Peter Poland discusses interesting new boats at the 2022 Southampton Boat Show and the state of the sail and power market in general.
In the run up to the 2022 edition of the Southampton International Boat Show, organisers announced that 98% of the available exhibitor space had already been filled. This was despite having a larger footprint than ever before. So the signs were good.
Lesley Robinson, CEO of organiser British Marine, said: “Bookings for the 2022 show have been phenomenal. We’re nearly at capacity, even with an enlarged footprint both on land and on the water.”
It was also claimed that Southampton Boat Show takes place at Europe’s largest purpose-built show marina and covers over 70,000 square metres and that so far, there were 550 exhibiting brands and 650 craft on display.
The results of British Marine’s Boating and Boat Ownership survey for 2020 to 2021, sponsored by Navigators and General, were publicised in the run up to the 2022 Southampton Boat Show.
These results bode well for the future: 24% of survey participants who took part in boating-related and on-water activities in 2020 did so for the first time.
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In the boating survey, 23% of respondents said that they were likely to purchase a new boat or watersports craft within the next 12 months. Most expressed interest in sailing yachts (32%), motor cruisers (25%) or trailerable powerboats (19%). More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents indicated that exhibitions such as Southampton Boat Show have the greatest influence on their purchasing decision.
British brands dominated the style of boats that consumers were interested in purchasing, especially in the UK’s traditional boatbuilding niches, such as sailing dinghies. In the sailing yacht and speedboat markets, however, demand remains dominated by European and American brands.
Lesley Robinson summed up by saying: “The results of the survey really go to show there is a real appetite for people to get on the water in the UK. As an industry our job now is to look at ways we can continue to encourage people to take to the water in the UK and build on the momentum of the previous two years.
“However, the survey results are very encouraging with people now making the decision to invest in their own boats, indicating a potential commitment to getting out on the water more regularly.”
Another interesting comment on the post-pandemic boat market’s health came from Boats Group – which is composed of Yachtworld.com, Boat Trader, Boats.com, iNautia, Boats and Outboards, Boatshop24, Click&Boat and Trident Boats Group. The findings from its market report analysed the first half of 2022 in comparison to pre-pandemic boat prices in 2019.
The specialist classified-ad company reported that consumer demand coupled with unusually low inventory levels drove historic spikes in boat values. Boats Group reported that the global average boat price is now $182,900, an increase of 28.9% over 2019.
What’s more, boats are selling 32 days faster than last year and 83 days faster than in 2019.
Courtney Chalmers, vice president of marketing at Boats Group, said: “The continuous and strong growth we’ve seen from our marketplace data is a key indicator of the overall health of the boating market.”
In keeping with tradition, the sailing and racing dinghies on show were principally British-built. Hartley Boats was there as usual, showing examples of their Training Range (H10 to H15 Trainers and training examples of the Wayfarer and Wanderer), Cruising/Recreational Range (including the Byte, Gull, Supernova, Wanderer and Wayfarer) and their Racing Range (including Blaze, Byte, Contender, Gull, Kestrel, Osprey, Streaker and the ubiquitous Wanderer and Wayfarer racers). Hartley has been building dinghies in Derby for over 20 years and also offers a valuable repair, re-rigging and maintenance services.
Rob White of Topper Sailboats was his normal cheerful self on the Topper stand. He said that business was going well and was offering attractive deals on the Topaz catamaran range (Topaz 12, 14 and 16) and the Topaz and Topaz Taz dinghies.
The original Topper dinghy is still going strong, as are the newer Topaz Argo, Omega, Vibe, Ranger, Fusion and Xenon. Topper says that the Topaz cat and dinghy hulls are roto-moulded in tri-laminated Metalicene which is essentially indestructible and requires virtually no maintenance.
RS Sailing has hung on to its stand overlooking the show marina and has a new ace up its sleeve in the form of the RS Pulse 63 RIB built and marketed by RS Electric Boats. This electric-powered RIB is selling fast to sailing schools, clubs and superyacht owners.
One noticeable new development is the adoption of a Mercruiser outdrive leg to transmit the electric power. RS is now also teaming up with Cheetah Marine, based on the Isle of Wight, to develop and produce an electric propulsion version of their new Cheetah Adventure 720 catamaran.
Meanwhile the RS sailing dinghies and the RS21 One Design keelboat continue to sell well.
I was told that the new Mk2 RS Feva and updated RS Aero were proving very popular; as was the 4.7m roto-moulded RS Toura selling at £7,995. This recent model is an update of the RS Quest, designed in conjunction with the Sea Scouts.
On my travels in France, I still come across large numbers of roto-moulded Topper Topaz cats and RS dinghies dominating sailing school fleets; it’s good to see that some British products are still selling well in the EU.
My next stop was on the marina where I was surprised to see a new Pilot Cutter 30 dwarfing the Cornish Shrimper 21 alongside it. It must be a good sign if Cornish Crabbers decide to exhibit their largest and most expensive model again.
