Rise of a Powerhouse

Over 58 years, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show has gone from modest to massive.

Yachting
The 1976 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.Yachting

Year after year, the docks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are lined with more than 1,000 boats for the city’s fall boat show. But they haven’t always been. Like most success stories, this one has been a journey.

Yachting
(Left) The Nauti-Cat 44 was a fiberglass-hulled motorsailer with wood trim for a traditional look. She had a 1,000-nautical-mile cruising range from her 106 hp diesel engine alone. (Right) The Vanguard 420 sailed for the win in that year’s 420 World Championships.Yachting

In 1959, only 13 exhibitors assembled at Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium for the first show. But 17 years later, Kay Pearson of Show Management took over and implemented some monumental changes. The exhibition was renamed the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), shifted to the fall (when builders released new-year models) and moved to a new location, the Bahia Mar Resort and Yachting Center. That 1976 show hosted 103 exhibitors.

FLIBS continued to evolve and Yachting, having attended the show since its early days, was there to see it. “I ­remember, more than anything, the transformation of the presentations,” says ­Terry Jacome, longtime Yachting sales representative and FLIBS attendee. Exhibitor displays were only tables with curtains until FairPromotion formed in 1994 and began to provide builders with open and luxurious roomlike stands. “Each stand would be individualized to express the uniqueness of the brand,” ­Jacome says. The presentations now reflected the same refinement as the products.

And those products have evolved as well. “When I started, a 60-foot boat was big … 100 feet was the monsters,” says Greg Wyckoff, Yachting sales rep, who will attend his 40th FLIBS this fall. “Now we are seeing boats that are 180 feet, 200 feet.”

Plus, FLIBS now hosts about 1,500 boats across seven locations. If you walk the main docks from end to end, you’ll trek 1.6 miles.

How will FLIBS develop in the coming years? We’re not sure, but Yachting certainly will be there to find out.

Yachting's October 1976 pages were packed with new models that would line the boat-show docks that year. Here are some of those classic craft.

Yachting
Designed as a “responsive family cruising boat,” the Hinckley 43 had a low wetted surface area and large rig. Hinckley Yachts originated as a sailboat builder and now builds both power and sail.Yachting
Yachting
Yachting noted that the Sea Ray 240’s stateroom had V-berths, a galley with ice box, and more. She also had a swim platform.Yachting
Yachting
The iconic Grand Banks 42, which debuted in 1965, was still going strong 11 years later. In fact, the builder produced a whopping 1,560 hulls through 2005.Yachting