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Getting Ready for the Boat Show Season

Tis the season for boat shows. The
Charteryacht Society of the British Virgin Islands
and Virgin Islands Charteryacht League kick off their
events in early November, followed by the St. Maarten Charteryacht
Exhibition and Annual Charter Yacht Show in Antigua in December.

What does a boat show mean to yachts attending?

Fortunately or unfortunately, says Lila Rosen, coordinator of the St.
Maarten Charteryacht Exhibition, “the show can
make or break the yacht’s entire charter season, possibly their charter
schedule for years. Brokers attend the shows from around the world and it is
often their only opportunity to see a vacation product that they must sell to
their valued clients for what can be in excess of many people’s
yearly salaries.”

Janet
Oliver, secretary for the Charteryacht Society of the
BVI, agrees. “The boat show is one of a yacht’s biggest marketing
efforts of the year.”

Ninety-nine percent of brokers, adds Sarah
Sebastian, manager of Antigua’s Annual
Charter Yacht Show, “will not book a boat they’ve not been
on.”

Pamela
Wilson, general manager of the Virgin Islands Charteryacht
League (VICL), says, “It goes without saying that a new yacht should
participate in the show so that they get the exposure necessary for the
upcoming season.

Whilst it
is not necessary for a well-known yacht to participate in the show every year,
they should be in the show every two to three years. It keeps them fresh
in the mind of the brokers and enables them to see
first hand any improvements or changes made to the yacht. The social
aspect of their attendance is also important, so even if the yacht has not been
altered in any way, it is good for the crew to reaffirm their relationship with
the brokers and meet any new brokers who have come into the industry since the
last show they attended.”

Prior to a show is a busy time for boats.

“At
the end of the summer,” says Antigua’s
Sebastian, “is a time for the boats to go into
the yard for bottom paint, superstructure work, work on electronics and
engines, and purchase inventory for maintenance during the winter.”

The BVI’s Oliver adds, “Yachts refresh with new
linens, new carpeting, new sails, new paint jobs and
in some instances a new refit. Typically, yachts spend thousands of dollars to
prepare their vessels as well as hundreds of hours.”

Any yacht new to charter, says St. Maarten’s
Rosen, “will need to register with a clearing house who
will represent the boat to the charter brokers and assist in a multitude of
ways. The yacht should have promotional brochures, crew profiles, and
specification sheets on hand for the brokers, as well as a no contact web
site address that they can provide as a marketing tool.”

Pre-show time can be both laidback and hectic for crewmembers.

Most
permanent crew, says the BVI’s
Oliver, “will try to take a four to six week vacation and well-deserved
rest after a long, hard season.”

Antigua’s Sebastian agrees. “It’s
popular nowadays for the permanent skipper not to deliver the yacht, so this
means the captain can go home and visit for a few weeks while the boat is en
route to the show.”

In the
weeks leading up to the show, St. Maarten’s
Rosen says, “once the show or shows they will be attending are chosen,
crewmembers research the venue. There will be scheduled competitions and
parties that they might elect to be involved with. All of the shows have a
culinary competition, if the chef chooses to participate,
he or she must register and start planning a dish and presentation that will wow
the judges.”

Rosen
adds, “Just before the show starts, there is a flurry of activity,
cleaning, polishing, provisioning, decorating, prepping, detailing.
Everything must be perfect! Once the boat is ready, the crew must appear as if
nothing happened – they have to be totally relaxed and hospitable, clean
shaven and freshly showered, and put on their biggest smiles.”

On the
other side of the fence, it takes a lot to organize a boat show.

“A
sense of humor, imagination and
undefeatable optimism are key,” says the VICL’s Wilson.

The Antigua
show, says Sebastian, “has become so large that organization is
year-round.”

The same
is true of other shows, such as the one hosted by the Charteryacht
Society’s of the BVI. “We try to select dates one year in advance
so that it can be announced at the show even if we say they are tentative dates
and subject to change. By late April, announcements are sent to the brokers,
clearing houses and yachts. Forms are distributed as well as posted on the
website for online registration. By July, we have a sketchy idea of the events
we would like to put on. Over the next two months, we flesh out the details as
we meet with potential sponsors and venue hosts. During these months the Boat
Show Handbook begins to take shape with adverts and editorial. Registration of
both brokers and crew is facilitated. Lists are frequently updated on the
website. By the end of September we are fairly set on our Program of Events.
September and October are spent fine-tuning show details. Contact with
participants is re-established as yachts prepare to return to the territory.
Media are reminded of the event and then the show opens in November.”

After a show, says the VICL’s Wilson,
“It’s time to lay on the beach, take a
large sip of something frozen with an umbrella in it and clear your mind
because the next show is never far away.”

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