With the Southampton Boat Show celebrating 50 years this September, we look at some key facts and moments since it launched in 1969

1969 – The Southampton Boat Show is born

Norman Kemish and Arthur Gale launched the first Southampton Boat Show which ran for a just six days, from 29 September-4 October. There were about 50 exhibitors, compared to 500+ today.
The early Boat Show was a far more modest affair than the 2018 event will be and was contained solely within Mayflower Park with the army, based on the other side of the river at Marchwood Military Port, supplying the small pontoon where just a handful of boats were moored.

Entrance on the first day was ten shillings (50p), while tickets for the remaining days cost three shillings (15p).

Southampton Boat Show in 1975



1980 Golden Hinde is the star attraction

Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde was the Show’s star attraction on the 400th anniversary of his circumnavigation of the world.


1981 British Marine takes over

Show founders, Arthur and Norman, handed over the reins of running the event to British Marine (then known as the Ship and Boatbuilders National Federation). However, 1981 was best remembered as the year gale-force winds ripped through the Show on its final day. Unfortunately, winds of up to 55mph turned the last hours of the event into a shipwreck as Ocean Hall was flattened.


1986 Richard Branson takes part in  the Show

Richard Branson displayed his Virgin Atlantic Challenger at the Show, whilst Virgin Atlantic presented a fashion show in the Virgin Atlantic Hall. Other guest appearances included stars of the popular sailing soap, Howard’s Way.


1988 Time to expand

The Show underwent a dramatic expansion on the water and 254 boats were showcased afloat.


1992 Britain pulls out of the ERM

1992 saw Britain pulling out of the European Exchange Rate (ERM) and the resulting Black Wednesday (16 September 1992), which cost the economy an estimated £3.3billion.


1993 The Show celebrates its 25th anniversary

The Show celebrated its 25th anniversary with an impressive guest list of VIP visitors that included Princess Anne and the king of Formula One at the time, Nigel Mansell. One of the head-turning attractions in the Show was a 20 metre long Jongert which had price tag of £1million – the same cost of staging the Show at the time.

Princess Anne sailing



1997 The Show is extended

The event was debated by Parliament which granted permission for an extra nautical day of pleasure and the Show was extended from nine to ten days.


1998 A Southampton Boat Show Wedding

Romance was in the air when a couple who met and courted on the waves tied the knot at the Boat Show. Newly-weds Wendy and Richard Keeble from Kingston, on board their Beneteau Oceanis 411 yacht, which they bought as a wedding present to each other  during a visit to the 30th annual Southampton International Boat Show.

Southampton Boat Show newlyweds Wendy and Richard Keeble aboard Oceanis 411


1999 Sunseeker Manhattan 84 at the Show

The most expensive yacht at the 1999 Southampton Boat Show was the £2million Sunseeker Manhattan 84. Former model Jodi Kidd graced the Marina in support of her husband who was releasing a new powerboat.



2001 James Bond’s boats on show

The Show teamed up with the organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race and Southampton City Council for Waterfront Week. It drew in visitors by proudly showing off speedboats from the James Bond films, as well as all the things that had by that point become standard – Try-a-Boat and the Marina.


James Bond boat


2002 The Endeavour replica

A replica of Captain Cook’s 18th century square-rigger Endeavour moored alongside the Show’s Marina.


Replica of 18th century vessel the Endeavour


2006 the Pirate Show

The Show turned ‘pirate’ with the introduction of its very own Treasure Island and it was ‘ooh arr me hearties’ all day long as the event supported International Talk Like a Pirate Day.


2012 Team GB

As well as welcoming a successful sailing Team GB, fresh from the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, the Show witnessed the Royal Marines attempting a 24 hour underwater Cycle of 240 miles, the equivalent of Cycling from Southampton to Paris.


2017 Record number of people on the water

The Show introduced its first ever passenger boat giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy a free boat trip on the Solent, taking in the impressive view of the Show from a new perspective. In total, the Show got a record 15,000 people on the water throughout the 10 days.