The home of British aviation instead became the home of boats, boards, sails and wings of a different kind this weekend as thousands of water lovers took over Farnborough International for the 2023 RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show presented by Suzuki (25-26 February).
Featuring dinghy sailing, windsurfing, wingsurfing and foiling as well as paddleboarding, the long-standing Show brings together participants, clubs, training centres, Class Associations, equipment manufacturers and retailers from right across the small boat sailing and boardsports community, all sharing their water-based passions and helping more people spend more time afloat.
This year the Show welcomed 8,500 visitors, 160 exhibitors, and hundreds of boats and boards with some 74 expert talks and presentations also taking place across the weekend. Visitors flocked from all over the UK as well as Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Singapore, Hong Kong and USA.
“I’m delighted to have welcomed so many dinghy sailing and watersports fanatics to the Show this weekend, as well as those deciding where their on water journey will take them next,” said RYA Director of Sport Development Rob Clark. “The atmosphere was alive with passion, enthusiasm and excitement as people browsed all the latest boats, boards and equipment, soaked up expert knowledge and hit the shops for some early-season boating bargains.
“The RYA organises this Show to bring together the small boat sailing and boardsports community, and it was absolutely thriving this weekend,” Rob continued. “I just loved seeing people getting involved in the interactive sessions, catching up with old friends and making new ones, getting inspired to get afloat and discovering new ways to do so.
“My thanks go to our title sponsor Suzuki and all the fantastic exhibitors and speakers who helped create such a buzz. We can’t wait to do it all again next year!”
The Show’s three stages (Suzuki Main Stage, Knowledge Zone and an expanded Watersports Stage) attracted big crowds with popular talks including ‘Out of the Shadows’ with Olympic gold medal-winning father and daughter Mike & Eilidh McIntyre, ILCA top tips with Sam Whaley and Hannah Snellgrove and winging workshops with James Hardy and 14-year-old national champion Hugo Dobrijevic.
The RYA Interactive Zone was awash with visitors trying out the windsurfing, winging and sailing simulators, the trapeze rig and taking on some model boat racing, while the 360 VR Experience supported by RYA SafeTrx had show-goers immersed in a sea of virtual reality.
Various prestigious prizes were awarded across the weekend, with Lymington Town Sailing Club crowned the RYA and Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year, supported by Gallagher, and the Shearwater catamaran ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ picking up the Concours d’Elegance trophy for ‘boat of the show’.
A record-breaking 17 university clubs successfully completed this year’s The Green Blue University Sailing Sustainability Challenge, sponsored by Rooster, with awards presented at the Show.
Hattie Rogers, 22, was named the youngest ever recipient of the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award following her win at the SailGP WASZP INSPIRE Grand Final last year, with 17-year-old British Sailing Squad iQFoil windsurfer Charlie Dixon taking home the YJA Young Sailor of the Year trophy through his victories at the International Games and the under 19 Worlds last year.
Mark Beeley, Head of ATV & Marine for Suzuki GB said: “We’re proud of our long-standing support of the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show and I think that this year’s show was definitely one of the best! It was really busy and there was a really positive buzz throughout. We were inundated with young sailors collecting goodies as part of the Treasure Hunt, which was fun. It’s so refreshing to see how the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show engages with young people in a way that no other part of the UK marine industry comes close to.
“We also had lots of interest in our micro-plastics collection device and collaboration with OceanR as well as a high number of quality conversations about providing sailing clubs with new Suzuki-powered safety boat packages, so all-in-all, a great weekend.”
What our visitors said
“Boats have always been my passion. Since I started dinghy sailing it’s been nice to come here to see people I’ve met through sailing, see the boats and how things are moving forwards with how things have evolved.”
“I think the Show is bigger and even busier this year. [It’s] great to see it expanding here. A highlight for me is looking at foiling boats – you’ve got Moths, Waszps and also some foiling catamarans. Being on the water is a great family activity and there are things here for everybody.”
“I like the Show because there’s lots to learn and everyone is informative. It’s good to see other boat options that I’d like to try. Nacras look interesting, and the Treasure Hunt is always fun. I like sailing because it’s always fun, always different and you get a lot out of it.”
What our exhibitors said
Rockley Watersports: “It’s brilliant for beginners to experts – there’s something for everyone, whether that’s adults or children. Whatever you need you can find it here.”
RS Sailing: “We love coming back to the Show every year, meeting old friends, making new ones and talking all things boats. This Show has been absolutely wonderful.”
F-ONE: “The Show has been great and we will definitely come back. The key thing for us was to reach a new audience with our wing foiling, not just to talk to the surfers and kitesurfers any more – it’s genuinely interested sailors and other water users. We have been flat out both days and will see you next year!”
Ease Distribution: “We love coming to see all the other exhibitors, all the guys we deal with at the shop, our tuition and lessons, the people who are on the water constantly. It’s nice to meet the whole watersports community. [The Show has] the best windsurfers, wingers, paddleboarders and dinghy sailors in the UK who can advise you and get you out on the water if you’re just starting out.”
Streaker Class Association: “It’s been an active and busy show. Lots of passing traffic so it’s been great – we’ve had many of our members and new people come to see us. We were impressed to see so many people had travelled across the country to visit. If you’re interested in looking at different classes and how to get involved, it’s a great place to see stuff.”
Check out the highlights from the Show on Facebook and Instagram and save the date for next year – 24-25 February 2024. In the meantime, RYA members can claim an exclusive free ticket and up to two half price tickets to the Southampton International Boat Show this September.