Having wrapped up the annual US Sailboat show last night we”re happy to report sore feet and soaring spirits (as evidenced by the double thumbs up from Mike above) are the order of the day today. Yes, we”re glad it”s over but we”re also pleased to share that by all accounts this year”s boat show was a good one. While the days of selling boats and booking delivery dates 8 months out due to factory backlog are probably over for a while the general buzz was that orders were being taken, gear was being sold and manufacturers are working harder than ever to freshen their offerings. Here are a few things we saw…
If there is one company that is always keeping its gears turning it”s Harken and their launch of a new winch range is impressive. To redesign, engineer, tool and launch an entire winch range top to bottom is no small feat. In fact, it”s the largest product launch in the company”s history; surely, a strong indication of their ability to innovate and to do so despite the economic crisis. Thanks to Neil from Harken for taking the time to chat with us we learned that some highlights of this new range include the ability to quickly service them while on deck, something the prior generation were notoriously lacking. But, it doesn”t stop there. They”re also significantly lighter, which is something we”re sure everyone will appreciate. Oh, and if you”re looking for a smoking deal on remaining inventory of the old range if you buy one you”ll get the matching one for 250ff.
Next up, we have a company probably most known for their work in the world of grand prix offshore sailing, Karver Systems. This being their first year at the Annapolis boat show we finally had a chance to catch up with them and what they had to show us was a certain indicator of the forward thinking they”re known for. This little bit is a sample of their new ratchet block. What”s particularly innovative about it is that one can engage the ratchet in both directions. Simply slid the pin one way or the other and commence ratcheting. We”re not wholly sure what it will prove useful for at this point but we like that we won”t have to stock a port and starboard version like we do with most other ratchets. We also think their K Block range is particularly slick but it”s not new. However, if you haven”t seen them before certainly take a look.
New from the fine blokes at Ronstan is the addition of a shackle post option to the Orbit range of blocks they”ve been rolling out over the past few years. We”ve had a fair number of customers telling us they love their Orbit blocks and the fact that their ratchets are the only ones that can be switched from ratchet mode to auto-ratchet mode and off completely. But, one complaint, particularly with Laser sailors using them for mainsheet blocks, is that wear is a concern on the soft terminations they started with. We love that they have the soft loop termination but we also think that the addition of the shackle post option is a smart one. Look for us to recommend these for things like those pesky Laser mainsheet blocks.
Don”t be fooled though, the goodness doesn”t stop with the hardware companies. Our favorite apparel companies are also rolling out new and innovative products. In fact, at the press conference held this past Friday celebrating their 25th anniversary Nick Gill and company formally announced their new Race Collection. The following is lifted from their press release…
“Two years ago, the Gill R&D team were given a simple brief – to design the best lightweight Race Gear for sailing, with specific emphasis on hot and sunny conditions. The most detailed research project ever undertaken by the team was put in place, meetings were held with teams at the top of the game, from the TP52 to the Laser SB3, from superstars of the grand prix circuit such as TP 52 World Champion Terry Hutchinson and his Quantum Racing team, to committed weekend warriors. Members of the Gill race team were consulted on their ideal wish list for a collection of specific racing gear. The result is most innovative, highest performing race gear available today, and even includes the lightest performance sailing jacket ever made.”
…and while we know that press release fluff can sometimes not give credence to reality we can tell you that we”ve had a close look at it, tried the stuff on, spoken to the Quantum boys already using it and think that everyone will be supremely impressed with their new range. Of note here are the weight and fit of the jacket and the padding on the front of their under layer. Believe it or not Gill was at one point in the cycling gear business and we can only assume they”ve used their prowess in padded shorts for biking here. We”re sure these will be very popular with the Farr 40 and Melges crowd who like to spend their free time doubled over 3/16″ wire for fun.
Last but not least, Gill has also totally revamped their glove range. With the addition of a glove designer to their design team the improved range of gloves are likely the most comfortable and grippiest available. We”re looking forward to making these all available to you. Unfortunately, we”ll miss Key West with them but look for all of these to be available early Spring “10.
Finally, a little bit about ourselves! APS had a great show too. We”re also happy to report that this was one of our best years yet. Yes, sales were up a bit over last year (which was a tough one) but don”t expect us to be showing up on the start line in new boats next year…we do work in an industry that relies heavily on people spending their ever shrinking (if not vaporized) discretionary budgets after all. What made this show better than ever was working with many of our vendors and catching up with customers and vendors alike. Many of these people we talk to on a daily basis but only get to see once a year. Thanks very much to all of you who stopped by to see and support us. It”s always nice to put faces with names!
PS. During the show we had 3 Laser Performance Bugs rigged to get the little ones on the water and we”re happy to report that we put more than 300 children at the helm during the show. Please come back and see us next year!