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May 2, 2008

Marine industry casts Jack Sparrow adrift

With recent news that former National Boatshows managing director Paul Streeter has departed the UK for Middle Eastern promise and further news that, as of yet, no confirmed exhibitors for the proposed Earls Court Boat Show have been announced, pressure is mounting upon the start-up venture to confirm or deny the go-ahead for the proposed alternative London event in December.

The British Marine Federation (BMF), which runs the long-established London International Boat Show through its subsidiary, National Boatshows, published its repost on Youtube today with a compelling array of UK industry stakeholders and manufacturers adamant that there should be only one event in London, at ExCeL, in January. Fronted by a combination of industry leaders and celebrities, including Robert Braithwaite of Sunseeker, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Mike Golding, the message is a resounding “No!” to James Brooke and his Whyte & Mackay sponsored team to any dilution of the marine industry's core offering in January.

The Earls Court venue will itself be looking at its own tenancy charts, anxious for confirmation that the contract will be honoured rather than being left high and dry if the exhibitor tide is confirmed to have taken to ExCeL's Docks or indeed the Paris event, when a Christmas concert could have filled the venue slot instead. Certainly the Earls Court Boat Show website is lacking a great deal of thrust and one suspects that the skull and crossbones may soon need to be dropped in favour of a straight white flag unless the pirate event team can pull off a black pearl of their own.

However, Brooke is understood to be hugely charismatic and well funded. He may well refuse to bow to the UK industry heavyweights in favour of delivering a small UK boat and chandlery event with a foreign twist at the grown-up end of the market that also exploits the charm and nostalgia of days past, whatever the cost, as part of a longer-term strategy to gain a footprint in year one and thereafter to build upon it. The Earls Court initiative has without doubt forced the mother ship to take a long hard look at itself, and ExCeL will be a better place for it come January whatever the outcome of Brooke`s decision.

If Brooke and his team don't secure enough rebels from the industry camp, now may be a shrewd time to attempt the opportunity to trade or broker a Whyte and Mackay sponsored ExCeL event and cut his losses. For now, however, Cap`n Jack's holding on to his sea legs.

Click here to see the BMF video.

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