Be Careful Who You Listen To

Published on March 20th, 2018

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Through the ten editions of the Yacht Racing Forum, attendees were a who’s who of the marine industry, many of whom seeking to push technical advancements for sailing.

While fascinating, I too often cringed when these experts presented the future of the sport, with their self-interest often blind to what may adversely impact the health of what is meant to be a recreational activity.

Labeled as the “leading annual conference for the business of sailing and yacht racing,” what about discussing how to serve all sailing enthusiasts and not just the privileged or the professional?

Maybe the pendulum has begun to swing back, as the 2018 conference is taking shape with a program that appears to question its past path down the rabbit hole:

Will foiling affect the sport of sailing?
Foiling is fashionable and at the heart of many passionate sailors’ conversations. Foils are with no doubt a great innovation, but let’s take some distance and ask ourselves: who really wants to sail and race at 25+ knots? How many sailors are really concerned? Is it good for the development of our sport?

Twenty years ago, windsurfing was a truly popular sport that helped thousands of people discover the word « regatta » and learn the basics of sailing and racing.

Then something went wrong: the sports’ marketing experts focused on tall blond and muscular windsurfers riding big waves in Hawaii; the sport suddenly became totally disconnected from its popular roots and almost disappeared.

Let’s not forget grass-roots sailing, amateur yacht racing and the pleasure of cruising at 6 knots! At this year’s Forum, we will surely discuss the future of foiling and showcase the latest technical developments. But we will also put a strong emphasis on youth sailing, new sailing classes and events for kids.

Will computers and robots replace crew members (well, replace us!)?
In a very short time, automatic pilots will steer better than helmsmen (they often already do…); robots will react quicker and better than trimmers (even cyclists!); weather models coupled with live satellite coverage of the world and the latest apps will be much more reliable than the best tacticians.

What will be left for us, passionate sailors, amateurs as well as professionals? What will be the interest of our favorite sport? What will be the role of the crews?

These are changes that we need to anticipate and regulate. Otherwise races will be sailed by robots and we will be left on the yacht club terrace with a cocktail….


For details on the 2018 Yacht Racing Forum to be held October 22-23 in Lorient, France… click here.

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