With nearly 4,300 verified visitors and 700 exhibitors from 55 countries, 2018 was a banner year for the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, held Oct. 2- 4 at the Convention center in Tampa, Fla., well in advance of hurricane Michael gathering force in the Gulf of Mexico. Reflective of the growth trend and the buoyant mood of the industry are the numbers for attendance and exhibitors, which grew by 23% and 14% respectively, compared to 2017. Succinctly, the IBEX Education Conference was also rising in popularity, with a 27% increase in seminars sold. Kicking off the multifaceted program of 56 presentations, was the special session “Designing for Speed,” moderated by Aaron Porter, editor of Professional BoatBuilder. The venue filled to capacity with 160 people listening to a panel that featured naval architects Donald Blount, Michael Peters, Michael Reardon, Nigel Irens, and Peter Melvin. “It was a real treat to moderate a lively discussion,” Porter said. “It was a frank look at the designers’ dilemma, balancing speed with safety and more general performance for power and sailboats.”
Upbeat and informative
“The panel of famous designers impressed me, it got especially younger guys excited,” said Vince Nientimp, naval architect at Ocean5, who also co-presented a well-attended seminar during the IBEX Education Conference, about gyroscopic stabilization, along with Ocean5 founder John Canada and Chris Becker of Contender Boats. Nientimp observed the increase in vendor participation, especially from abroad. “This time the show seemed more interactive and the mood was very upbeat.”
A similar sentiment was rendered by Jeff Reber, lead technical support manager at Composites One, who hadn’t attended IBEX for several years, but came to Tampa to present a couple of seminars about composite repair and preparing and breaking test panels. “Walking around [the show], I did not notice too many new products on the material side, but lots of new accessories such as sound systems, LED lighting and fiber optics stitched into upholstery.” As a materials expert he’d like to see more about new tooling technologies, high-temperature tooling and ways to reduce costs of tooling. “Molds always can be better and gelcoat always is an interesting issue for me,” Reber said.
Sparks! sparked conversations
On the show floor the crowds were thick and enthusiastic while ProBoat’s editors met with readers who stopped by the booth to subscribe, renew subscriptions, suggest story ideas, render opinion about topics covered or not yet covered, and to engage in focused exchanges about industry challenges and technological needs, and just some good boat talk. Many also attended or heard about Sparks!, the Pecha Kucha-style presentations organized by ProBoat that took place Monday night with more than 100 designers, builders, repairers, and hangers-on in the audience. Topics ranged from the arcane to the mundane, including the stability of amphibious DuckBoats to strategies to reinvigorate the market for boating in North America.
3D-printing talk hints at the future
One of the Sparks! presenters, Stephen Wu, managing director of Alliance Management Group LLC, gave a highly anticipated talk at the IBEX Education Conference the following day, outlining the 3D-printing a construction mold for a 34-foot power catamaran (see Just Print it!, the cover story of PBB 175), along with Belle Blanding from Composites Consulting Group. It is the first time worldwide that 3D printing was used to produce large-size production tooling for any leisure craft. “The feedback we received was good,” Wu noted. “The audience was knowledgeable and asked specific questions. Everyone seemed to have a good reason to be there.” Wu also walked the show floor and found the an interesting blend of attendees, “not all pure boatbuilders – but a refreshing mix of builders and refitters.” But the favorable economy and the strong demand for boats might have limited the show’s attendance somewhat, Wu opined. “I think there could have been more people at the show, but they stayed home to build boats.”
Basics at IBEX Education Conference
ProBoat’s contributing editor Nigel Calder was busy meeting industry contacts and giving talks about over current protection, troubleshooting DC electrical systems, and maintaining clean diesel fuel. “For me, IBEX is a fabulous place to meet the technical gurus in our industry so I went from one meeting to another, interspersed with my seminars. Of the three I presented, by far the best attended was basic electrical troubleshooting. I think there is a real thirst for some fairly basic presentations.”
Show director Anne Dunbar had reason to be content with the exhibits and IBEX Education Conference: “[We received] positive response to our educational offerings, the exhibit halls were packed, and people really took advantage of what IBEX does best—bringing the newest elements of marine products and technology to our industry, in one place,” Dunbar summarized. “The increase in visitors, exhibitors, and exhibit space are all powerful indicators that the industry is as strong as ever.”
And most blessedly, no hurricane interfered with proceedings.