London docks come alive for the Boat Show

January 25, 2011

Junior Account Executive, Helena Hamlyn has recently come on-board at Travel PR. A real sailing fanatic, here’s Helena’s account of her visit to this year’s London Boat Show (7-16 January 2011)…

Stepping into London ExCel during the ten days of the boat show provides an interesting day out whether you’re a yachtie or not. If you’ve never been before, it’s a pretty impressive sight. Inside the vast hall are boats of all sizes – from tiny 7.5 foot Optimist dinghies to huge gin palaces – while outside, in the docks, even more boats jostle for position along the pontoon. Then there are the stalls, selling all boating paraphernalia imaginable – lifejackets for dogs, the latest electronic charts, folding buckets and wobbling tables demonstrating extra-grippy table mats.

Take a walk up to the end of the hall and you reach a large pool, where visitors can try their hand at dinghy sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. On our way out we caught a glimpse of some of the top British wakeboarders competing. Off the water there’s the chance to try out the rather unusual-looking activity of ‘brush boarding’ and, in another hall, visitors could put their racing skills to the test on the model yachting pool.

Keen on sailing myself, the London Boat Show has often been a January highlight. But it was not until this year, when I was invited to sail from the Solent to ExCel on one of the participating boats, that I truly realised the huge amount of organisation and logistics involved in the show. I couldn’t participate, in the end, but it really made me think. Getting the boats there is one thing, but then there is the display and all the organisation to consider. In fact, this year’s show broke records when Princess Yachts revealed its 32 metre (105 foot) superyacht which, at 100 tonnes, was the heaviest yacht ever to be lifted into the show – and also the largest to be displayed inside the centre.

Whether boat show visitor or not, keen sailor or novice, Essential Sailing offers a good introduction to sailing, combining it with fascinating cultural sights and fine dining in local restaurants along the French Riviera (May-Oct) and the Canary Islands (Oct-March).

Click here to see some video footage I took at the Boat Show. Helena Hamlyn.