Having just returned from the London Boat Show, I have to confess that my pre-event pessimism was slightly misguided. Yes, it was small and rather soulless but contrary to expectations, the one hall that was open for business was (1) identifiably marine in nature and (2) interesting.
Particular highlights for me included the Interboat Neo 7 and the English Harbour Yachts 16 – two radically different approaches to the same job. In the first instance, the Dutch Interboat took all the taper-free inboard space of a pontoon boat and arranged it on top of a beamy monohull; and in the second case, a group of ex-Fairline professionals came together to build a classically styled British launch littered with slick design ideas and a price tag far lower than its style and quality implied.
Elsewhere, the Princess 43 won IPC’s Motorboat Award in the ‘Flybridge up to 55 feet’ class – a remarkable triumph given that the much larger Fairline Squadron 48 costs £32,000 less. And if that wasn’t peculiar enough, we arrived at Sunseeker’s stand to be refused entry to the company’s new 75 Flybridge on the basis that someone had just bought it. Yes, there was plenty of stuff to look at elsewhere, but for that bold and (in my experience, unprecedented) interpretation of the ‘boat show’ concept, I feel Sunseeker must surely be due a very special award of their own.
In any case, at least the perennial flurry of X-Factor also-rans grinning inanely and cutting ribbons was conspicuous by its absence. Instead, we got some proper celebrities in the form of James Corden (launching the Sunseeker we never saw) and Ben Ainslie (launching the delicious new Scorpion RIB and handing out lashings of free booze).
Oddly enough, it was here that I found my personal show highlight - and it wasn’t a boat, but a 71-year old grandmother by the name of Jeanne Socrates, who had just become the oldest woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world. I’ve run out of space to blow her splendid trumpet here but if you have a moment, look her up. She might not have a cabinet full of awards but she’s a name that deserves to be much better known.