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The Earls Court Boat Show - should you go?

This weekend has seen the start of the week-long Earls Court Boat Show, an all-new event which conveniently reprises the venue once home to the London Boat Show - itself now departed for the ExCeL centre and the windswept Docklands. The London Boat Show proper has a very mixed record in catering for the inland waterways. Does this one fare any better?

WW went along this weekend to find out. It's certainly an improvement over the dismal inland display at last year's "official" LBS. There's a modest selection of narrowboats, including some very interesting craft - notably Simpsons' tug & butty concept, where the cruiser stern can be detached from the 'unpowered' rest of the boat, and Maestermyn's novel 'love boat', designed for hirers seeking a romantic getaway!

The riverboat display also impresses more with its variety than its quantity. Alongside old favourites such as the Shetland Family Four (still only £9,999) and the Viking range are the elegant Interboat launches from Holland, rope edging and all, and some delightful Thames slipper launches. You can't help but contrast the fairly popular inland area with the coastal powerboat section, which is full of boats - notwithstanding the absence of big guys like Sunseeker and Fairline, whose dominance at ExCeL is rumoured to be one of the reasons for setting up this new show - but almost bereft of visitors.

The organisers say they are aiming to put the "show" back into boat shows, implicitly contrasting with the warehouse-like feel of ExCeL. Here they have succeeded. Features like a gallery of maritime art, a row of stands purporting to be Cowes High Street, and Royal Marines abseiling from the roof, give the show a sense of occasion. Sadly few of these are linked to the inland waterways, though there is the obligatory lock 'sculpture' that every show seems to have dragged out at one point, and the Guinness Bar is just across the way.

Should you go? With hand on heart, WW can't recommend that Midlands boaters make the trek down to see a small selection of inland boats. But if you're in London anyway, do pop in, maybe taking advantage of the reduced entry after 4pm. Attendance on Saturday was low, but had picked up on Sunday, and next weekend can be expected to be busier.

All in all, a respectable start - let's hope it encourages the organisers of the other London show to buck their ideas up.

Sunday 2 December  | Richard Fairhurst  | 8.43pm, Sunday 2 December 2007

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