02/11/2013 to 02/18/2013
Lake Havasu is once again set to be invaded by the annual Havasu Pocket Cruisers Convention. An expected 500 sailors and 250 trailerable sailboats will converge on the small dessert town for the yearly gathering.
The small dessert community, known for boisterous spring break crowds and loud summer weekends changes its face in the winter. Recently named as one of SAIL Magazine’s Top 10 Locations to Take Your Trailer Sailor, largely in part due to the HPCC, Havasu has become a winter “Sailing Nirvana” for hundreds of snowbound sailors across North America.
The HPCC has grown phenomenally in just 6 short years to the premier trailer-sailing event in North America, attracting sailors and boats from as far as the East Coast, Canada, and even overseas. The event shows unprecedented growth year after year especially considering many similar events nationwide have seen declining participation during the long economic downturn. Huge press coverage in every major sailing publication including pages of full color photos of sailors on Lake Havasu has fueled the enthusiasm for the event and Lake Havasu. The HPCC has signaled a shift in the American sailing industry towards support for the more reasonably priced trailer sailor market.
“The financial impact to our community is Huge…” says founder/organizer Sean Mulligan. “…We are expecting 500 participants for the 2013 event. Based on the information received on their registrations and hotel/slip bookings, the average stay in town is 11-12 days. Our demographic are 45-65 year old couples with median incomes in the $95K range. Many arrive early and stay late and by early and late, I mean months. We have even had members purchase 2nd homes here. That is a tremendous boost to our hospitality industry and our community.”
Currently there are participants signed up from 25 states and 2 Canadian Provinces for the 2103 event. The average mileage being driven to attend the event, with a boat in tow…one way…is 640+ miles. Over 95% of the participants are from out of town. There will be at least 87 different makes and models of sail boats attending and that, in and of itself, has become a draw. Many of the registrants that are signed up who are attending without a boat a boat in tow are doing so because they are in the market to purchase one. Havasu is the one and only place that they can go to see nearly every boat in the pocket cruiser category not only on display, but on the water. They can also talk to and interact with the folks that actually own and sail them. Mulligan says.. “There really is no better way to do your market research if you are looking to get into the sport. You can’t even get that at the big national level boat shows, and especially not for this category of boat.”
Throughout the weeklong event participants will enjoy sailing, fun racing, a gps based poker run, educational seminars, key note speakers, and organized social events. Large emphasis is placed on safety education, sailing education, and the camaraderie aspect of the event.
“Sailing in a very unique sport” says Mulligan. “It attracts a special type of person. There is a learning curve involved in order to be able to undertake the types of adventures many of the HPCC members enjoy. While some strictly enjoy day sailing, many of them take these small boats on journeys and adventures unknown to the average boater. To be able to take a small sailing craft on trips that can be multiple days in duration covering hundreds of miles involves exceptional boat handling skills, sailing skills, navigation skills, weather forecasting skills, heavy weather seamanship, and self sufficiency…it really involves a skill set much more than the average weekend boater posses. Sailing is not an “instant gratification” sport. If you have never sailed before, a salesman cannot take your money, put you on a sailboat, show you the throttle handle and turn you loose with any hope for success. That’s certainly not meant to downplay powerboats, but sailing is very different. The common bond here is that these folks understand that there is a reward for the effort placed to get educated and learn a skill, and they are willing to put in the time, effort, and energy to do that. In return for their efforts learning the Art of Sail they enjoy the rewards of incredible adventures and personal satisfaction. Although we often get some good natured ribbing about our “cute little boats”, as most folks only see these boats/crews at a dock or just out for a day sail, most people would be amazed learning the types of trips these boats and crews do routinely. These guys are the unknown adventurers among us”
Pocket cruiser sailboats have been a very small niche in the boating world, but in the last 5 years the popularity of the sport has increased tremendously. Rising costs and dwindling incomes have meant that larger sailboats too big to trailer have become more and more difficult to finance for the middle classes. “The incredible thing about a well found Pocket Cruiser is that, although I personally cannot afford a 50’ cruising sailboat and all the associated expenses on my income….I sail right into the same exact beautiful remote island anchorage in the San Juan islands of Washington, or the Channel Islands off the California Coast, or wherever, …that all the big boys are in. We drop anchor or tie up right next to them. It’s awesome! We were sitting at a dock in Ganges Harbor – Salt Spring Island, British Columbia when a Mega Yacht came in and tied up. After the owners jumped off (golf clubs in hand)…the paid Captain of the mega-yacht came over to visit our group of Pocket Cruisers who were all traveling together. He took a look at our boats (we had a group of 17) and all of us enjoying each other’s company after a beautiful sail to get there that day. When we explained that we were on a 14 day 200 mile cruise through the islands hitting a new anchorage or harbor every day… He started shaking his head… “Now THIS is boating! He said…”You guys got it figured out….”
Different than larger sailboats, being trailerable, a Pocket Cruiser allows the owner to take the boat to any body of water they may want to cruise and explore at “highway speeds”. This makes it the working man’s yacht. A non-trailerable 40 or 50 footer’s only option to reach a new cruising ground to explore is to sail there. That could take weeks to even get to where you wanted to start exploring, or it might even be impossible to get your big boat there. This is definitely not the ideal setup for someone with only 2- 3 weeks vacation each year. With the pocket cruiser…we can take 2 days of road travel with the boat in tow….and be at almost any cruising ground we wish….then the rest of our vacation time is spent on the boat exploring. This, along with the cost savings of being able to avoid slip fees, bottom cleaning, and the maintenance that is involved in the upkeep of larger boats is driving the shift towards smaller but capable boats.
As an example the Mulligans have sailed their boat, “Dauntless” a 1979 Montgomery 23, from the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, to San Diego and most places in between. In fact, “Dauntless” took second place in her class in the big-boat dominated “Border Run” race run last July. The race covered nearly 100 miles of coastal sailing between Long Beach Ca and San Diego, CA and the course took “Dauntless” over 20 miles offshore overnight for a 28 hour run down the coast. “We were by far the smallest boat out there that finished the race. That kind of adventure is not for everyone…” says Mulligan, “but it definitely shows how capable some of these boats are. Some of our group just enjoys peaceful light-air day sailing. Most of our group is somewhere in the middle. “
Mulligan reflects on where the HPPC has come from and where it’s going: “Lake Havasu has a very unique opportunity here. We currently are the home of the world’s largest gathering of people from an up and coming sport that is receiving national and worldwide recognition. This is very reminiscent of how the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta came into fruition. Being known as a “powerboat town”, this was a very hard sell at first. I think now folks are beginning to see the light. Our winters here can be just as big of a draw on our waters as our summers are. It just requires a fresh look at what we have to offer and taking a different tack. I think we are well on our way.
The 2013 Havasu Pocket Cruisers Convention is based out of the London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu. Event dates for 2013 are from Monday 2/11/13 through Monday 2/18/13. Event fees are $50/boat (which includes a crew of up to 5) or $25/couple without a boat. Information including the Itinerary, a list of Who and What Boats are attending, Seminar Descriptions, Sponsors, Social Events, Sailor Biographies of participants, Current up to date Stats on registration #’s, mileages attendees are driving, video gallery, gallery of photos of previous events, and much, much, more is all available from the event website at: www.sailhavasu.com