When the U.S. Sailboat Show, also known worldwide as the Annapolis Boat Show, opened its gates for the 43rd time, attendance was strong—even on VIP day. The show, which runs in early October from Thursday to Monday, has been a Maryland tradition since 1970, making it the oldest in-water sailboat show in the country.

Dinghy Dock at Annapolis boat show

A dinghy dock made it easy for visitors to arrive by boat.

The Annapolis show is a favorite with sailors, and each year nearly 50,000 come from all over the country and around the world. At times it seemed like there was more French heard on the docks than English, as visitors milled about inspecting everything from small daysailors and dinghies to enormous multihulls. Two dozen new mono and multihull designs were on display this year, along with dozens of existing models.

A few new trends were visible:

  • A new section installed in Ego Alley called Vacation Basin collected a group of exhibitors dedicated to charter companies and resort vacation spots.

  • A few recently launched programs are continuing. Take the Wheel combines morning classroom instruction with afternoon demo rides. Cruisers University offers seminars by industry experts designed to help new and seasoned boaters learn everything from weather forecasting to electronics use.

  • It's a cat's world. The number of catamarans on display has grown significantly in recent years, and long lines formed to board some of the world's most progressive designs.

Docks at the show

The multiple product tents were packed as sailors arrived by every means possible—by land and by sea.

Sail America held their annual industry breakfast on Friday to discuss news and changes. The organization has had its challenges this year, with current president and publisher of SAIL magazine, Josh Adams, leaving to take the post of director for the U.S. Sailing Olympic Team. Stanton Murray is stepping in to take the post. Executive Director Jonathan Banks is also leaving, and the group is now looking for a new association manager. The key will be to keep the group's momentum going, in order to help sailing grow during a tough economic time.

Regardless of the economy, Annapolis is a can't-miss event for die-hard sailors. The multiple product tents were packed as sailors arrived by every means possible—including by dinghy from across the bay.