STORM navigation was the key theme as Hampshire Chamber of Commerce welcomed the return of its popular Southampton International Boat Show lunch.

More than 120 business leaders attended the occasion, held just yards from the show at the Leonardo Royal Hotel Southampton Grand Harbour.  

Recognised as the signature event on the business membership organisation’s social calendar, the lunch could not take place last year because of the pandemic hiatus. Keynote speaker this year was Warsash-based round-the-world yachtsman and ex-BT Global Challenge skipper Mark Denton.

Drawing on his theme of ‘navigate the storm’, he put the subject of resilience in the face of challenges into a business context.

Mark said: “A lot of people think we are coming out of the storm because they feel Covid is receding but its long-lasting impact is still affecting business, so in fact the storm is still in front of us.   

“My message is all about emerging stronger from adversity and change. In business you need to do three things with your teams. First, start with safety. That means emotional and psychological safety. Don’t sleepwalk. Have honest, open discussions about confronting the challenges you face.

“Second, hoist happiness. Make sure people are on board and happy to work well and contribute.

“Finally, focus on fast. Slow boats never win. You have to respond quickly to what has changed for you.”

Also speaking at the event, and keen to highlight the economic benefits of the Boat Show, were Lesley Robinson of show organisers British Marine and Councillor Daniel Fitzhenry, leader of Southampton City Council. 

Lesley Robinson told the audience: “The past 18 months have proved how resilient the British marine industry really is, and we are delighted and excited to be back this year with Britain’s biggest boating and watersports show.

“We are welcoming over 350 marine brands, and over 500 boats, including 300 on the marina and we are expecting over 100,000 visitors over the ten-day event. 

“This year we are focusing even more on the local residents with a dedicated Community Day and we anticipate encouraging 14,000 people to get out on the water.”

Councillor Fitzhenry also stressed community involvement.

He said: “It is great to see the Boat Show back in our waterfront city and helping to get Southampton moving again. We are delighted to be working with Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and British Marine as well as the business community. We encourage residents across the city to take advantage of the reduced entry fee on community day, to enjoy activities such as paddle boarding and connecting with the water.”  

In staging the lunch, Hampshire Chamber marked 52 years of continuous involvement since the first Boat Show took place.  

Peter Taylor, Hampshire Chamber Board member and leader of the chamber’s Southampton team, said: “The Boat Show is a key asset for Southampton. It attracts people from far and wide, puts us on the international stage and provides a real boost for the local and regional economy. For it to be back on the calendar is a hugely positive step forward. We thank each of our speakers for sharing their insight on business and the marine sector and Mark especially for his thoughts on staying resilient and positive in the face of stormy seas.”

Previous keynote speakers at the annual Chamber lunch include Desert Orchid jockey Colin Brown, elite yachtsman Conrad Manning and wheelchair rugby player Aaron Phipps, a member of Great Britain’s gold medal-winning team at this summer’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo.