World Yacht Racing Forum Review

I spent two days  at the World Yacht Racing Forum in Estroil Portugal. While this was the 3rd running of the conference promoted as “The Place Where the Yacht Racing Industry Meets”  it was my 1st time in attendance. I have to say that I was prepared to be blown away and then wasn’t.  When I leave an Aspen Institute or Quant Foundation think-tank session where we have discussed topics like individual liberties in a globalized world or the concept of cross cultural trust or delved into the emerging movement of social entrepreneurs I come away in awe of the world.  But then again, here we are talking about sailboat racing.

When I leave a IEG conference or a Women in Business Conference I am amazed at the accomplishments of the other participants and all of their varied skills and corporations that I have been able to peak into and learn from.  Then again ‘we’ the audience are the industry and the panels were filled by ‘us’ from the industry.

So what is the point of the WYRF?  It took some reflection but I slowly realized that it is the only place when we have a multinational gathering of not only the marine industry, as in boat shows but also rights holders, event organizers, media, sponsors, regulators and yes, professional sailors.  Note the ‘plural’ of the sentence above.  This is not just the America’s Cup segment, nor the Volvo, nor the Vendee Globe group it was a cross section of the sport.

There are other gatherings but in that WYRF is cross platform and cross nationality, it is set apart from shows like METS which is 90% Industry, Salon de Nautique which is impressive, overwhelming and 90% French,.  It is different from any boat show in the US which are, well pretty much exclusively American.  ISAF meetings are international but Olympic centric and offer very little incentive for industry or professionals to attend and participate.

So why did I feel under whelmed?  What could be better?   We could borrow from  others.  WYRF should have more workshops with real skills like IEG.  Panel leaders need to be more provocative and allow for more interaction from the audience, perhaps with some breakout sessions.   While the industry is becoming more professional and segmented there are still many of us who were frustrated not being able to take advantage of the parallel track on the technical forum happening next door.  This form offered a place designers and scientist and technical providers  with expertise in areas like new CFD products, sail film technology, rules considerations as well as new safety products and trainings.

A previous year this conference was run in parallel with a similar conference for Formula One – making that happen again would be ideal.

So was it worth me going – Oh yes.  The networking in the plentiful coffee breaks was impressive.  I connected and reconnected with many individuals from around the world.  I was able to introduce Oakcliff to many and get the message loud and clear that we are training individuals for your projects – Volvo, America’s Cup, IMOCA? Spinlock.  I was also able to connect with other training programs including Oman Sail and other federation programs where we are exploring setting up exchange programs.  I met a new pioneer in reclaiming the environment of the oceans, Jo Royale the skipper or Plastiki and connected with Sam Davies one of the world’s best offshore sailors.     So yes it was very worth it and I hope to see the conference adapt and grow in importance as it truly has potential to be the one 'can't miss event' for all professionals in the yacht racing industry and all of the Oakcliff Graduates.

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