Reader's views

Your views on Earls Court Boat Show and fuel cells

Wednesday February 7th 2007, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Earlier this week we spoke to the organisers of the return of Earls Court Boat Show this December. This seems to have struck a chord with many UK readers.

David Williams offers this insightful comment:

This year's Excel boat show had no buzz or soul and was easily the worst yet. The organisers clearly took no notice of the feedback the sailing community was giving them (other than to promise all the right things in the advertising and fail to deliver).

The new Earls Court boat show in December is a positive development, although I'm not sure that the organisers would appreciate my rationale from believing this. Having two competing shows will initially be a commercial disaster for both and a nightmare for the industry to support. There's not enough business to support two shows in London so close together and most of us will go to one or the other. This will lead to a radical rethink by the London Boat Show which will go one of two ways: Either it will heed the wake-up call, move to a better location and look to rediscover its soul (and numbers) or it will redefine itself as the Motor-boat Show and concentrate on the 150 foot gin-palaces whose owners quite like Excel and weren't fussed about sharing with smelly yachties anyway.

Under the first scenario, Earls Court will close down as the need for it will have disappeared (and January is a better time for the show) and under the second, it will thrive as the sailing boat show. I think that the second scenario's a better outcome for the sailing community, firstly as it will be better focused on our needs at a location we all quite like, and secondly it does away with my annual argument with the children as too exactly why I don't want to look at the shiny new 400 foot Princess.

Jeremy Christey disputes our factual accuracy when it comes to the girls manning the Guinness stand

nah - the competant guiness girls were definitely there last year at Excel

From London Steve Lindley sends this:

I didn't miss a boat show for the first 10 years I was in London, going more than once a few years - then it moved to Excel, and I've been twice, but found the whole thing overly corporate and generally soul-less. Couldn't be bothered this year, apart from anything else it takes an age to get there, and there's diddly squat else to do in the area. (and that pub by the walkway outside is ****)

Can't wait for the return to Earls Court - couldn't care less if they can't fit the fattest Sunseeker in there.

Dinghy guru and our former madforsailing colleague Ges New writes:

Now, if they could get the Dinghy Show crowd in there somehow it would save that other awful trip upto the north of London and we could all leave Excel to the Gin Palaces.

Just make it a racers show - dinghy, keelboat and yacht and all the gear
traders and you cannot fail.

If only our side of the industry were that big....

William Tucker writes:

East London is SO far away I haven't been yet. A Guinness stand and lots of boats (well dinghies in particular) and I may well start going again. Also it will be easy to combine the show with some pre-Christmas shopping and staying with friends in the smoke whom we visit far to rarely. Thumbs up I think!

Ross Bateson adds this:

Apart from getting there, which you rightly point out as difficult, the main problem with the ExCel Boat Show is the size. OK, I admit having trouble differentiating Chilling from Cutter like anyone else, but the difficulty in actually finding anything in the place makes briefer visits confusing and normally pointless.

Crucially, and this is a point that is probably being addressed by the new show, it also makes it difficult finding anyone. Whether meeting up or randomly bumping into South Coast mates - a major good point of the Earl's Court show - it doesn't have the same feel.

From Brighton Jeremy Christey sends us this:

I'll go wherever the racers are, now if one could specialise...Plus the Guinness tent at ExCel this year had major problems - badly laid out, absolutely unmotivated staff, big queues - now at which show are those competent Guinness girls going to be? I'll be there because that's the office...

If my memory serves correctly the 'competent Guiness girls' were a feature of Southampton Boat Show. The Guinness stand at Earls Court in years gone by has traditionally been staff, for reasons I once fathomed but have long since forgotten, by airline staff.

Andrew Hurst, venerable editor of Seahorse magazine sends us this:

You know what, I thought the idea of a rival show was barking mad...but now I think it just might work. However for the trade the clash with Paris is a problem and for the 'family' draw, the fact that it is in term time is also a shame.

Best of luck guys; we're rooting for you to bring back some of the grass-roots 'appeal' that helped to get me into the game.

We put the clash with Paris to the show's organisers, who didn't think there would be much cross-over particularly in terms of attendees. I don't get the impression they are viewing this as being an 'international' boat show to the same degree as National Boat Shows desire with their show. However this is certain to be a drain on resources for some of the larger more international exhibitors.

What do you think? Have join the debate here

As a break from writing about pure yacht and dinghy racing we got the itch to write about the 21st century technology of fuel cells this week, another topic illiciting much response

Mike Stannard, CEO of Bac2 Conductive Composites writes:

Well done for putting out a piece on fuel cells. They are definitely the future. Voller are doing good things, but Maxpower have been selling to the yacht market for a little while as well now. They had them on their stand at the 2005 Southampton Boat Show.

Also of interest: I believe they are used instead of batteries on BMW Oracle (and probably some other ACC yachts) - Steve Hayles knows the details there.

Steve - out with it mate....

IT guru and model airplane specialist, Simon Hall writes:

Just a note on Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer batteries. You won't catch me on a boat equipped with a bunch of these things.

1) A short circuit or too much current draw can see them catch fire
2) Damage or a puncture of a cell will see them catch fire
3) Incorrect charging will see them catch fire (They require a purpose built charger and even then charging multiple cells in series can be problematic)

Li-Ion and LiPoly cells in particular are prone to 'thermal runaways' when overcharged or over discharged.

And once alight they produce plenty heat, flame, nasty gasses and smoke and are practically impossible to put out until they have burnt out. A dry extinguisher may work assuming you can get close enough to the venting cell. There are plenty of articles about phones and laptops igniting around on the web to give you some idea of how violent these cells can be.

I have plenty of packs for model flying purposes and they still frighten me silly after using them for several years.

The concept of then putting these potential bombs into a closed environment like a boat to power electrical circuits that are in a marine (i.e. hostile) environment sounds crazy to me. Okay I know we put gas and sometime petrol on board too, but they and their properties are generally understood by their users. Lead acids are on the whole cheap, reliable and abusable. Lithium cells, on the other hand, are expensive, will happily bite you if you misuse them and probably burn your boat to the waterline to teach you proper respect. Bit of a bummer, especially if you are in mid-ocean.

I would suggest that Lithium-type batteries are skipped on by the boating fraternity. If the fuel cell stuff is (or will be) safe, reliable and idiot proof (get RKJ to test!!) then great. But only if.....

Class 40 potential skipper Graeme Sutherland writes:

The article on Voller fuel cells that you posted today was interesting. I had a chat to Mark Tilley about them just before Christmas for my putative Class 40 project.

The fuel cell stacks that Voller are using probably come from Ballard, who're the big Canadian manufacturer. Interestingly, the cost of a small (1.2 kW) Ballard Nexa hydrogen powered cell is around the 5,000 euros mark. Or the same as something like a GenACis lightweight diesel genset.

The really annoying thing is that I had been looking into the idea of completely dumping diesel for the 40, but that's no longer possible. I did some rough drag calculations using the Electric Boat Association's websheets, and I could build an electric drive system that would weigh about the same as a diesel.

But the buggers on the Class 40 association have just reworked the rules, and banned lithium ion batteries, which are necessary for lightweight electric boats.(The Class 40 has also banned fixed bowsprits, carbon winches, coffee grinders, machined keels and require portholes in the roof and built in bunks. The association has the attitude that the boats must be cruiser-racers, whilst a lot of people seem to be after racers. There's a real French attitude about not wanting people to spend a lot of money on boats, and so try to keep all boats down to their chosen level.)

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