At a show known nationally for exhibiting the latest, fastest and most luxurious sailboats hitting the market, a vessel that can skim the surface on two toothpick-like, fiberglass extensions may sound more fitting for a sci-fi movie.
The International Moth, a modified version of the popular Australian boat, will make its American debut at the 37th annual U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. The show will run from Thursday to Oct. 9 in Annapolis Harbor, and the 35th annual U.S. Powerboat Show follows: Oct. 12 to 15.
Australian Rohan Veal, a champion Moth sailor, will promote the boat. Hydrofoils increase the speed of the fast-moving Moths, which have been more popular in Europe and Australia than in the U.S. The International Moth can travel at least 8 knots. Sailboats normally glide at 1 to 2 knots.
Veal's sponsor, a sailboat equipment company named Ronstan, said if visitors to the show like the Australian-made boat, Ronstan may become the U.S. distributor, said its president, Scot West.
"It's a fast, fun, kind of X-Games boat," West said.
And it's one of more than 200 sailboats to be featured at the show. The powerboat show sold out of exhibition space; the marinas could not take more than 460 boats, said Rick Franke, a spokesman for the shows.
With 1,200 exhibitors, they are the largest in-the-water boat shows in the country, displaying everything from the latest racing and cruising boats to electronic equipment and hardware. Attendees can also go to sailing seminars and get information on cruising and vacation charters.
Combined, the shows are expected to draw up to 72,000 people, according to the Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau. Show organizers expect 100,000 people.
The shows contribute an estimated $51 million into the local economy through hotels, restaurants and other businesses - and that's excluding the boat sales themselves.
Vendors take the shows very seriously. Contractors busied themselves last week detailing boats in Bert Jabin's Yacht Yard, a large marina in Annapolis. Tidewater, a sailboat company in the Yacht Yard, will show four different lines of boats at the show.
"The show is our biggest market," said Jarrett Hering, a broker with Tidewater.
Riverside Marine, which has offices in Annapolis and three other locations, expects to net $20 million to $30 million in powerboat sales from the show, said Joe Tabeling, a sales executive at the company.
Riverside has been prepping boats, and "boats are coming in shrink-wrapped," he said, "We're unwrapping them ... getting them all polished and putting them in the water."
Powerboats are gaining popularity as baby boomers age, Franke said. "They don't want to hoist sails, they just want to turn the key and go," he said.
Jack Gottschalk, a sailor for more than 25 years, said more efficient manufacturing and better quality materials have made powerboats more affordable, more durable and capable of higher speeds.
Electronic chart plotters and global positioning systems have become almost standard on many powerboats. Some boats have Internet access, allowing sailors to download current weather conditions.
"You don't need a yacht to do it," said Gottschalk, commander of the Annapolis Sail and Power Squadron. The 275-member squadron is the local branch of the U.S. Sail and Power Squadron, a nonprofit that promotes boating education.
Manufacturers have made boats more comfortable with better cushioning and other amenities, Gottschalk said. Boaters are asking for and getting flat-screen televisions, multiple air-conditioners and better lighting.
Customers want cabins to look more like living rooms, Tabeling said.
"Every part of their lives, they want to be the same way," he said.
If you go
The U.S. Sailboat Show and Powerboat Shows
Sailboats will be on display from Thursday to Oct. 9, followed by powerboats from Oct. 12-15.
Annapolis harbor. Park daily (except Oct. 14) at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Rowe Boulevard for $10 and ride the shuttle buses from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Oct. 14, parking is available along Riva Road. Take Route 50 to Exit 22 and follow the signs. The shuttle bus will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
VIP tickets for Thursdays are $30. Tickets for Fridays through Mondays are $16 for adults and $8 for children 12 and younger. Tickets are available online at: www.usboat.com.