The PBR team were in full force filming and live-reporting at the 2023 Cannes Yachting Festival. HMS here provides a flavour of the French Riviera’s glamorous, world-beating six-day event and describes why its unique take on the world of powerboating is so alluring.

The 2023 Cannes Yachting Festival opened its gates amid typically glorious French Riviera weather, with some 700 or so craft displayed within two dedicated marina complexes. Vieux Port, the larger of the two marinas, is nothing short of a powerboater’s paradise, with the majority share of 540 motorboats being displayed there. As in previous years, Vieux Port’s 2023 dazzling array of craft and specialist products proved second to none, with every form of waterborne projectile imaginable being shown in a style and setting that few shows in the world can equal. Everything associated with powerboats and powerboating is found within the festival’s Vieux Port arena, panoramically located as it is beneath the gaze of Cannes old town, set in its commanding hillside position.

Cannes Yachting Festival CYF - Pirelli

The place to launch

This year’s show saw all the leading continental companies and brands exhibiting their wares, as well as a goodly mix of names from further afield, including a strong contingent from the United States. Most of these were displayed afloat at the 2023 event and they included a host of companies choosing to use Cannes to debut new products. Among them were such well-known names as Windy, Saxdor, Beneteau, Antaris, Axopar, Navan, Rand, Wellcraft, Lekker, J Craft, Four Winns, iKon, Solaris, Lomac, Joker, Wally, Novamarine, Apreamare, Sacs Tecnorib, Anvera and many others. In fact, 120 different companies in all displayed their very latest models at this year’s show, launching in fine style to the many thousands of adoring onlookers who appeared to never cease flooding through the gates.

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Waterborne

The Cannes Yachting Festival, while being the largest and most successful boat show of its type in Europe, runs for just a little over half the length of time that the Southampton Boat Show chooses to slog on for. For six days, within the heart of the sparkling Bay of Cannes, more than 610 exhibitors, including many of the biggest international shipyards, exhibit not only ashore, but also afloat. Many of these craft, both large and small, are available for sea trial too. And when I say sea trial, I really mean sea trial! Not just a quick flip around a buoyed, slow-speed circuit, but out across the Bay of Cannes itself.

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While being a popular anchorage for visiting superyachts during the event, the crescent-shaped bay offers near-unhindered, ‘open ocean’ freedom that really does allow a craft to be genuinely put through its paces. During the course of the show, you’ll find a lot of marine journos and film crews out in the bay, all seeking to get that hot product ‘scoop’. (A gated system dictates the movement of exhibition traffic to and from the sea, and most, if not all, exhibitors abide by a strict demonstration schedule.)

Added experience

For those companies wishing to treat potential clients and favoured owners to an experience even more special than a high-speed chase, the islands of Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat, located a mere 15-minute east-going voyage beyond the Cannes Harbour approaches, offer an extra special experience. These low-lying white limestone isles, so rich in history, are beautiful to visit, and after a long, hot day at the show, you’ll find quite a number of craft leaving their marina berths to lie at anchor in the vivid blue, shimmering shallows found between these two islands. Swimming off the boats or simply enjoying the pleasure of sipping a G&T as the sun dips behind the mountains in the western sky provides a wonderful end-of-day finale for those lucky enough to experience it.

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Mission accomplished

Festival Director Sylvie Ernoult told PBR: ‘As always, our main objective is to satisfy our customers, serve the marine industry and put on the best event possible for our visitors. We are set on giving each boat, brand, piece of equipment and innovation the best showcase we possibly can. It’s my personal hope that our visitors will find the boat or equipment of their dream at the festival.’ I would concur that the six-day festival achieved this to a praiseworthy degree and also provided an insight into new and current trends.

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Innovation

For instance, an on-water concourse was selected to exclusively showcase electric-powered craft and related technology. In addition, it was noteworthy that a healthy proportion of the landside exhibits were pursuing sustainable technologies of one sort or another as well. And the fact that the show organisers had committed to the creation of a special e-power zone was commendable. It’s my hope this will expand in its remit to include sustainable alternative technologies such as biofuel- and hydrogen-powered craft in the years to come – perhaps even featuring prototype products and the like too. This year’s show also saw the introduction of a special on-water zone specifically for boats in and around 8 metres in length. About 50 of these were displayed and it gave the ‘smaller’ end of the industry a viable say alongside the big hitters. Again, this was good to see.

Hull on display in Cannes

Trends

One common theme seen among so many of the craft displayed at the 2023 Cannes Yachting Festival was that of the big, social aft deck. Countless boats, all displayed stern-on to the marina walkways, showed off their elaborate rear ends to the passers-by. The boats, their hulls and even their superstructures may have been different, but the design and layout of their open sun decks, along with their ‘furnishings’ and facilities, proved to have striking similarities. Of course, in the main, these deck designs are not relevant to the UK market. They are, after all, intended for the Mediterranean’s balmy climes as opposed to a wet weekend in Bognor! But if RIBs are your passion, then this element of the show is substantial enough in its own right to merit visiting the festival. The collection of what might be deemed ‘super-RIBs’ displayed at this year’s show was impressive, and it was very apparent that the big-RIB market is alive and thriving down here on the Continent. Besides their sheer size, the internal designs of these multi-cabined craft are awe-inspiring, as are their power plants. It’s perhaps obvious to state that the sight of triple- and even quad-outboard rigs is commonplace at this event, with Mercury unquestionably being the most prolific brand of outboard seen, followed by Yamaha, then Suzuki and lastly Honda, trailing a long way behind their peer group.

If you wish to visit the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2024, I guarantee you’ll absolutely love seeing the sights and experiencing the unique nature of this fabulous event and its location. With so much to see, my recommendation would be to aim for a three-day visit at least. And being a mere one and a half hours’ flying time from the UK, well surely, the prospect is hard to resist!

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Cultural Cannes

Cannes old town is a mere short walk from the show site and its public entrance, as is Cannes’ famous waterfront with all its typically regional restaurants and their lively, open-air dining areas. One of the great delights about visiting the Cannes Yachting Festival is, of course, the food and cultural experience to be enjoyed. And while the show itself has relatively little in the way of food and drink, just outside its perimeter fence there are literally dozens and dozens of eating places of almost every kind imaginable. Notable, however, is the total lack of fast-food and big-chain outlets, which is an absolute joy. Fast food just isn’t part of the culture here, and as a result, everyone looks considerably healthier for it! Our favourite places to eat were found in the little cobbled street that climbs the hill up into the old town, located at the western end of the waterfront/show site. Come the evening, its string of little restaurants, all candlelit, is a wondrous place to while away the late hours, and generally speaking, though filled with appreciative diners, a table can always be found without any difficulty. In fact, the show couldn’t be more conveniently placed in relation to all that Cannes has to offer, and in a sense, the show and the town become one over the duration of the festival.

Cannes Old Town

The nearest airport is Nice, a mere 45 minutes away, and there’s an abundance of places to stay, including self-catering, hotel and guest house accommodation – both within walking distance from the show and further afield, whichever is your preference.

Tide Media

Film coverage

Check out our filmed coverage of this year’s Cannes Yachting Festival highlights via the PBR Instagram page. In association with our exclusive film partners Tide Media PBR are bringing you more quality footage than any of its contemporaries at the show. We have lots of great material for you to see and a brilliant selection of many of the finest boats displayed at the show, including those our team sea-trialled. Follow our socials!

2024 Dates

10th to 15th September

See www.cannesyachtingfestival.com for all information.

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