New boats and new technology at the world's biggest indoor boat show sit comfortably alongside classic yachts, DIY demonstrations and the 111-year-old Dusseldorf Yacht Club

In terms of size, scope, ambition, number of exhibitors – pretty much any measure you care to mention – Dusseldorf Boat Show (19-27 Jan) is one of the world’s biggest.

Take a look at April’s round-up of new boats and gear from Dusseldorf – on sale mid-February

Now in its 50th year, what started out as an inland waterways trade show on the banks of the River Rhine now occupies 17 enormous halls covering an area three times the size Excel Centre, the former London Boat Show venue.

Each hall is devoted to a specific type or area of boating: sail, power, superyachts, equipment, learning, holidays, scuba diving, fishing, marine art and surf/kite/sailboard – to name but a few.

Almost every one of the 17 halls has its own stage with seating and audio-visual presentation: a programme is published daily just listing the live events, including a handy note for UK visitors showing which ones are in English.

Marine art hall 8 at Dusseldorf Boat Show

Marine Art

Marine Art Hall 8 at Dusseldorf 50th annual boat show

Stairway to ‘Beach World’

Second-hand boats for sale noticeboard in Hall 9

DIY demonstration

New scooter being demonstrated on a stand

Hard at work on the Classic forum

Try sailing pool for children

New boats and gear at Dusseldorf

Every boatbuilder you can think of is in attendance with Beneteau, Jeanneau and Bavaria occupying stands in multiple different sections of the show: sail, power, fishing, starter boats. There are dozens of vessels by all of the premium brands – most open to the public to look over – but there is also no shortage of alternative builders, classics and budget options.

At Boot 2019, Jeanneau is busy launching the new Sun Odyssey 410 aimed at improving cruising performance with increased sail area and reduced ballast in the keel. Stability instead comes from new hull lines that create greater form stability. It’s the latest model to offer the sloped side decks to the transom, which permit the coamings to be higher, which in turn offers greater cockpit protection and more crew comfort. A model of the new SunFast 3300 was also on display, described as being an out-and-out IRC racing machine.

Having completed the purchase of Seascape Yachts and rebadged that company’s fleet of sub-30ft performance cruisers, Beneteau has announced sea trials of its own-design new First 30.1. Look out for more details and a test sail in PBO before the end of the year. Plus we hope to find out more about the Beneteau Boat Club, which is an initiative by the French company to get more new people into sailing by supplying the boats and the booking app that will enable people to sail a variety of models multiple times before committing to buying their own boat.

Prize-winning yachts from the 2019 EYOTY (European Yacht of the Year) included a surprise win for the Liteboat trailable rowing/sailing/camping Lite XP. Based in Lorient, Brittany, the company sells nearly 100 rowing skiffs per year, but the founder is a fan of sail and has taken a whole new approach to this vessel. Lightweight and uncomplicated to sail and rig, the cabin sleeps two and there is an optional cockpit tent. Designed to be sailed in coastal conditions (RCD Cat C), the Lite XP comes with removable wheels that enable her to be rolled ashore for the night. There is currently no UK dealer, but we have been invited back to Germany (and Lorient) to test one: watch this space.

Liteboat Lite XP

Liteboat Lite XP

Liteboat Lite XP

Liteboat Lite XP

The Nimbus Weekender 9, Nordkapp Noblesse 660 were also EYOTY winners in their categories and the annual innovation award went to Garmin for its Panoptix livescope system – we will be reviewing that in the near future.

Raymarine/FLIR announced its new ‘hands-free’ docking system, which will be fitted to the Prestige brand of powerboats starting later this year. The five cameras will act like parking sensors in a car and control the thrust via the joystick system.

Dusseldorf Yacht Club – founded 1908

Southampton, Cannes, Annapolis, Miami and Genoa all boast big yacht clubs as well as big boat shows. But what about the Dusseldorf Yacht Club?

Situated on the east bank of the Rhine and over 150 miles from the North Sea (by car), the 400 committed members of DYC face significant challenges in pursuit of their sailing enjoyment.

Dusseldorf Yacht Club stand

The mighty river, which rises in the Swiss Alps, flows north at up to 6.5 knots when the water is high; 3.5 knots at normal water levels.

The main sailing area is on the shallower west bank where the current is less severe, but as one member explained to me: “You sail as fast as you can just to stay still!”

The river is 400m wide but the sailing area is also limited by the clearance under the road bridge to the north (Flughafenbrucke) and another to the south (Teodor-Heuss Brucke), both of which are designed for large river cruisers and barges to go under, but not the mast of the H-Boat – the one-design keelboat raced at the club.

But as with many inland sailing clubs – quite a lot of the members sail elsewhere. In early summer, each year, a group of members will de-rig a small fleet of the H-Boats and head north to set up base for the season on the Dutch inland seas. Then at the end of the season they will be towed individually back to Dusseldorf by the powerful barges that still ferry tons of goods and raw materials up and down the Rhine.

Then in early December, club members put on a thank-you party for the bargemen, many of hwom live aboard their vessels, and give gifts to the children. “It is our way of saying thank-you, but also a gift to encourage them in the future to use their power so that we can sail.”

The club also owns a lake where they teach children to sail in Optimists and Lasers, plus there is a club yacht, an X-442, that lives in Greece and is available to members.

Worth a visit from UK?

Definitely! There is so much to see and do here for children, adults, families and of course every type of boat and water activity enthusiast. Tickets cost €14 per day and if booked well in advance, flights are very cheap from half a dozen UK airports. Warning: unless you have been before you will need at least two days at the show!