All at sea on a swirl of publicity


What is it about the boat show that fills me with a sense of ennui? It was a perfect late summer’s morning as I climbed the wobbly steel steps across West Quay Road at the Southampton Boat Show. Brilliant sunshine painted the tented city of marquees of the about-to-open show: their sides gently lifting in the warming air. Out in Southampton Water the thrilling silhouette of a Tall Ship’s masts were etched against the New Forest. So what was this listless drear weighing my steps?
Suddenly the ship sailed into a clearing between the tents and I could see her hull and then I knew what it was. Lashed to her main rigging was a lurid, red plastic sign with the word HONDA written on it.
Can there be anyone in this wide world who has not heard of Honda? From the Amazonian tree-fellers cutting down the rain forest using Honda generators; to the street kitchen restauranteurs of Manila towing their eateries in place behind Honda motor-cycles to the retired Hampshire colonel using a ride-on Honda lawn-mower?
So why spoil a poetic moment with a vulgar commercial banner? Can I be the only one to have switched off once the offending plug came into view? Why do so few sailing events reach the psyche of the common man? Could it be because a round the world race is called the Volvo ? Cowes Week is, or was, called Skandia Cowes Week and our very own ocean race is called the Rolex Fastnet?
By the time I reached the dockside all the marquees had flown open and the stands were ablaze with every corporate, trade and business name in the marine world, fluttering, blazing and blinking at me.
It was enough to make me want to sail away from it all