Sail America, the not-for-profit organizer of Strictly Sail boat shows, has reason to be pleased. Although not yet confirmed, attendee traffic was reportedly up 15% over 2011 at Strictly Sail Pacific, which took place in Oakland, California April 12-15. Exhibitor numbers were up too.
Weekend weather improved from the rain and wind on Thursday and Friday, and curious boaters wanting to see the latest gear and walk through the newest boats came in droves. Show management recognized a resurging boating market and found success by including a new exhibitor layout, offering free sailboat rides, highlighting free educational seminars, partnering with the ’11-’12 Clipper Round the World Race, and even featuring powerboats.
The two-story Jack London Market building, which opened in 2010, housed the indoor exhibits, replacing large tents that have always been subject to problems with rain and wind. The move helped to consolidate the exhibits farther south in Jack London Square and closer to the boats featured at the docks.
The new building also provided larger spaces for 100 free seminars put on by authors, racers, circumnavigators and technical specialists. Each of the five seminar rooms provided seating for 30-80 people, and the high attendance numbers were a testament to the interest in educational opportunities. Between the classroom-style presentations on land and the free Discover Sailing boat rides on the docks, even non-boaters had a chance to learn and get excited about sailing.
Besides dozens of new sailboat models at the docks, ten 68-foot Dubois-designed racing yachts from the Clipper Round the World Race were on a stopover between legs 6 and 7 of their 40,000 mile race. More than 250 racing crew mingled with the show goers as they hustled to re-provision, repair sails and even recover from damage caused to one yacht being hit by a rogue wave 400 miles outside of San Francisco. The boats were officially sent off again Saturday morning. Even the 34th America’s Cup had a tent ashore to generate buzz.
Finally, the organizers have come to understand that Strictly Sail shouldn’t mean only sail. Powerboats, primarily cruising trawlers, were also featured at the docks for those who may be transitioning out of sailing but who do not want to leave the cruising lifestyle altogether.
It seems that today’s boat show visitor is looking for more to do in a multi-day visit. Events like Strictly Sail Pacific are tapping into a formula for success, providing good value for everyone.
For more information, visit Strictly Sail Pacific or Sail America.