What makes SIBS 2017 special

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The buzz is building: the boats are starting to fill the marina and by the end of the week it will be a hive of activity.
The buzz is building: the boats are starting to fill the marina and by the end of the week it will be a hive of activity.

Five reasons why the Sydney show will be different this year – and why you should go.

Boat shows can get a little predictable at times; the boats may change but the staging of the events can have a certain familiarity to them. That certainly can’t be said of this year’s Sydney International Boat Show which promises to be a genuine milestone event.

There will be new boats, of course, both power and sail, and it is the 50th staging of the show which is reason enough to celebrate its success, but in addition there are several reasons why this year’s show will be different and worth the price of admission alone.

The venue: The Glebe Island venue for the past three years had its plus points (the parking was good) and the ferry ride was a pleasant novelty but, to be honest, having two venues was a pain in the bum. People made the most of it but there’s no doubt it had an impact on visitor numbers. This was brought home to me last year in a Facebook post in which a punter complained that the show was not worth visiting because it only consisted of ‘yachts on the marina’. If, after three years, they still didn’t know about the ‘other’ venue then clearly it was never going to work. This year, everybody is back at Darling Harbour in a brand new purpose-built exhibition hall which, for its size and scale, is sure to impress in its own right. It’ll be interesting to see how the two levels of exhibits work together and no doubt it’ll take time before it feels like ‘home’ but the new digs will definitely add a fresh dimension to the show.

The Event Deck: It’s been a while since the show has been able to host on-water/in-pool demonstrations and this year it’s gone all out with three pools on the outdoor Event Deck. The fact that they are on the fourth level with great view across to the city only adds to the novelty. There will be a range of water ‘toys’ on show including paddle boards, water bikes and powered kayaks, and most importantly people will be able to interact and take part. I like the idea of the ice cream parlour and the kiddies’ bumper boats although I doubt they’ll let me have a go.

The Australia International Dive Expo adds a new - underwater - dimension to the boat show.
The Australia International Dive Expo adds a new - underwater - dimension to the boat show.

Dive Expo: Located in the heart of the lower exhibition hall, the Australia International Dive Expo brings a whole new range of activities and consumers to the show. “But they’re not buying boats.” That’s true – diving is all about selling the experience, which just happens to take place underwater rather than on it. The inclusion of AIDE broadens the appeal of the show and stakes a claim for boating to be about more than sitting in something that floats. In an age when many young people can learn to dive before they learn how to drive, it will also hopefully see the show’s age demographic shift a little younger.

Lisa Blair.
Lisa Blair.

Lisa Blair: There must have been times when the organisers wondered if Lisa Blair would make it back in time to appear at the show, or even make it at all. Her account of her recent solo circumnavigation of Antarctica contains some genuinely jaw-dropping, hair-raising moments and is a vivid depiction of the trials and triumphs, heartbreaks and heroics of single-handed sailing. The record books will show she was the first solo woman to complete such a voyage but more than that she’s an inspiration to many other would-be and armchair adventurers. Hear about her epic journey at the Boating Development Centre, Hall 5, at 12.30pm every day.

Opening breakfast: The opening breakfast is changing this year, moving indoors to the Grand Ballroom at the ICC Sydney venue and becoming a sit-down event – no more standing around in draughty marquees. Things are looking up. In such a diverse and disparate industry, the breakfast is one of those rare opportunities for everybody to come together to recognise the great work that it does and celebrate the staging of one of the premier boating events in the world. This year the breakfast will also see the awarding of the NSW Maritime Medals, recognising the contribution that individuals and organisations have made to boating in NSW.

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