• Aquator Marine

Coronavirus and sailing: How COVID-19 will change the way we sail

(Article originally published by yachtingworld.com)

Will post-lockdown sailing ever be the same again? Elaine Bunting and Helen Fretter investigate how coronavirus will change how we sail.

Looking north from the seafront at Cowes this April, you’d have seen the Solent as no-one in living memory has ever done: an empty vista of sea. Even two world wars didn’t unpeople the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the UK mainland, which has bustled with the comings and goings of vessels for nearly a thousand years.

On the day lockdown eased, that ended. Everyone who had a boat wanted to go afloat, and the Solent filled once again. Even on windless days, yachts bobbed, sails up – there was nowhere to go, no rush to make headway, they were there for the joy of being out on the water alone. A pent-up urge for freedom has sharpened our focus on the pleasures of boating. Brokers were deluged with enquiries. Local charter companies, too.

Races and regattas around the world have been cancelled. Many ocean cruising sailors are still stuck.

Boat shows are in doubt. This situation is temporary, but the aftershocks of the lockdown may be longer-lasting, potentially changing where we work and travel, and how we sail. A shift may be coming. In this report, we look at how we might buy, use and charter yachts after restrictions are eased.

Show and sell

Will the autumn boat shows still happen this year? Organisers of Cannes Yachting Festival, Europe’s biggest autumn in-water show, have been bullish but when we sought more information in June we got no response. Nor did we get a reply when we enquired about plans for Boot Düsseldorf next January. But how many people will want to travel to a boat show this year?

Manufacturers and dealers have always been divided about shows. The big companies depend on them to generate leads, showcase new models and conclude sales. But smaller businesses and distributors find them a drain. Shows can be their largest expenditure in a year – transporting four or five boats and staffing a stand for ten days is a huge outlay.

But the dominance of shows may partly explain why the marine industry is so behind others in employing digital marketing tools. This is going to change; it is just a question of when.