The yacht racing industry gathered in Malta for two days © Rick Tomlinson / Yacht Racing Forum
The yacht racing industry gathered in Malta for two days
What is the state of our sport following two years of disruption? How can its status, visibility and commercial attractiveness be improved? What will be the future of our sport, both from a technological and commercial point of view? These are some of the questions that industry leaders sought to answer over the two days conference at the Yacht Racing Forum / Design & Technology Symposium in Malta.
The participants' concerns as well as hot topics have clearly evolved over the years. 2022 speakers discussed youth access to the sport, the commercial potential of sailing and the impact of the new Olympic classes on media coverage. But they also explained how the sport can benefit from blockchain technology and detailed some legal implications of the Covid pandemic. Blockchain and Covid, two words that didn't exist three years ago.
New initiatives and world firsts were announced at the Forum, such as the Foiling Professional Association, the Blue Economy Inclusivity Project and the Sustainable Marine Alliance. Formula 1 was taken as an example by Cyril Abiteboul, former managing director of Renault F1, now managing director of CDK Technologies. Best practice in the use of social networks was also discussed, as well as the tendency of the top end of the sport to be ever more extreme and spectacular.
The Yacht Racing Forum has always been a pioneer and advocate of social and environmental change in the sport. Gender equity and equal opportunities were at the heart of many presentations.
At the Design & Technology Symposium, discussions revolved around the evolution of foils and their adaptability to more popular yachts than the America's Cup or Vendée Globe machines. Doyle Sails' CEO Mike Sanderson presented the key technical drivers of change in sailmaking. Other presentations focused on the latest aero and load monitoring gains, high performance protective polymers and the future of IMOCA. Sustainability in the development and construction of racing yachts was also addressed for the first time.
The end of the conference focused on the top end of the sport. Bruno Dubois began by presenting SailGP's vision and plans for the future, followed by the concrete case study of the canadian model. The World Match Racing Tour and the Star Sailors League explained where they are heading, while Dee Caffari, Ian Walker and Kate Cope explained why double-handed racing is popular.
Are eight round the world races too much? Race organisers and round the world sailors including Johan Salén (The Ocean Race), Don McIntyre (Golden Globe Race), Dee Caffari and Conrad Humphreys gave their answers.
The conference ended up with interesting presentations about the trickle down effect of the America's Cup on mainstream sailing and a preview of the Ocean Race, starting in less than two months.
The yacht racing industry is healthy and dynamic, and the 13th edition of the Forum reflected this evolution as well as the sports' extraordinary diversity.