London's Alexandra Palace is truly a spectacular venue, perched high up above the suburbs of north London gazing south towards the Thames. It's ornate ironwork, timeless stones and eternally warm yellow bricks is one of the most delightful spectacles in London.
Curiously, Ally Pally seems much smaller on the inside than on the outside, but it is still a great arena for the RYA's annual Dinghy Show each March.
The Dinghy Show is an opportunity for sailors to discuss real sailing. No blazered crews, no GPS, no helicopter pads, no tenders and no acres of chrome. Just sailing. With sails. In the wind.
Many class associations present a few boats to seduce the unassociated or curious, usually with the promise of a day's trial sailing somewhere in the coming months. The Larks, for example, are being presented to the curious at Fishers Green SC next Saturday (although amusingly, volunteers on the FGSC stand were unaware of this!).
The world of sailing is populated by some very specific categories of people, notably the traditionalists (Enterprises, Solos, Graduates), the classicists (various One Designs from the Broads, the East Coast and Cornwall - and the Herons), the kids (Oppies, Toppers, Mirrors), the fit and active (Lasers, most of the RS's, Phantoms, Cherubs) and the insane (49er). You only ever see 49ers the right way up and stable when they are at a motorway service station behind a Volvo.
Most of these classes were present at the Dinghy Show and most did an excellent job of selling themselves, and delightfully dissing other classes. The only people who didn't warn me that Enterprises right with only two inches showing above the waterline were, oddly enough, those on the Enterprise stand. The implication was that when you roll an Enterprise, you need a salvage contractor to pump it out.
Funnily enough, the least 'sold' boats were the various Lasers and RS's. Maybe when you sell that many dinghies, you don't really need a class association. But the genuine warmth, friendliness and cheerfulness of the class associations certainly makes you head towards the Herons, the Enterprises, the Solos and the Cherubs.
Plenty to do, see and learn over two days, with the prospect of getting to see a celeb. "He's almost a cert for a medal at Weymouth," someone muttered to a mate, while nodding in one direction. All I could see was a stout gentleman in a blazer, looking lost.
The one downside was that the catering was just simply dire. The tables were filthy, everything was slopped into plastic trays and it was all so horribly unappealling. Truly awful. The food at the Excel in January was excellent, but I guess that's the difference between a monopoly and the free market, eh?
I was very surprised that there was no bookshop on site, other than the standard RYA selection. At Boat Shows, the book stands are always very well patronised.
I made my way home laden with class leaflets and brochures, and still no idea where I will land.
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