What’s more, managing director Peter Thomas told me there were three more Pilot Cutter 30s on order. This model is the flagship of the Cornish Crabber gaff rigged range and succeeds in combining classic lines and finish with modern features. The Sailaway boat specification comes out at £203,950 inc. VAT.
I admire Cornish Crabbers for publishing VAT inclusive prices and clearly costing all the options available. There’s even a ‘specify my boat’ section on their website for different models which automatically changes the sailaway price each time you tick on an option.
It’s a pity that more builders and dealers don’t follow the Crabber example and make pricing a purchase this simple.
The Pilot Cutter 30 comes with two layouts; with four berths and a spacious heads compartment in the bow or a 5/6 berth layout. The elegantly finished show boat featured the four berth layout and was the first to be powered by twin E Propulsion pod drives.
Peter Thomas told me that 25% of Crabber’s production was now ordered with electric motors. He added that the Shrimper 21 (Sailaway spec from £65,950) was now the top seller, closely followed by the Andrew Wolstenholme-designed Crabber 24 Mk.V (Sailaway spec from £108,950).
Just along the pontoon I came across the Swallow Yachts stand where Matt Newland was showing the Swallow Whisper 300 (an exciting new cold moulded wooden motorboat launched at last year’s show), the BayCruiser 23 and the BayRaider Expedition 21. And Matt’s news was good. He has now sold the 100th BayRaider Expedition 21 and he has already sold nine Whisper 300s.
I couldn’t help recalling my Mystery 35 owning friend’s comments when he had seen the first Whisper 300 at the 2021 show; “I could well go for one of those when I’m too old for sailing.”
There are plenty of signs that electric powered auxiliaries in sailing boats are becoming increasingly popular. Sean McMillan, founder of Spirit Yachts, says that more than half the boats currently on order with the company are repeat orders for existing owners; and that each repeat order has gone from diesel to electric. Currently in-build are two 72s, a 68 (hybrid), a 52 (electric) and a 30-day-sailer (electric). The electric-powered 52 will be the 100th wooden boat built by Spirit Yachts.
To get a feel for the current situation in the field of volume production cruising yachts, catamarans (both power and sail) and motor boats, I had a word with Phil Dolin of Inspiration Marine Group. He said that deliveries of Hanses, Privilege cats, Dehler cruiser racers, Moody Deck Saloon cruisers and power boats under the Sealine, Fjord and latest RYCK weekender ranges (the RYCK 280 being selected for the Motorboat of the Year 2021 awards) were extending into 2023/24.
The new Dehler 46 SQ cruiser-racer was particularly impressive and finely finished down below. Its interior boasted two stern cabins, a spacious heads compartment with enclosed shower area, an extensive galley and a large forward double cabin with en-suite heads compartment. Costing around £547,000 inc. VAT depending on options selected, it could be a boat with a rosy future.
Phil Dolin added that the new Hanse 460 (2022 European Yacht of the Year winner) was a current top seller. And it’s easy to see why. Designed by the French Berret-Racoupeau team, the dramatic looking hull has a slightly reversed stem (to reduce pitching in heavy winds) and hull chines both forward and aft.
The interior is beautifully finished and owners can choose from a large number of layout options. Like all Hanses, its performance is excellent and cruising is simple thanks to the self-tacking jib. Racing can also be on the agenda, using larger sails that can be tacked to the bowsprit.
Completing the picture, Dolin told me that the last two years have been the best ever for their brokerage company Michael Schmidt & Partner.
Bavaria Yachts also offers extensive ranges of sailing cruisers, power boats and Nautitech catamarans. UK agents Clipper Marine were showing four Bavaria power boats, three sailing cruisers and a Bali catamaran (for which they are also UK agents). I was told that the Bavaria C42 cruiser was particularly popular with UK buyers, costing around £286,000 + VAT subject to specification.
I was also impressed by the new 36ft Bavaria Vida 33 model that sported two Mercury 250 hp outboards on its stern. The immense cockpit ahead of these two powerful beasts features an open-air galley, extensive seating (convertible to a double berth), three individual seats at the helm position, a foredeck with seating and table and a comfortable forward cabin with an ensuite heads compartment.
I was told that one of the few drawbacks to this exciting and sporty boat has been a delay in deliveries of the mighty Mercury outboards. But that should be easily sorted.
The Beneteau Group (comprising Beneteau sail and power, Jeanneau sail and power and the ever-growing Lagoon and Excess catamaran divisions) is seeing delivery dates up to 2024 on some models, according to Sunbird International Yacht Sales director Simon Limb. Sunbird sells Beneteaus from its bases in Scotland, Mallorca and Turkey.
Limb added that Beneteau business was brisk, as did Robert Campbell-Gray of Fox’s Yacht Sales who are Beneteau Sail and Powerboat main distributors in Ipswich, Suffolk.
On the Jeanneau front, Stephen Carter of Clarke and Carter who distribute Jeanneaus from Suffolk, Essex and Grenada said the year had been very busy.
