By Rob Kothe
Just 28 days to Christmas and today many of the significant players are flying into the warmest European city, Valletta the Maltese capital in the middle of the Mediterranean, some 80km south of Sicily for the ninth Yacht Racing Forum.
The Yacht Racing Forum was conceived and initially run by Informa Yacht Group, the first two forums were in Monte Carlo, Monaco in 2008 and 2009, Estoril Portugal in 2010 and 2011 Gothenburg, Sweden 2012, 2013, Barcelona 2014 and in 2015 in Geneva under its new owner Maxcomm Communications, who have been involved in the event since its inauguration in a PR role.
Co-hosted by Yachting Events and Yachting Malta, the Yacht Racing Forum is taking place at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, overlooking Valletta’s Marsamxett Harbour where the RC 44 Valetta Cup, headquartered at the hotel marina, will finish today.
Ahead of this evening’s World Sailing sponsored Welcome function, we spoke to Maxcomm principal Bernard Schopfer.
Schopfer is proud that the 270 attendees of the Yacht Racing Forum are indeed a Who’s Who of the Sailing Industry; event managers, designers, builders, administrators, media and more, the people who make it happen.
The Forum continues to build in strength with the list of sponsors growing significantly. The newest ones Zhik, OC Sports and the Star Sailors League have joined a range of leading sailing brands that includes World Sailing, the Volvo Ocean Race, World Match Racing Tour, Clipper Ventures, North Sails and many more.
‘We are absolutely delighted with the support and endorsement we are getting from the international yacht racing community ‘, says Schopfer.
‘As you’d expect European representation is dominant but there are ever increasing numbers from the US, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, I think most of the top-level sailing brands are part of the forum and it is very encouraging for us. Not yet the America’s Cup unfortunately but besides them I would say almost everyone that counts in the world of top level yacht racing will be there and that is great.
‘The partnership with Yacht Racing Malta and Yachting Malta has obviously been good for the Forum. They want to use the Forum to showcase what they can do and this is exactly the sort of venue we have been looking for so it is a perfect match.
‘There is a big social part in the event now, which is important because the networking is a key part of the event. We have this evening the Welcome function sponsored by World Sailing. On Monday night it is North Sails, on Tuesday night GAC Pindar.
‘The mix is important, the conference, the debate, the exhibition, the networking and the social part.
‘Over the year’s people have asked what is the Forum all about.
‘We are not the decision-making body and we don’t want to be, but we have a significant role to play and I want to give you two examples that I think are quite interesting.
‘The first is sustainable development and that’s a subject that we brought into the forum six years ago, in Lisbon and at the time nobody was taking about this, people didn’t know what it meant. I had to fight to bring the subject into the forum at Lisbon and now everybody talks about sustainability including notably World Sailing.
‘The other example now is Risk Management and Safety. We are also the only organization that brings the subject to the table. Now we are dedicating half a day to this issue and I think it is something very important for sailing, for yacht racing and it is a topic which is unfortunately I would say we are going to speak about more and more because boats now have very sharp foils and they are getting much faster.
‘Now it is the second year that we are going to featuring this subject and I am sure that this issue is going to be discussed more and again and our role has been to get an industry debate started.
‘One of the speakers on this subject is the navigator Wouter Veebaak, from the Team Vestas Wind Volvo Ocean Race mishap. He will be doing a keynote presentation, the opening message for that subject.
‘I think it is courageous and brave of him and very interesting and I very much look forward to hearing what he has to say and you learn from practice and things you think that would never happen which happen and he knows it better than anybody else. Yann Guichard from Spindrift who will also be talking has also learnt it the hard way.
‘To many it appears the rules need to change in many ways in yacht racing management and in class management, stopovers management. There needs to be some discussion and reflection.
‘We are not going to be taking decisions, we are not a legal body but we are raising industry awareness. I think that’s a very important role we play and we will carry on in the future bringing new subjects that are at the heart of the evolution of the sport.’
The conference is split into four modules: Marketing and Media, Event and Race Management, Risk Management and Safety and Top of the Sport. The Design and Technology Symposium will take place alongside the Yacht Racing Forum, on Monday November 28 while the balance of the Forum will continue until Tuesday evening.
Great speakers, some 65 in all, including Ian Walker, Ken Read, Juan Kouyoumdjian, Guillaume Semblat, Vincent Lauriot Prévost, Elodie-Jane Mettraux, Annie Lush, Paolo Massarini, Sally Barkow, Laurent Lenne and many more.
But now, we will have a glass of Maltese Verdala, on your behalf!!