Asgard sank, and so did the economy. The doomsayers are taking to the lifeboats but the Taoiseach says we can't afford to "wallow in a sea of doubt". It's not the most auspicious start to the 2009 Allianz Boat Show but if Brian Cowen was looking for an industry body acting firmly on the advice he gave to business two weeks ago, then he had only to look to the seafarers gathering their boats at the RDS. It takes great courage to invite people to a show when the storm clouds are everywhere, especially when this island nation has decided to remove all reference to Marine from the title of its government departments.
All credit, then, to the Irish Marine Federation (IMF) and to the marine trade in general for their determination to host the 2009 Allianz Boat Show, an event aimed both at newcomers and old salts.
If you go down to the RDS next week (from the 18th – 22nd of February) you'll enjoy a welcome break from the doom and gloom dominating Irish life
in recent months. Far from losing its bearings, the IMF maintains it's on course to stage a successful show – its 25th running of the biennial event.
The real business of the show, of course, is to sell boats but it has also become a celebration of maritime affairs.
The Federation says its silver anniversary event will showcase the biggest and the best for all watersports enthusiasts, reflecting the huge choice of
marine activities available in Ireland.
Running an eye over the show catalogue proves that there is quite literally something for everyone at this year’s event, from the latest boats and
chandlery to extreme watersports, to inland cruises, to marine-based holidays at home and abroad. The event has been in planning for well over a year and even as the economy stalled, the exhibitors remained committed.
At the height of the economic boom, the show sold out to exhibitors several months before the doors opened. In 2007, organisers bolted on a marquee to
the Simmonsourt pavilion to accommodate 7,000 sq metres of boats and equipment. Two years later, at 4,500 sq metres, the event is back to a much
more realistic size but it’s still living up to it's promise of 'something for everyone'.
The downsize means that there is no longer an over-supply in certain sectors, such as the small motorboats where dozens of marques littered the
market up to a few months ago. Now, as well as value for money, the emphasis
is on quality and back-up service, says the IMF's Steve Conlon.
A case in point is one of the stars of the show, the Finnish built Aquador
28HT. The 35-knot motorboat picked up the award from top British judges in
January largely because of its all-round appeal. It includes a spacious
cabin for over-nighting, a hot commodity in a boat under 30 feet in length.
It’s on display in Dublin at the MGM stand, a Dun Laoghaire firm that comes
to the show with the biggest display of boats.
The IMF is aware that to attract new people to the water, it must cater for
a wide range of marine activity – not just those that take place in boats.
"That's the reason why we're billing it as a family event,” says Hugh
Mockler of HM Yachts in Cork.
An agent for both the Swedish Najad range and the French Jeanneau
manufacturer, Mockler will be exhibiting both power and sail craft. He
admits that this year's show will certainly be different to any in the
The event promises that whether your interest is in dinghies in Dun
Laoghaire or surfing in Dingle, there will be something to interest you on a
very wide menu of marine activities that are available in Ireland and
This year, extreme water sports such as kite surfing will be on show and
visitors can try out the ‘dive pool’ experience. Inland cruising on lakes
and rivers will also feature, while a ‘Safety on the Water’ stand returns
after its success at the last show.
"I don't think anyone can predict how things might turn out,” says Mockler,
“but the experience at the international boat shows in Paris, London and
Dusselfdorf in December and January was positive in the circumstances. We're
hoping for the same in Dublin.”
Of course, Mockler and the other 100 or so exhibitors at the RDS are aware
that although saving every euro now seems the most sensible course of
action, most people still have jobs and they’re still looking for something to do in
their spare time.
"If anything, people need entertainment more in a recession than at any
other time,” says Damien Offer of Malahide Marina and the chairman of the
show's organising committee.
"We just need to remind people that the wind and waves are free" he adds.