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Posted by on Oct 8, 2009 in Boat Reviews, Boat Show, UK, US |

Annapolis Rising, One Year Later

In October 2008, the stock market was taking a dive, but today the sun rose on the U.S. Sailboat Show and sailors were on the docks buying equipment and, yes, even some boats.

The ranks of the sailboats along the temporary docks in the inner harbor at Annapolis are thinner this year, but when the sun started shining and the flags started waving, there were more than a few good-looking new boats for sailors to explore.

Sunrise on America's biggest sailboats-only show

Sunrise on America's biggest sailboats-only show

At the top of Ego Alley, Island Packet Yachts had a couple of it’s new Estero models on display. The 36-footer, laid out with for a single couple, was first introduced in Oakland last spring.

A pair of Estero models with other Island Packets

A pair of Estero models with other Island Packets

Island Packet's Bob Johnson

Island Packet's Bob Johnson

I spoke with company president and designer, Bob Johnson, who told me that he was especially happy with the boat’s sailing capabilities, including tacking through about 80 degrees on the compass, and the Hoyt jib boom, which keeps the jib leech under control, even with sheets eased.

At the other end of the alley, the Johnstone clan and J/Boats dealers showed off a pair of new models, the J/97 designed principally by Al Johnstone for the IRC-oriented European market in Europe, the J/97, and the other, the J/95, designed principally by his old man, Rod Johnstone, for the U.S. market. The boats are very different, as reported in previous Boats Blog stories. I didn’t get to ask Al which he prefers, but Rod says the shoal-draft/double-rudder 95 is his favorite design to sail, ever.

Designer Rod Johnstone, far left, on the J/95; president (and son) Jeff Johnstone, on the J/80, at right

Designer Rod Johnstone, far left, on the J/95; president (and son) Jeff Johnstone, on the J/80, at right

I had a brief look at Farr Yacht Design’s new First 40 for Beneteau, a racer/cruiser with clean lines and deck layout that appears fully functional as a racing design. The interior is not stripped out, however; it has striking lines, too, in common with previously released First 50 and First 45. More on this in a followup report.

Annapolis Beneteau dealer Garth Hichens shows off the new First 40.

Annapolis Beneteau dealer Garth Hichens shows off the new First 40.

That’s a snapshot of a few of the new boats I found on the docks. There are at least two other boats here that I reported on earlier, the Hunter 36 a couple weeks ago and the Catalina 445 last spring; I’ll also fill you in on some new equipment developments and new catamarans in follow-up reports. Although a few builders expressed guarded optimism after meeting with potential buyers today, nobody was saying that the recession for the sailboat market is over, and far from it. But for this day, the sun shone and being at the boat show imagining vessels to ride into the future was hard to beat.

—John Burnham