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The beating heart of sailing

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Nestled on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis has long been a pilgrimage site for sailors. Dubbed America’s Sailing Capital, the city’s narrow streets are steeped with a maritime legacy that spans over three centuries. Its skyline has a unique dynamism, typified by an ever-renewing assortment of masts no less than the domes of the Naval Academy Chapel and State House.

The Annapolis Sailboat Show (October 10-14, 2024) was born out of this nautical fervor more than 50 years ago. Today, it stands as the largest in-water sailboat show in the world, serving as the venue for major manufacturers to unveil their newest boats and drawing in tens of thousands of attendees from around the globe.

In addition to being the best place to see the newest in boats, electronics, gear, and other sailingrelated offerings, the Annapolis Boat Show is a rendezvous for sailors from around the world, the biggest sailing party of the year. Attendees are encouraged to don their shorts, grab a drink, tour the floating docks, and hop aboard any boat that strikes their fancy (including a 90ft replica of a 19th century Baltimore clipper). On shore, there’s a boating bazaar to explore with vendors offering everything from life jackets and rigging to handcrafted navigational tools and artisanal bourbon.

Main picture: the Annapolis Sailboat Show has been bringing together a wide range of sailors and boats for more than 50 years and has always been the must-go show in North America for anyone who loves sailing
With downtown Annapolis only a few steps from the show ground, foodies will be spoiled for choice too, seafood lovers especially. October brings the start of oyster season on the Chesapeake, and there’s no shortage of other local delicacies. Softshell crab sandwiches – consisting of a moulting crab fried in its shell, claws and all – are a particular favorite among street food aficionados. For those with a less adventurous palette, there are a variety of American, Thai, Italian, and sushi restaurants to choose from. You can find a tavern where George Washington drank or a taco bar serving margaritas, all within walking distance of the show.

Naturally, though, the stars of the show are the sailboats. Close to 200 of them are expected to be featured at this year’s show with just about every major manufacturer, class and design in attendance: daysailers, dinghies, yachts, catamarans, bluewater cruisers, racing skiffs, and more. Given the size and prestige of the Annapolis Sailboat Show, it’s not surprising that many manufacturers premier their new boats there. In 2023, the show hosted the debuts of the Beneteau Oceanis 37.1, Dufour 41, Jeanneau Yachts 55, Solaris 44, Hanse 510, and RS Toura just to name a few. Whether they’re looking for a new boat or just window shopping, attendees can board any vessel and talk with the manufacturers, designers or dealers.

The best part of being at the Annapolis Sailboat Show is the people you meet and the expertise they bring with them. You’re liable to run into anybody from America’s Cup sailors to circumnavigators; not just at the show, but at the local bars in the evening too. The show has been bringing sailors together for over half a century, so many people treat it as an annual get-together. And, with such an outgoing group, it’s an easy tradition to fall into.

Even though Annapolis is a little off the beaten path when compared with Washington DC, or New York, one of the sailboat show’s draws for international visitors is that it’s easy to get to. The showgrounds are an easy 30-minute drive from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) and just over an hour from Reagan National and Washington Dulles International. For those coming by boat, Annapolis is less than 130 miles from the mouths of the Chesapeake and Delaware bays with moorings and marina berths within walking distance of the showgrounds. Accommodation is also easy to come by. There are historic hotels close to the show as well as the standard fare of chains and short-term rentals.

While the show is primarily an exposition, it also serves as a celebration of sailing. With over 500 exhibitors, free daily seminars from industry experts, and easy access to America’s Sailing Capital, there’s something for every type of sailor at the Annapolis Sailboat Show. All that’s missing is you.

Click here for more information on the Annapolis Sailboat Show

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