The international boat show in Dusseldorf, Germany, has a little something for everyone.
Beer halls, pork knuckles, boats and all manner of water toys — it’s hard to top Boot Düsseldorf, the largest watersports show on the planet, that’s held each January along the banks of the Rhine River.
By the numbers, the 2018 show attracted 1,923 exhibitors from 68 countries, which filled 2.3 million square feet worth of floor space in 16 sprawling halls with just about every sort of gadget or craft that can deliver fun on the water. There is, literally, something for each and every one of the 247,000 visitors from 94 nations who take advantage of the citywide, free trollies and trains to flock to the Messe complex.
There are wave pools and beach displays, charter companies and dinghies, pontoon boats and catamarans and diving gear and swimwear. Me, I went to see sailboats — two entire convention centers full of them, in fact, ranging from tiny one-person foiling skiffs to 75-foot luxury yachts.
To kick things off moments after the show opened, German sail and powerboat builder Bavaria hosted a carnival-like reception at its stand. As a boatload of new models were introduced, the music swelled and an agile young gymnast climbed aloft toward the rafters on flowing white drapes. Drummers and a violist poised on the bows of various boats erupted with a pulsing beat, and soon, they too were hoisted into the air. It was all a quite entertaining backdrop for the launch of Bavaria’s new C45 and C50 cruising models and its flagship, a stunning 65-footer, all from Cossutti Yacht Design
But Bavaria wasn’t the only show in town. Rival German builder Hanse introduced its new 588 and 675, as well as newly styled 388, 348 and 548 models. Look for all of these boats to make their way to shows in the U.S. over the next year, along with catamarans from Privilège, the French builder that Hanse has acquired. Also new to the multihull scene is Dufour Yachts, which displayed a model of its soon-to-be launched 48-foot catamaran. The company also introduced its twin-wheel Dufour 360 Grand Large cruising sailboat at the show.
Italian builder Grand Soleil had a few new models to show off too: the L.C. 46 and L.C. 52, both long-range cruisers, and the very racy 34-footer that looked like it would be an absolute hoot to sail. Swedish builder Najad is back in business and came to Dusseldorf with a new Farr-designed 395, a thoroughly modern twin-wheel cruiser that still has the look and feel of the company’s older models.
From England, the Discovery Yachts Group came to town with its new Southerly 480, a lifting keel bluewater cruiser. In addition to the Southerlys and its line of fixed-keel Discovery models, the group also produces Bluewater Catamarans.
French builder Wauquiez rolled out its new Pilot Saloon 42, designed by Olivier Racoupeau. Among its many features are windows that become opaque at the touch of a switch, eliminating the need for blinds or curtains.
Catamaran builder Fountaine Pajot announced two new models at the show, a flybridge 67-footer and a couple-friendly 42-foot model.
Rival Lagoon Catamarans also brought two new models to the dance, a 40-foot cat and a stunning new 50 footer that will be added to its Elegance line.
Swan took a new tack on boat-show displays by bringing a full-scale plywood interior mock up of its soon-to-be-launched Swan 65 to the show. It was pretty cool to be able to walk through, sit on the settees and get an idea of how various finishes will look.
At the Jeanneau stand, the new 490 attracted a crowd. Like its sistership, the 440 — named Most Innovative by CW’s Boat of the Year judges last fall — the bigger boat has side decks that slope down to the cabin sole, which means you can walk forward from either wheel without having to climb over seats or coamings.
Another French builder, Amel, brought a whole new look to Dusseldorf with its Racoupeau-designed 50-foot sloop, a change of pace from it’s traditional lineup of cruising ketches.
Hallberg-Rassy introduced a lovely new twin wheel and twin rudder 34-foot model. Modern foils aside, down below, the boat had the same rock-solid and lovely feel as the other models in the range.
Danish builder X-Yachts unveiled two new models, the X 49, an all-round cruising boat, and the XP 55, a performance cruiser that looked pretty perky just sitting on the display stand.
Also in the big boat arena was the new Solaris 68, a boat that, despite its LOA, should still be couple-friendly thanks to a self-tacking jib and clean deck layout.
All in all, it was a lot of innovation and new styling to absorb. My take away from the show: European sailboat building is thriving. Expect a transatlantic invasion coming this way soon.