Photos: Dino Soldin / World Yacht Racing Forum

Reactions from the World Yacht Racing Forum

Ben Ainslie highlights the shortcomings of ISAF

Thursday December 13th 2012, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: Sweden

Ben Ainslie was the key speaker of the day. He opened the sessions with a keynote address during which he spoke with strong and passionate words about Olympic sailing, his next projects and the future of yacht racing in general.

Talking about Olympic sailing, Ainslie insisted on the fact that “the integrity of racing must be preserved despite the increase of commercial needs. The medal races, for example, tend to compromise the fairness of racing.” Ainslie also criticised ISAF’s lack of consistency: “How can windsurfers be told to go and buy kitesurfs one day, only to be reinstated two months later. In addition, a Class shouldn’t be selected for just one Olympic cycle; it is wrong. Those are examples that make our sport look weak. The problem lies in the decision process.”

The sport of sailing is changing fast, and debates focusing on yacht clubs and venues were a good illustration of the evolution the sport is going through. “We started going to Asia in 2008”, remembers Knut Frostad, CEO, Volvo Ocean Race. “Today, there are races everywhere in Asia, and in a consistent way.”

Debates focusing on the use of social media, and the new broadcast technologies used by the America’s Cup also highlighted the changes the sport is going through. “François Gabart, who leads the Vendée Globe, is only 29 years old and he sends three times more media than all his competitors”, observed Mark Turner, Executive Chairman, OC Sport. “It doesn’t stop him from being competitive. The others will have to learn!”

The fifth edition of the World Yacht Racing Forum closed its doors following two days of presentations, constructive debates and networking sessions. Over 250 delegates and 70 speakers from all over the world attended the different presentations, shared ideas and business cards whilst hearing insights from some of the sport’s major events.

“This edition of the Forum has been very successful, with great delegate numbers and many of the world’s most influential players”, said James Gradwell, World Yacht Racing Forum sponsorship manager. “We really need to thank our sponsors and the city of Gothenburg, who have been extremely helpful. Gothenburg is a fantastic city, and I wish them good luck in their bid for the Volvo Ocean Race.”

The event’s delegates, exhibitors, partners and speakers all had different motivations and objectives in attending the event, but they were equally happy at the time of drawing their conclusions.

“What was most useful for me was to spend time with so many of the key actors of the sport during the breaks”, said Manuel Ruiz De Elvira, one of Oracle Racing’s key designers. Other delegates preferred to listen to the presentations, such as Guillaume Henri, Director of the Vendée Globe: “I attended the Forum for the first time and I found it great. It is very important for offshore yacht racing to be part of those debates. As for the Vendée Globe, our goal is to make it more international. In this sense, our participation at the Forum is simply necessary.”

Dawn Riley, MD, Oakcliff Sailing, is a veteran of the Forum; she considers this edition as “the most exciting so far, both for the quality of the conversations and the networking. It was a very good event; the level of the presentations and the quality of the speakers were optimal.”

Knut Frostad summarised most delegates’ thoughts: “If you don’t care about the sport of sailing, then you don’t need to come to the Forum.”

Meanwhile, day 2 of the Yacht Racing Design & Technology Symposium, running parallel to the Forum, carried forward with moderator Dobbs Davis coordinating fascinating debates and presentations on the AC 72 Class, and reliability versus risk management issues in yacht racing.

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