Only on arrival, as a first time visitor to that specific show and a first-timer on a journalistic mission to cover a show, did I realise how true the deep sense of this advertising was. Everyone seemed to be running there, with the train and tube to the exhibition grounds stuffed with expectant future visitors. The crowd was made up of a mixed bunch, ranging from the mid-30s sailor, in his offshore jacket, to the middle aged well-to-do couple, presumably on the lookout for their new motor boat, to the avid diver swapping tales with a young windsurfer.

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What luck that journalists get so much for free... the show’s cat­alogue, despite boasting 324 heavy pages, became my new best friend. A woman in her mid-50s looked at it while I stood getting a first overview of the exhibition halls. “Oh, that’s what we would need right now, too. This show is far bigger than expected, and how on earth should one tell where to go? I think they could have made it all a little smaller. If you have nothing to look for directly you can go mad on where to turn!”

I smiled then, but only a bit, because it did seem daunting, and one and a half hours later this smile had long faded. Indeed this show, extending over 17 exhibition halls, is too large a feast to eat everything in one day. If only I had planned on a two day visit...

It is not for no reason that Düsseldorf calls itself “Europe’s biggest boat show” and I soon realised that I wasn’t going to be able to dedicate attention to everything on display. So, I decided to take a quick tour of all the halls and ask random people what they thought.

“The show offers something for everyone”, said a man, carrying a big pack of brochures from electronic equipment suppliers under his arm. “My wife and her friends have gone off to the Super Yacht Show, my daughter hangs out in the surfer’s hall and my son’s got stuck into diving sport equipment. Still, you should know what you want, or you’ll run your heels off.” True enough!

Düsseldorf, like all modern boat shows, dedicates expand­ing space to the watersports sector that for years had been treated rather step-mother-like: Diving, Fishing, Surfing only entered the boat show in the most recent years. Most space, though, is dedicated to the motor powered boats (6 halls), second most to sailing boats and yachts (4 halls).

Of the motor powered yachts, two boats especially stayed in my mind: the beautiful Tender 08 of Swiss Heinrich-Werft, powered by a Volkswagen Marine motor, and the yellow Wally Power-like Fjord 40 Open from Fjord Boats of Norway.

Eye catchers in the range of the small sailing yachts definitely were the Maxi Dolphin 33 and Brenta 30 and 38, but as I looked farther I just as much enjoyed the thoughtfully finished details on the Salona 37, Boat of the Year 2007, and the interesting concept of the SKUD 18, which was designed to even allow disabled sailors to get out on the water.

Of course the series yards from the German-speaking area were all represented. Bavaria, Hanse, Sunbeam, Dehler; they all can look optimistically to their future. The general trend is up, each yard displaying, or at least announcing, a widening of the model range into the regions of 60ft. The same goes for the Knierim yard of Kiel, announcing the Brenta 60.

Definitely, Düsseldorf shows that the money is there to build bigger and better superyachts, for the Super Yacht Show is still expanding, with a second hall this year. Take major German super yacht yards like Abeking & Rasmussen or Lürssen, as well as foreign yards like CNB, Jongert, Huisman and JFA; add a few design offices like Van Peteghem & Lauriot Prevost or Judel/Vrolijk and shake... it’s a heady cocktail.

“Of course there are boat shows that are more important, just because they’re dedicated to our specific field of construction, Monaco for example”, said Laurent Charlier de Chily, of French H2X Yachts & Ships of La Ciotat. “Still Düsseldorf gives us the opportunity to meet with sub-contractors, and we receive two or three visitors each day, who are truly interested in having a bigger yacht built by us.”

Of the larger sized yachts on display, the red hulled Bandido 90 explorer yacht and the Little Zaca 73 from Dutch Yacht Builders B.V. stayed in my mind. After all, the traditionally styled Little Zaca was an impressive 25 metres long, and nothing about it justified the “little” in its name.

Outside displays were scarce, only T-Systems, in a little pavilion, next to the old America’s Cup boat of Team Shosholoza, tried to animate the seemingly uncompetitive public to try the grinder contest. Its counterpart could be found on indoor display in hall 17. United Internet Team Germany aimed to impress, but only left me with the feeling of a maybe charismatic, but still somewhat amateurish team.This impression wasn’t helped by the interviews and entertainment programme on the day of my visit – Tuesday, America’s Cup Day – which included a match race with scale America’s Cupper models in the display pool. Lots of promotional games and talks, but no real news.

Still, with my freshly signed copy of “Taking On The World”, I could collapse into a state of peaceful depletion. After seven hours of intense bombardment with all kinds of impressions, full of shiny polished hulls and blinking stainless steel, I was totally finished off, but one last stroll through the Super Yacht hall brought the smile back to my face, when I beheld yacht designer Doug Peterson, talking while sipping on a can of Carlsberg beer, leaving the nearby bottle of champagne unopened.

Maybe, in the end, less is more, even when it comes to boat shows.


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