He added that the Sun Odyssey 349 lifting keel cruiser was a top seller on the East Coast. Nigel Colley of Sea Ventures (based on the Hamble) told me that he could not get his hands on enough Jeanneau cruisers at the moment with delivery dates now pushing up to around 12 months.
On the Sun Fast side of the business, there were now 25 Sun Fast 3300s racing from the Solent. What’s more Sea Ventures has recently become exclusive distributor of the fast-growing four-model Excess Catamaran range which should bode well for the future.
Close to the Bavaria stand were three of the increasingly popular (especially with sailors turning to power) Duchy Motor Launch models built by Cockwells down in the West Country. The Duchy 27 was the first to be launched and is still going strong.
The more recent Duchy 35 offers more of its smaller sister’s charms and the new Duchy Sport was first shown at the 2022 Southampton Boat Show. With its rakish looking 36’9” hull and beautifully styled superstructure, the boat has unique appeal.
In the words of Cockwells’ brochure: “The Duchy Sport enables a range of activities including wakesurfing. As well as creating the perfect wave to surf, she also delivers all kinds of creature comforts for up to nine guests – from sunbeds and a wet bar to a forward cabin with day heads – all with the high-end finesse that you would expect from Cockwells.”
I was told that as of day five of the show, two had been sold. The price is around £500,000.
A growing trend in weekend sports boats and overnight fast cruisers started in around 2014 in Finland with the Axopar range. Prolific designer Sakari Mattilaad had already instigated the Aquador, XO-boats and Paragon brands so merged their names into Axopar.
Since the introduction of the first boat – the Axopar 22 Spyder – the range has expanded into new models at 25ft, 28 ft, 37ft and 45ft. With their distinctive snubbed stems, stepped hulls, slight reverse sheer, stylish superstructures and superb outboard-powered performance they are something to behold. Since the model range kicked off in 2014, over 1,500 have been sold. A success story indeed.
UK dealers the Axopar London Group exhibited the Axopar 22, 25, 28 and 37. If you did not make it to the show and are in the market for a dramatic looking sports boat or weekender, click on axoparlondongroup.com.
Saxdor Yachts is one company to have followed Axopar’s lead. Founded in 2019 by the same Finnish designer Sakari Mattila, Saxdor claims to have since become the fastest-growing premium boat brand in Europe, winning the European Powerboat of the Year 2021.
The current range stands at six models spanning from the 200 to the 400. Each model has certain similarities to the Axopars with their deep V entry, an aft-raked stem and a twin-stepped hull. As pricing examples the SX270 with a Mercury 250hp V8 engine comes in at €80,500 ex VAT; while a Saxdor 320 GTO with a Mercury V8 AMS 300 is €111,050 ex VAT. The company HQ is in Helsinki and the boats are built in its shipyard in Elk, Poland.
Polish builders such as Parker (parkerpoland.eu) have made their names with very successful ranges.
Parker sales director Grzegorz ‘Greg’ Sikora happened to be visiting UK agents Boat Shop Group’s stand when I passed by and he told me that Parkers now have a 1,000-strong workforce supplying 80 dealers around the world.
He said the most popular models in the UK are the 850 Voyager (show price £148,048 inc.VAT and 350hp Mercury) 760 Quest and 790 Explorer (show price £112,456 inc.VAT and 225hp Mercury).
The new Titan UX Open 9 metre sports boat also caught my eye. Designed and built in Spain, this striking new boat is supplied in the UK by Abersoch Land & Sea (titanyachts.co.uk) and the base boat is on sale at £118,500 inc. VAT ex engine(s). The cabin version will soon be available.
The long-awaited Stephen Jones-designed GT325 didn’t quite make it to the show. Which was a shame. In some ways it will be a larger version of his much-lauded Sadler 290. The keel – whether fin or twin keel version – will be cast in lead and mounted on GRP moulded stub(s).
This ensures a low centre of gravity and of course lead is heavier (and costlier) than cast iron. The GT325’s overall length is a smidge under 10 metres. But comparisons get interesting when looking at its LWL which – at 29’6”- is longer than on the Jones-designed
Starlight 35 (28’8”) and a mere 3” shorter than on his Rustler 37 design. So it’s not surprising that the GT325 looks to be exceptionally spacious. Roll on the test sails on the twin keel version. It could suit many sailors very well.
The overall impression of the 2022 Southampton Boat Show was one of optimism. There is plenty of cash out there looking for a home and sales of larger and costlier boats – both power and sail – have been booming. The only major drawback is uncertainty regarding future interest rates and the dramatic fall in the value of the £ towards the end of the show.
At close of play as I write this, the £ has fallen to $1.0652 and €1.1093. Which will mean that UK exports will be more competitively priced abroad. But the prices of imported goods or boats could soar. Worrying times.
Alternative to ownership
Several companies at the show were offering boat club membership. This vessel sharing model seems to be growing in popularity and could become very relevant to newcomers who want to dip in a toe before taking the plunge.
Pure Latitude Boat Club, based in the Solent but operating from a range of locations including Lymington, Plymouth & Windsor, has 20 boats in its fleet; power and sail.
Worth considering? Yes!
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