The Southampton International Boat Show is an extravaganza for yachting and powerboat enthusiasts. Chris Carter reports.
The beautiful people and your correspondent descended on Southampton last Friday for the opening of the International Boat Show. They in their glimmering yachts; I on the train.
Yet, both they and I had come to admire the more than 300 magnificent boats moored in the purpose-built marina at Mayflower Park. Now in its 51st edition, the Boat Show is still the highlight in the sailing enthusiast’s calendar – more so now than ever after the London Boat Show was cancelled this year owing to insufficient support from the industry. Ho hum, London’s loss is Southampton’s gain. I saw plenty of support on the first day. There are literally hundreds of stalls and stands selling everything from sou’westers to giant Honda Marine engines.
It was shaping up to be a hot day even early on. You might even have been forgiven for thinking you were attending the Boat Show’s main rival in Cannes, which came to an end last weekend. Former Olympic rowing champion and team member for this year’s Boat Race winners Cambridge, James Cracknell, was on hand for ribbon-cutting duties alongside reality-star-turned-fitness-guru Lucy Mecklenburgh. Then it was off to inspect the yachts.
You don’t need to be an old salt to enjoy the Boat Show. It really is a great family day out. Aside from the gin palaces bobbing on the water, there is also a full-size replica of the Shtandart (pictured above), a Russian frigate that was originally launched in 1703. You can clamber aboard and see how rich Russians voyaged three centuries ago compared with how they voyage now on any of the superyachts on display.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be an oligarch to enjoy the day – many of the activities are free. You can try your hand at dinghy sailing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding with Rockley Watersports. Or you can hitch a ride on board a high-speed rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RIB) or take a slower journey on the Solent under sail. There’s even a scuba-diving tank for beginners and pros alike.
There are all the drinks and foods stands that you would expect, including one serving rum cocktails. And there’s live music all through the day and into the evening to serenade your champagne drinking. Lastly, there are the stars of the show – the fabulous yachts. Here are three of our favourites.
The all-new V55 from Plymouth-based Princess Yachts is a must-have for any self-respecting oligarch. It really is a thing of beauty. Stepping aboard the hydraulic bathing platform at the rear of the yacht, you are greeted with clean white surfaces and polished silver railings. It’s touted as a “sports boat”, although it’s equally a party boat. The V55 is equipped with a high-quality Naim Uniti Atom audio system and waterproof speakers. There’s also a dining area, barbecue and galley kitchen, complete with induction hob, microwave oven and grill, and not forgetting the fridge to keep your beer cold.
There’s a main deck saloon with sofa-seating. A huge flat-screen television rises up as from nowhere at the push of a button for those who can’t bear to be without their fix of Corrie. To the right is the cockpit and, in between, the stairs, which lead down to three spacious cabins that are flooded with natural light from the large window in the hull. The master stateroom has a double bed, sofa, 40-inch television and en suite bathroom with shower. The boat’s garage houses a tender and the whole thing is powered by a pair of high-power Volvo D13 engines, offering 2,000 of metric horsepower (mhp) and speeds of up to 37 knots.
Price: £1.3m (prices include VAT), princessyachts.com
Sunseeker Predator 60 EVO
The Sunseeker brand lost its way from around the 1990s. The Predator 60 EVO is Sunseeker’s statement of intent that the future is going to be different. In fact, the Dorset yacht maker’s flamboyant new Italian CEO, Andrea Frabetti, cut the ribbon that sent a bottle of champagne careening into the yacht’s anchor on the first day of the Boat Show. While it’s always painful watching good bubbly spilled, the Predator is worth the waste. It is one heck of a boat and the first of a range that prioritise comfort without sacrificing performance.
The Predator 60 EVO enjoys a cutting-edge design, which includes a wide window-line in the hull for natural light. The helm console is ergonomically designed and boasts the latest in technological innovations, such as a Simrad touchscreen display for easy control over the ship’s systems. There are six berths in three cabins. The master stateroom spans the width of the vessel, and it is finished in a modern, contemporary style with attention paid to textures, fabrics and light. There is also a single berth for a crew member. The tender garage accommodates a Williams 325 Jet RIB that can be launched via the hydraulic bathing platform at the rear. Powered by the new Volvo Penta D13-1000 engines (among other options), the Predator can reach speeds of up to 34 knots.
Price: £1.4m, sunseeker.com
Fairline Targa 65 GTO
The Targa 65 GTO from Fairline is on show for the first time in Britain at the Boat Show. This handsome vessel encapsulates all of the Italian flair of its designer, Alberto Mancini. It features an extended cockpit and a spacious foredeck for lounging around in the sun.
The powered patio doors descend from view at the click of a button and the glazed sun-roof retracts. It comes in either a three- or a four-cabin layout. The master stateroom boasts stylish wood-panel walls and soft furnishings. The Targa 65 GTO sports two Caterpillar C18 shaft drive diesel engines at 2,300 hp or two MAN V8 1200 shaft drive diesel engines at 2,400 hp. Either way, it zips along at up to 31 knots.
Price: £1.9m, fairline.com
• The Southampton International Boat Show runs until Sunday. Tickets cost £22 for adults, southamptonboatshow.com