In the dead of winter, after the Christmas excitement is over, Londoners dream of a holiday in the sun. Reclining on the deck of a beautiful yacht with a cocktail in hand under a deep blue sky, clear water sparkling all around you and miles of coastline just waiting to be explored…who wouldn’t want to spend January cruising somewhere warm on their very own boat? For some, that’s the true attraction of the London Boat Show, which runs at the Excel Centre in east London from January 8-17, 2016.
The London Boat Show was held at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre from 1957, where visitors loved to see brand new sailing boats floating in the on-site pool. Warm lighting gave the whole area the feeling of being outside in the sun. Although sailing used to be an activity reserved only for the very rich, it started to become more accessible to England’s growing middle classes after WWII, and the show got bigger and bigger. In 2004 there were so many boats and exhibitors that the show was forced to move to its current quarters at the Excel Centre, still easily accessible from Hyde Park Paddington Hotels.
There are plenty of opportunities to see new watercraft being put through their paces, including the Watersports Action Pool where you can observe dinghies, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and canoes as well as newer inventions such as wakeboarding. In 2016, the Boat Show will host a Watersports Festival where you can have a go at a range of new and inventive ways to have fun on the water. Try your hand at walking on water in an inflatable wheel, paddle a sit-on-top kayak or get involved with the latest water-sports craze, SUP or Stand-Up Paddleboarding.
The bigger boats are outdoors in the show’s dedicated marina, right on the Thames, along with at least one naval ship – either a frigate or a destroyer, providing an interesting contrast to the ranks of pleasure craft. And there are plenty of them: the Indoor Boardwalk provides an easy way to view some of the larger craft from below the waterline, while outside you can see them with their masts fully extended in all their glory.
The 2016 shows will also feature a “60s Revival”, which promises to bring back to life the optimism and adventurous spirit of boating in the 1960s. One of the exhibits will be a restored Project 31, the first boat produced by luxury boatyard Princess Yachts, who are celebrating 50 years in the business. Other highlights will include Donald Campbell’s World Water Speed Record set in 1964 and the first Mirror Dinghy.
The London Boat Show will run at the Excel Centre from January 8th to January 17th. Adult tickets are £15 if bought before January 8, while children under 15 go free. As a 3-for-1 special, if you visit between January 8 and January 10, you can also see the Telegraph Cruise Show and Telegraph Travel Show at no extra cost. Don’t miss out!