Northwest Passage in 2015. If you want to go high-latitude sailing in comfort and maybe break some ice, this boat is for you. If not, perhaps the Delphia 46DS would work. It’s a capacious long-distance cruiser, well decked out for the long haul, with a choice of keel configurations to suit just about every sailing style.
Like so many boatbuilders, Wauquiez had a financial day of reckoning a few years ago, but emerged from its crisis in good shape. The new Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 48 offers her crew a panoramic view out of the deckhouse and luxurious accommodations to go with it. Beneteau had the new Oceanis 41.1 on display and going by the lines to get on board this should be another strong model for them.
The logistical difficulties of transporting big multihulls means there simply are not as many of these on display as the strength of the market would indicate. However, to commemorate its 40th anniversary Fountaine Pajot brought along its new Lucia 40, a roomy, handsome boat from the Berret/Racoupeau team. Lagoon, not to be left behind, showed its replacement for the long-lived 420, the Lagoon 42, which shares the high-aspect mainsail/self-tacking genoa of the bigger VPLP designs in the range.
Danish trimaran builder Quorning had a strong display, including the revamped Dragonfly 28 Sport, which now has a wave-piercing float design for added buoyancy at speed. Another new arrival was the Astus 16.5, a small trailerable tri that looks just the thing for a breezy Saturday afternoon.
As always at Düsseldorf, the real fun is in prowling the darker recesses of the halls to see what inventive smaller builders have come up with. To my mind the star of the show was the exquisite LA28 daysailer, whose lovely cold-molded contours were clad in khaya mahogany. The daysailer craze seems to have died down in the United States, but it’s thriving in Europe.
I was tickled by the ePoH, a high-powered skiff for the mere mortals among us—it has “training wheels,” ski-shaped floats attached to the hiking rails that hit the water if things get squirrely and prevent the boat from pitchpoling. Less time in the water, more time on it—sounds fair.
Düsseldorf is also the place to spot new trends in boatbuilding and design. This year’s takeaways: yet more emphasis on concealing lines belowdeck, and more “snouts”—long anchor platforms that double as tack points for A-sails, often covered by a fiberglass molding. Faux-teak decking is being used on more and more boats, and ash and oak interior trim is in, as are lifting keels, perhaps because crowded mooring fields are driving boats closer to shore.
The Epoh is a skiff with “training wheels;” the floats prevent the hiking rack from digging in at speed and capsizing the boat.
Even the CNB 76 looks lost in one of the giant halls at the Düsseldorf show.
Folding sailboat, anyone?
The Bente 24, made of flax fibers and recyclable resin, a sporty, roomy little entry level cruiser for the very reasonable base price of 30,000 euros.
The Xcat weighs under 200lb. Just pop it on the roof rack and head for the beach.
New Lagoon 42 makes a strong statement at the Düsseldorf boat show.
First look at the new Dehler 42, at the Düsseldorf show.
What other boat show has an indoor river you can canoe around?
Bavaria Yachts bavariayachts.com
Dehler Yachts dehler.com
Delphia Yachts delphiayachts.com
Dragonfly Boat dragonfly.dk
Fountaine Pajot fountaine-pajot.com
Garcia Yachting garcia-yachting.com
Italia Yachts italiayachts.it
Lagoon Catamarans cata-lagoon.com
LA Yacht la-yacht.de
Nautor’s Swan nautorswan.com
Solaris Yachts solarisyachts.com