AFTER a two-year break, Sydney International Boat Show (SIBS) returned to Darling Harbour yesterday and will run until Monday. In many ways, however, it's like a wedding that's missing the bride and groom, the best man, most of the bridesmaids, and the in-laws.
The vicar is there, in the form of the Boating Industry Association (BIA) and organisers Mulpha Events, and a few relatives flew in from overseas, but the notable omissions include Australian manufacturing powerhouses Riviera and Maritimo and the likes of Jeanneau.
You'd have to think it's a major disappointment, and certainly a blight on the BIA for not retaining former organiser Dominic Genua, who organised the show successfully for about 20 years. Mulpha runs Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, formerly a smaller rival of SIBS, and it showed its colours by filming the advertisement for SIBS on the Queensland Gold Coast.
That aside, they're putting on a brave face for the 53rd edition of the once great show, saying: "Boatloads of family-friendly aquatic adventures await . . . Whether an experienced boater or an amateur angler, the Sydney International Boat Show features an impressive line-up of on-water demonstrations, fishing masterclasses, entertainment, activities and VIP experiences for the whole family".
There are just enough familiar names to warrant a visit if you're considering a non-trailerable boat. Brands on show include Sunseeker, Princess, Fleming, Palm Beach Motor Yachts, Iliad and Whitehaven.
Well-known dealers Flagstaff Marine, Multihull Solutions, Multihull Central and Short Marine are also flying the flag.
Among the exhibitions are 11 Australian and Asia-Pacific product launches, as well as the global premiere of the Iliad 62 catamaran.
Trailerboats, watersports and inflatable craft are better represented inside the Halls, with Insinc Marine, TR Marine, Hunts Marine, GME Marine, Waves Overseas, Sirocco Marine, GRE Marine, Hobie and Whitewater Sports Marine among the retailers on board.
There's also displays of engines, electronics, gear and gadgets from Volvo Penta, Mercury Marine, FLIR Maritime, Garmin, Raymarine, Stella Systems, Dometic, Boating & RV, Navico and GME, which is handy if you're looking to renovate, rather than renew, your current boat.
Australian sailing star Lisa Blair is presenting her story of striking out on her own and becoming the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica. You can step aboard her racing yacht, Climate Action Now, and see where she ate and slept during her adventure.
"A sailing journey around Antarctica is packed full of epic storms, blizzards, extreme sleep deprivation and endless challenges and I really enjoy sharing the highs and lows of that experience with visitors," Blair said.
Anglers will compete in the grand final of Australia's premier team-based catch-and-release bream fishing tournament, the Berkley Super Series, tomorrow and Sunday, with the weigh-in next to Cockle Bay Marina and the winning team walking away with $10,000.
"Visitors to the weigh-ins will have a chance to see some of the very best boating and fishing technology on the market and also come down to the water to see for themselves just how it can all come together," tournament director Chris Gates said.
Also for fishos, Greg Reid reveals the art of surface fishing for flatties, PJ Johnson shares his snapper secrets, Tim Simpson gives visitors the lowdown on targeting gamefish and Rhys Creed delivers expert insight on catching Murray cod.
On the main stage is Paul Burt, host of Australia's top-rating fishing show Step Outside on 7Mate, who will share fishing and cooking tips.
There is also a dedicated dive section highlighting the underwater world of scuba diving, boating, innovative technologies and more.
Tickets are available online from $25, or $29.50 at the gates (under-16s free).
If you're a SailGP fan and wondering what the heck happened to one of the top teams - Team Japan, skippered by Lake Macquarie's Nathan Outteridge - the news isn't good. They've had their boat taken off them and will sit out the season.
It's a sad fall from grace for a crew that finished runners-up to Tom Slingsby's Australian team in both previous seasons of SailGP, but certainly not Outteridge's fault. It all came down to funding, and there were teams better cashed up.
The original plan was for Japan to sit out three events, ending with Plymouth this weekend, however the organisers then announced that Canada would retain the 9th and final boat in the fleet.
SailGP was initially privately backed by founder Larry Ellison, billionaire owner of Oracle, and syndicates were expected to become self-funded. Outteridge says that Japan, as a developing sailing nation, was behind the eight ball.
"Building Japanese sailing talent and coming second in the first two seasons, and to not be racing now, is a little tough, but I fully understand the situation," he said.
"This event is not just about results on the water. It's about making the teams financially successful as well. And that's where we're really struggling at the moment. We've been getting great results on the water, but we haven't got the financial backing that we need."
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