Happy Anniversary

It’s that time of year again, and we don’t mean the holidays. While Thanksgiving feasts with family and friends, along with festive Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations, are sure to begin filling up our social calendars, the actual day that we are eagerly anticipating is October 29, 2009.

That’s right readers. It is finally time, once again, for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and it all begins on that on that momentous Thursday at the end of autumn’s signature month.

While this annual event is marked in pen on the calendars of every captain, boat owner, broker, shipyard, and water enthusiast in the industry, this year’s calendars will be covered with gold stars in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the show.

Taking place from October 29 through November 2 across six different locations in America’s yachting capital, this is the world’s largest boat show, a superlative that is vetted by the square footage sold, and a title that the show first earned in the 1990s. Today’s numbers are impressive to be sure, with more than three million square feet of exhibit space on land and in water, and $3 billion worth of boats, yachts, superyachts, electronics, and accessories on display.

Dickie Bannenberg of Bannenberg & Rowell, whose interior design work on the 137-foot Natori and the 238-foot Predator has earned accolades and magazine features galore, explained the magnitude of such a show. “The Fort Lauderdale show is one of the key yachting events, sitting alongside Monaco, in a calendar filling up with more and more shows,” he said. “Nothing matches Fort Lauderdale in scale and the ability to buy a bucket of bait and then a $70 million dollar yacht. The chances are also pretty high that the guy buying both will be dressed in a pair of shorts and a Polo shirt. It demonstrates the sheer scale of the American market and also proves how this show is refreshingly free of the airs and graces that sometimes come with the European shows.”

Queen of the Show

Considering that the boat show has outlasted more than half of the marriages in the U.S., this year’s golden anniversary celebration is sure to be one for the record books. With presentations fit for royalty, the powers that be at Show Management, the producers of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, have crowned the Feadship megayacht Trident as the “Queen of the Show.”  Measuring in at 214 feet, she will be the largest ship on display for the golden anniversary. The timing could not be more on point as 2009 is a momentous occasion for Feadship as well, who will also be celebrating a milestone—60 years in the shipbuilding business.

This will be the first time that Trident will be revealed to the American market, with only the Monaco Yacht Show in September under her belt so far. President of Feadship America, Francois van Well, told Haute Living that they are expecting a great response from the American audience. “In Monaco, everyone was ecstatic about the ship. The interior design is innovative and refreshing. It’s not the same mahogany dark paneling that we have typically used in past years.” With interior designs and exterior styling courtesy of Donald Starkey Designs, van Well explained that Trident also has all of the latest technologies on board.

Feadship has enjoyed a revered presence as one of the leaders of the superyacht scene, thanks in part to its Fort Lauderdale office that has been on Seabreeze Boulevard since 1977. And, as van Well explained, the Fort Lauderdale show has played in integral role in helping to build the company’s international reputation. “We are about people. When considering why we participate in the show, it is because the U.S. market makes up half of Feadship’s global sales,” van Well said, explaining that since Feadship’s inception in 1949, half of their production has been for American boat owners.

Francesco Frediani, vice president of sales and marketing for the historic Italian boat builder Riva, echoed the same endorsement of the boat-buying market in America. “Despite economic conditions, the U.S. has always been a good market for Riva, and we are confident that we will have great results at this 50th anniversary of the show, where we will be exhibiting the 33-foot Aquariva Super and the 68-foot Ego Super.”

Bruce Schattenburg, The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals managing director, said that at the recent Monaco Yacht Show they were surprised at the high list prices for many of the European brokerage yachts on display. “We feel that the best deals right now can be found in the U.S., especially with the dollar still weak versus the Euro.”

Feadship’s van Well went on to add that the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is not only a must-attend event for shipyards because of its power to consistently attract prospective clients who are prepared for purchase, but also because of the enthusiastic spirit of the attendees and the camaraderie experienced by all. “American owners are different in that they like to see the big yachts, but they also like to be involved with the vendors in a very hands-on kind of way,” he said. “They don’t mind walking around by themselves, talking to various owners, brokers, builders, and exhibitors. This is quite different than what it is like at boat shows in the Middle East, Asia, and even in Europe, where they are much more reserved and enjoy a bit more privacy. Owners in the U.S. want to experience it fully, which makes it a very interactive experience between the participants and the attendees,” he said, explaining that every year at the show he has existing clients who bought boats in previous years stop by to say hi and have a cup of coffee. “It really is a people show,” he explained.

