Brush up on nautical knowledge ahead of boat show

By Beth Allcock on January 7, 2013 11:54 AM |


Paul Heys, managing director of Key Yachting, has exhibited at the London Boat Show for the past 33 years.

He offers some tips for Wharfers about buying their first boat at the London Boat Show, starting at the Excel on Saturday, and then setting sail on their maiden voyage.

■ Back to sailing basics. What types of sailing can people get into? Is it best to cruise or race?

There are three major disciplines of dinghy sailing; kiteboarding and windsurfing; and yachting. Yachting is where we are in the sector.

These can then be further divided up into racing or cruising. In our climate, racing is a good thing to do.

The weather is so awful so often we don't tend to mind it. If you're going cruising hoping to get your bikini on when you're on a boat in England, you can't do that every day.

People new to sailing come for different reasons, they're sat on the beach and think they'd like to give it a try or it's people looking for a hobby.

People find it a great relaxation as when you're sailing, you don't have time to think about normal stuff.

■ What boats will your company, Key Yachting, be bringing to this year's show? Are there any in particular suitable for beginners?

We are bringing five J Boats to the show. We sell more boats to first-time buyers from the J Boats range than our Grand Soleil range.

The latter are more expensive and, by the time people come to one of those, they have usually had a few boats before.

At the show, there will be a new J70 boat, it's the smallest at seven metres long and it's a racing boat for three to four people, costing £35,000 on-the-water.

The biggest is the J111 - at 11 metres long for eight to nine people, it's £250,000.

■ What kind of person tends to visit the boat show - a more experienced boater or a first-timer?

I think it's more than 90 per cent who are experienced and 10 per cent might be first-time buyers.

We all love to see newcomers and will look after them and make the process easier. They can see these boats and find out what it all costs.

Generally, people are cost-driven and some are more compatible with high figures to spend, and we can soon narrow it down.

Anybody who works in Canary Wharf can probably buy a pretty decent boat if they have a pretty decent job.

A lot of people by the time they get to the boat show have got the money in their purse and are comfortable they can do it.

I can't remember anybody that has bought a boat as a first-time buyer and given up in three weeks. All have gone on and enjoyed it.

They might have thought they were going racing and ended up going cruising, there's definitely a measure of that.

■ What is the most important thing when buying a new boat?

I think like with all things in life, people need a good rapport with their boat provider and find people they are comfortable to work with.

With boats it's different to cars. There is more interaction with the supplier and company.

We build up lifetime friendships with our boat owners and we have lots of owners that have been with us for 20 years. At the show, people need to take the opportunity to meet lots of different boat suppliers.

We give knowledge, advice and support to help them find crews if they need crews, or regattas if they need regattas.

■ Brand new or second hand?

At the boat show last year, I would think we sold 50 per cent new boats and 50 per cent second hand and that's simply because that made perfect sense for the buyers that came along.

If someone has £30,000 to spend, they can buy a brand new small boat or a much bigger 15-year-old boat. For that, they have got to have a tool box and know how to use it, because there will be more to do.

I think the bulk of people who have jobs in Canary Wharf will be people who are time-short and maybe money-rich and might be better with a new model because there is less to go wrong with them and they can go and enjoy them.

It would cost about £15,000 for a second-hand 24-footer.

■ What pitfalls do potential buyers fall into but should avoid?

I think people really need to try boats before they buy. People can go to the boat show and buy a boat but should make it subject to getting on the water with it, so they can come down and make sure they are comfortable.

Beginners should try to get some taster sessions too. If they fancy dinghy sailing they should look at dinghies, meet the dinghy companies and organise to go down and try a boat.

The companies will find the right clothing that you need too. As an industry, we are looking to foster long-term relationships and offer a friendship for people who want to buy a boat.

Go to for show information or for more about Paul's firm.