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US sailboat industry down 7 per cent in 2006

By IBI Magazine/Michael Verdon

The sailing industry sold seven per cent fewer units in 2006, according to the annual "State of the Industry" report compiled by The Sailing Company. Production of units declined to 14,945 units in 2006 compared to 15,996 units in 2005 the lowest levels in more than a decade. The domestic industry has shown a steady downward decline since its high point in 2000 of 22,164 units.

In terms of market segment, production of sailboats from 0 to 19 feet declined by eight per cent to 11,592 units. The study noted that manufacturers in the 10 feet and under category have reported major production declines for two years in a row. "This suggests a fundamental shift away from the smallest category," said the study.

In other categories, sailboats from 20 to 35 feet were off nine per cent to 2,071 units. Boats over 36 feet were up 14 per cent to 1,169 units. Exports of US-built sailboats were off by three per cent, according to the study. The industry also shed three per cent of its workforce.

The value of production, however, was estimated to have increased by five per cent to US$129.1 million.

The imported sailboat market continued to grow for the third year in a row, up 14 per cent in 2006 to 420 units compared to the same period a year earlier. The surge showed most in the 36 to 45 foot category, with an increase of 64 units compared to 2005. The study predicted single digit percentage gains for 2007.

In the bareboat charter segment, the study noted that charters were off slightly in 2006 to 26,781 weeks, compared to 27,213 weeks in 2005. The declines came in the weaker second half of the year. The Virgin Islands remains as the most popular charter destination, accounting for 41 per cent of the total weeks of charter. The second most popular area was the Pacific Northwest and California. The study said that total charters represented about US$74 million in business. The data was compiled from 66 charter companies.

(19 February 2007)

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