Sanctuary Cove to celebrate 25 years of evolution

Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show 2010
Sarah Ruggiero


On the busy marina, Bob Wonders is watching a young couple who’ve presumably taken the day off to admire the boats. Hand-in-hand, they are the epitome of young love. And in company of one of the multi-million dollar yachts on display, they look ready to set off on honeymoon.

'When I was a kid a bloke wouldn’t even tell his wife he was buying a new boat,' says Wonders, chuckling through a thick white moustache. 'She would be lucky if she found out.'

While his eyes follow the excited couple as they examine a nearby power cruiser, Wonders reminisces about the local boating industry, harking back to a time when Technicolor hulls and stainless steel appliances were futuristic designs and inconceivable elements.

'It was only men back then,' says Wonders. 'But today they certainly make an attempt to promote the female side of things. It’s amazing how the industry has grown.'

Wonders has been a boatie since his youth. As an established industry personality, he spent much of his career with Riviera and Maritimo. He’s seen the industry grow and prosper, adapt to economies’ needs, and change with customers’ desires. But most importantly, he’s watched the boating industry become a reflection of each era.

'The Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show is certainly a sign of changing times,' says Wonders. 'Talk about home away from home, the comforts on board today would have absolutely blown people away 30 or 40 years ago. With flat screen televisions, microwave ovens, coffee makers. The improvement in boating in that sense has just been amazing.'

Sanctuary Cove will celebrate its 25th anniversary in May.
Sarah Ruggiero


Aside from the greater inclusion of female boaties, Wonders credits the evolution in product with the industry’s growth.

'Gasoline engines are faster and diesel engines are lighter,' explains Wonders. 'Fibreglass has improved out of sight. The interiors of boats are absolutely magnificent. Some of them would make a double page spread in Architectural Digest.'

And some of them have. Many of the catamarans, yachts, and cruisers on display have featured in magazines articles, television specials and online advertisements all over the world.

But with improved products, comes hefty price tags.

'The prices have changed since the beginning of the show,' explains Wonders. 'For example a boat selling for $200,000 would have been at the higher end 25 years ago. The most expensive boat here is the Grand Banks, built in Singapore. A magnificent boat, it’s yours for four million.'

But according to Wonders, the Boat Show wasn’t always so grandiose. In fact, as he describes it, Sanctuary Cove’s initial events were meagre in comparison.

'It was a very small show when it started out,' describes Wonders. 'I can remember there were a few tinnies along the marine village and it was hard to tell exhibitors from attendees.'

Families enjoy Sanctuary Cove's waterfront venue
Sarah Ruggiero


In contrast, 2012 saw nearly 38,000 attendees walk through the door, a 1.6 per cent increase from last year.

'The show just grew gradually over the next couple of years and it certainly became the biggest non-capital city boat show in Australia,' says Wonders.

Boat show organisers agree.

'The [boat show’s] evolution has been remarkable,' confirms Phil Shaw, Events and Operations Manager. 'From the first show when they had about 40 boats on the water and 40 to 50 exhibitors, right up to the biggest year which had 450 boats on the water and 427 exhibitors.'

While Shaw has spent time promoting and organizing the show nationally, another official, Barry Jenkins, has seen the accumulation of his 24 years of involvement result in raising the show’s international status.

'Sanctuary Cove [Boat Show] opened in January 1988,' said Jenkins, Boat Show Manager of International Relations. 'It was such a success that we decided then that we would continue the Boat Show. As the industry grew, the boat show grew with the industry.'

Jenkins knew that in order for the boat show to succeed, the event needed international recognition. This global status has propelled the Boat Show’s evolution from local show, to an event with international stature and pull.

Sue Thomson, the Boat Show’s General Manager said the addition of international customers and brands has brought a new dimension into the Show.

'I think it’s important to build on our [international status] each year,' explains Thomson. 'We hold our international status quite proudly. It’s important for us every year to work in partnership with industry associations and our delegates to bring international visitors to the boat show. We’ll continue to work on that.'

One thing the Boat Show doesn’t have to work on is its location, boasting one of the best venues in the world.

'I can remember the manager of the London Boat Show being here a few years back in the year 2000,' recalls Jenkins. 'He spun on his heels in the middle of the marina village and said ‘this is the best venue in the world to run a boat show.'

Sanctuary Cove, nestled into the northern region of Queensland’s Gold Coast, is accredited with a portion of the Boat Show’s 24 years of success. Owned by Mulpha Australia Limited, the $2 billion complex is ‘Australia’s leading and most successful master-planned community’.

Many feel Mulpha’s commitment to balancing community and commercial expectations helped provide the ideal waterfront venue in which to operate the Boat Show.

'It all centres around the marina village, which has restaurants and retail and commercial and all sorts of things within it,' explains Jenkins. '[The village] pumps along all year so that when we start building the Boat Show around the village, the village actually becomes the heart of it all and provides the pulse that makes the rest of the boat show work. That helps us then create the atmosphere in which the Boat Show exists.'

It’s this heart that has Boat Show officials anticipating next year’s anniversary event.

According to Winson Chow, Mulpha’s Chief Operating Officer, planning is already underway for the celebratory show, which is geared to highlight Sanctuary Cove’s 25 years of evolutionary progress.

'As we head towards the significant milestone of the 25th Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, 23 to 26 May 2013, we are looking forward to an even stronger event,' he said.

"Sanctuary Cove is known as one of the best boat shows in the world." - Phil Shaw, Events and Operations Manager
Sarah Ruggiero


Although specific details won’t be released until closer to the event, officials promise the anniversary celebration will be bigger than ever before.

'I guess it’s kind of reached its maturity,' said Jeni Bone, Boat Show Media Liaison. 'From the 25 year onwards the plan is to diversify and be more dynamic year after year.

It’s this ever changing, dynamic approach that will continue to cement Sanctuary Cove’s annual event in premier boating scope and stature.

'The boat show will go on to support the industry through the 25th and beyond,' asserted Jenkins. 'Its about selling boats, its about selling equipment and everything else that goes with boating. But it’s also a lifestyle. It gets you away from the world. And there is no doubt then when you get on the water, it’s another world.'