Southampton International Boat Show 2021 celebrates a phenomenal event


Southampton International Boat Show drew to a close on Sunday 19 September with organisers, exhibitors, sponsors and visitors all hailing the show as one of the best yet.

The event retains its title as Britain’s biggest and best festival of boating, showcasing over 350 marine brands with 500+ boats on display, including many UK and global debuts. The show welcomed over 88,000 visitors across the 10 days – down 14 per cent on 2019 but still a fantastic achievement during a Covid-19 year.

‘Additional Covid-19 measures were introduced at the show, to help keep everyone safe, including proof of negative lateral flow tests. The majority of visitors seemed happy to have these extra measures and, given the circumstances, the Boat Show has been a phenomenal success which proves that confidence is back,’ says Ian Cooke, President of British Marine.

The spectacular show, set against the stunning backdrop of Europe’s largest purpose-build marina, had a buzzing atmosphere, as exhibitors and visitors alike were keen to meet face to face after a difficult 18 months. With the new exciting layout, larger footprint and 5 new dedicated zones – Watersports, Classic & Dayboat, Dinghy, On The Water and Festival Green offering a wide range of products, services and attractions, exhibitors have fed back great sales results and positive conversations with attendees.

Opened by members of the British Olympic Sailing Team, Ian Cooke, President of British Marine and Southampton City Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry, visitors were queuing at the new entrance at Westquay, eager to explore the new show format. It was a real privilege to welcome the British Sailing Team to the new Dinghy zone where Olympic enthusiasts could chat with them, ask questions about the games, see their boats on display, check out their medals and have their photo taken with them.

A whole host of celebrities were spotted in the crowds including Premiership footballer, Bukayo Saka (guest of the show’s Automotive Partner Bentley Motors), singer-songwriter Jamiroquai (Jay Kay), Georgia Toffolo (Toff) and Andrew Jordan from TV show Made in Chelsea, as they enjoyed checking out the boat displays and even having a go at some watersports.

The focus to get people out on the water has proven to be extremely popular with visitors given the opportunity to try something for the first time or brush up their skills. There was a  Get Afloat Zone where you could try dinghy sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking for free with experts from Rockley Watersports on hand to help.  And the popular Try-a-Boat where you could glide through the water in a high-speed RIB or float across the Solent under sail.  Visitors could also check out the On the Water Stage for adrenaline-packed shows featuring awe-inspiring Flyboarder James Prestwood, along with flite board and jet ski stunt performances.

The show’s Quarterdeck bar and restaurant provided the ideal viewing point to watch all the on-water action. A waterside dining experience like no other, it welcomed crowds of visitors looking to relax and unwind while taking in the marina view along with flyboarding and jet skiing demonstrations.

The largest motor yachts on display were the Sanlorenzo SX88 and Sunseeker 88, while the largest sailing yacht was the Hallberg Rassy 57. Over 30 yachts made their world, UK or show debut either on the marina or on land.

With presentations from guest speakers on the Foredeck stage and the On The Water stage the show has been promoting accessibility and engagement, from SailGP’s Inspire programme to tales from round-the-world yachtsmen and women such as Mike Golding OBE and Pip Hare.  The Women In Marine event was also a huge success and featured incredible tales at sea from Allie Smith, Group Events Director at Oyster Yachts.

There’s been a real focus on getting people into boating and watersports and actually giving it a go through Try-A-Boat and Try-A-Boat+. This year’s show saw a 25% in increase on 2019, with over 13,760 visitors taking to the water, from beginners to seasoned sailors and there’s been a real appetite to try something new.

Building on existing environmental initiatives, now 3 years into its 5-year pledge, the Southampton International Boat Show had asked exhibitors to commit to an environmental pledge that helped the 2019 show divert over 7.5tons of waste from landfills. This included a ban on all plastic straws, reduced use of single plastic and the use of e-tickets and QR codes.

British Marine also presented Exhibitor Environmental Awards to joint winners Premier Marinas and Bentley Motors in recognition of going above and beyond to reduce their environmental impact and to introduce sustainable working practices.  

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine said, ‘This year’s show has been a resounding success with a fabulous atmosphere as exhibitors and visitors alike have been enjoying meeting face-to-face. The feedback we’ve had from brands across the industry has been phenomenal indicating very strong sales from quality visitors.

‘We’ve put even more emphasis into appealing to visitors of all backgrounds and interests, ages and ability than ever before.  We’ve welcomed everyone from boating newbies to seasoned sailors and watersports enthusiasts, whether trying something for the first time or sharpening their skills.’

‘Britain’s best loved boating festival has put a real smile on everyone’s face with a fantastic mix of products, talks, entertainment and refreshments. The wide choice of sailing yachts, motor boats, accessories, paddle boards, kayaks and services across the new layout over 10 days has been incredibly well-received. We are very much looking forward to building on the success of this resurgence and the new dates for next year, 16 -25 September 2022.’

Adam Parry
Author: Adam Parry

Adam is the co-founder and editor of Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.

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