To marvel at all of the majesty of the Queen of the Show, visit Feadship’s Trident at the docks of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, where she will be accompanied by a royal court that includes Heesen Yachts’ 161-foot Man of Steele and the 141-foot At Last, both courtesy of IYC Charter and Brokerage.

Docking Stations

And even though the marina at the Hilton doubles as the royal throne for the Queen of the Show, there are four other in-water locations where the revered shipyards of the world will be premiering megayachts that are sure to earn a myriad of superlatives in the coming year.

Perhaps the most popular of these sites is the peninsula-shaped property of the Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center, located on Seabreeze Boulevard, jutting out to the Intracoastal Waterway. As the show grows in size and fame each year, local officials and members of the yachting community have considered the logistics of continuing to dock megayachts at Bahia Mar.

In September, the Fort Lauderdale Planning and Zoning Board approved, by a four-to-two vote, the development of a $500 million residential hotel project. The proposed new project, Bahia Mar Park, must now be voted on by the city commission, which will have to consider whether to allow developer LXR Luxury Resorts to construct a 300-room Waldorf Astoria hotel, two residential towers, a parking garage, and space for marine offices, as well commercial and restaurant properties. Show Management is a strong proponent of the development and voiced its support at recent public hearings, “Fort Lauderdale has the biggest, best boat show in the world. But, a better setting is needed to avoid losing that edge,” reported president and CEO Efram “Skip’’ Zimbalist III.

Until the city decides on the fate of Bahia Mar Park, and in turn, the fate of the boat show itself, during the event, the Face Dock at Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center will be lined with ships from 80 to 200 feet as far as the eye can see, including headline-grabbers like Bacarella. The 196-foot ship from Trinity Yachts, with interiors from Bannenberg & Rowell, is the largest that the shipyard will be presenting at the show. Attendees can witness the wonders of this megayacht at Bahia Mar, Face Dock 9A-9D.

Despite the current size constraints, the set up at Bahia Mar will still impress the more than 100,000 guests expected to attend. The newly configured Yacht Builders & Designers Tent will provide 60,000 square feet of air-conditioned space for the industry’s top yacht builders, designers, architects, decorators, engine manufacturers, and accessory suppliers. The area of the tent closest to the Face Dock will showcase some of the greatest names ever to sail the ocean blue, including Perini Navi, Heesen Yachts, Oceanco, and Lürssen. Additionally, standout superyachts at the Face Dock will include Burger Boat’s 151-foot Sycara IV, Delta Marine’s 151-foot Katya, and another from Trinity, the 141-foot Big City.

New this year at Pier 66 Marina at Hyatt Regency, where buyers who are serious about parting with their cash in exchange for the joys of commanding the open waters, is the opportunity to partake in sea trials during the show, making it easy breezy to seal a deal.

Sailing Back in Time

We mentioned earlier that Feadship will be blowing out the candles in celebration of 60 years, but they won’t be alone. Also sharing a special birthday in 2009 is Hatteras Yachts, who, like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, will also be turning 50. The significance here is that Hatteras was one of 13 original exhibitors to start the show back in 1959, along with one of our favorite haute Italians, Riva. The venue for that first show was Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium. Naturally, throughout its 50-year lifespan, the show has changed names, locations, and producers a number of times, with Kaye Pearson’s company Show Management taking the helm in 1976 and cruising along full steam ahead ever since. Noting the growth, Andrew Doole, COO of Show Management, explained, “Back in the late 70s and 80s, the show did not have as much of an international presence as it does today. It was almost more of a regional boat show for many exhibitors,” he said. “But we changed that by actively seeking out international exhibitors. We started the builders’ tent in order to attract foreign shipyards to the show. As the show was changing, Fort Lauderdale was growing also with more brokers coming into town and more boat business taking place here. Eventually people from Europe and the rest of the world began to see Fort Lauderdale as the hub of boating.”

Doole also explained how the size of the ships in the show has increased throughout the years. “Back in 1982, when I first started, a big boat to exhibit in the show would have been 70 to 80 feet, and that was considered extremely large. Obviously now we have progressed to being wowed by 200-footers. It is just an example of how boating has changed and how the show has changed to reflect that. We move with what people want to see and the show is a reflection of the industry.”

By all accounts Show Management is captaining the production of such a large-scale annual event with great success. Shipyards, brokers, charter companies, yacht owners, and event producers are all expecting the golden anniversary year to be a momentous one and cause for great celebration.