Just returned from a visit to Miami and the 2016 Strictly Sail show….er, the Progressive Strictly Sail show. Progressive as in corporate sponsor and not outlook. The insurance giant has their name plastered over everything having to do with the event. Strictly Sail is one part of the overall Miami Boat Show and the sailing craft are berthed at Miamarina right downtown. The rest of the show (powerboats, engines, accessories) is across the bay at the “revitalized” Miami marine stadium. “Revitalized” in quotes – what used to be a fine, free, if somewhat post apocalyptic anchorage and site of Buffet’s best – is now filled with slips and a marina.
To save a little cash, I spent the night in the back of my truck in a WalMart parking lot – right under the approach to Miami International Airport. The constant roar and whine of Pratt and Whitneys made slumber impossible. In the morning, after a quick shave, brush and cuppa at the local Starbucks and feeling less than refreshed, I followed the GPS downtown. $25 to park my Tundra for 6 hours disappeared into the automated pay station. Hundreds and soon thousands of South Florida Cubanos dressed completely in white also parked and struggled to pay the obtuse machines. I wandered thru the throng of angelic cubanos (a wedding – I think – I hope) and into the boat show. A crisp twenty dollar bill flew from my fingers in exchange for a ticket and I joined the line of sailors shuffling into first, a big tent stuffed with vendors, and then onto the docks.
I made a quick survey of the boats in the basin hoping to spot a big Corsair or Dragonfly perhaps – maybe an Astus or certainly a Weta. Nope…..none of that. Catamarans there were…..lots of them. In fact, the show should be called Mostly Cats not Strictly Sail. A few models tried to jump on Gunboat’s expensive performance niche, but most were big, heavy, short rig, flat sailing, condo-marans. Appropriate, since most of the show visitors were also big, heavy, short rig, flat sailing charter sailors. There was a Neel 45 tied there – a trimaran of sorts – with palatial quarters and an odd elongated flat deck on the stern of the “main” hull – but that dont qualify.
The only proper trimarans at the 2016 Stricly Sail show in Miami were a spidery little Corsair Pulse and a Dragonfly 25. The Dragonfly didnt have her mast up, as the raising bracket had gone missing.
The 25 is an interesting departure for Dragonfly – with a spartan interior and a big cockpit. The hardware seemed a little light to me, her dual primary winches were tiny non-self tailers compared to the stout ones on my F27. And she only has the two! How do you lead the spinnaker sheet? The waterstays looked like they would toss a ton of water, which the main hull is designed to deflect. I wouldnt want to ride to leeward without good foul weather gear.
I briefly spoke with Richard Suriani – US dealer for Dragonfly about the boat, congratulated him for winning Sail Magazine’s Boat of the Year and asked what was next for Dragonfly. Richard is a good one, he loves the boats and apologized for the mast on deck. Boat shows charge an arm and a leg for manufacturers to exhibit ($100K for Dusseldorf!) and he said the Boat of the Year wins brought the shows begging. Dragonfly planned to stay away from the show – too expensive. But the show organizers wanted Dragonfly to attend since they were the Multihull of the Year and so waived the fee. Politics in the boat show world. Dragonfly is quite healthy he said, building a boat a week, and even considering a 48 foot swing-wing version for future production.
I breezed past the Pulse – took a couple of photos of the sporty little thing – at least her mast was up! On the way out, I met up with a couple of old mates who made their living via boats for years and had a good long chat about the state of the world. If the boats weren’t quite worth the price of admission, meeting old friends and swapping sea stories certainly was.
On the long drive home, I contemplated the show, the economics, the benefits and what it indicates of the sailing industry. They are big business, these shows, spending and making big money. They rake it in from the exhibitors, the manufacturers, and the crowd – they are cash machines. The big money in the charter industry drives boat design and construction. Amenities, amenities, amenities is what they offer in exchange for sailing performance. Its what the charter sailor wants – a nice comfy bed to sleep in, and no drama. He’s on vacation for god sakes!
Our trimarans – lithe, quick, wind powered masterpieces – do not belong at such a show. They have no place among the comfortable, convenient and luxurious. Born of the wind and the ocean, their place is out there – flying hulls, not tied to a dock flying bunting. The economics of mass production and mass interest do not readily support cookie cutter trimaran production. Most trimarans are still designed and built by skilled engineers and craftsmen for discerning and talented sailors. They are specialized labors of dedication – you’d have to be crazy to produce a trimaran these days. Thus you wont find trimarans in corporate sponsored shows – save your money. They are in the laughter and stories trimaran sailors tell each other to convey their astonishment at harnessing immense forces to sail fast – and getting away with it. We dont need a show, all we need is a cockpit, some sun, some breeze and a cold beverage.