In some walks of life the social season involves large hats, strawberries and venues synonymous with glamour and style, like Ascot, Henley and Glyndebourne.

In some walks of life the social season involves large hats, strawberries and venues synonymous with glamour and style, like Ascot, Henley and Glyndebourne.

Not ours. Once the season for actually going boating starts to draw to a close, the season for talking about it gets under way, just up the road from Southampton Docks. To turn an anonymous and rather tired municipal park into such a carnival of conspicuous consumption takes a great deal of money, imagination and sheer, mindless optimism, which is the very fuel that the marine trade runs on. Somehow the organisers of the Southampton Boat Show manage this conjuring trick every September, and their efforts are mirrored in quick succession as first Genoa, then Hamburg, Fort Lauderdale, Barcelona, Paris, London, Düsseldorf and Miami all take their turns at being the boating capital of the world for a week or so. But by then it’s spring, thankfully, and we can stop talking about it and start boating again, and trying out our new toys.

These days the big shows are so big, the new equipment is so complicated, and the new boats are so extraordinary that it’s best not to try and cram it all into one visit. Our Southampton show preview this year is designed to encourage you to relax, pace yourself, perhaps even stay over. It may not be Ladies’ Day at the races, and pig roast and stout is hardly strawberries and cream, but it’s still one of the great events of the year. (on last p)