The IBI-sponsored Sailing Summit at METS (Marine Equipment Trade Show) on Monday November 13 was a huge success.

The IBI-sponsored Sailing Summit at METS (Marine Equipment Trade Show) on Monday November 13 was a huge success. Over 125 delegates from sailing organisations and the marine industry filled the conference room at the Rai Congress Centre in Amsterdam to listen to some of the world’s most influential sailing gurus air their views on the sport.

The idea of the summit, which is now in its third year, is to unite the sailing industry with the sport and identify how everyone can benefit from promotion of the sailing.

At the helm, IBI’s Nick Hopkinson and Alistair Murray from Ronstan, steered an excellent course navigating their way through a packed schedule of 13 guest speakers. First on the rostrum, fresh from the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Conference in Edinburgh, was ISAF President Paul Henderson. As well as defining the role of ISAF in the marketing of sailing, Henderson expressed his personal opinion about certain aspects of federation, including the continued confusion over the ISAF title. ‘The IYRU title was a good name and why it was ever changed to ISAF I shall never know,’ stated Henderson. And in an audience-gulping moment he went on to say that: ‘ISAF should be there to promote racing and should not be involved in getting people into sailing – that should be left to the local associations.’ But what did he think about the decision to drop match racing at the Olympic Games? Never one to mix his words he added: ‘I’m not upset about it at all. Match racing should be left to the America’s Cup, and the Olympics should be for fleet racing.’

Julian Bethwaite, designer of the some of the world’s most successful dinghy classes including the B18, B14, 49er and 29er, was next under the spotlight. He had some interesting ideas, including how the new 15,000-dollar Sailing Simulator could revolutionise sail training.

Other notable performances came from Phil Jones from the Australian Yachting Federation, who had some thought-provoking ideas on the ISAF’s event’s strategy, including how we should concentrate on limiting the number of pinnacle events we should be promoting.

The final two summit speeches, from Performance Sailcraft’s Tim Coventry and Tom Ehman turned everyone’s attention to the way sailing should be marketed. While Coventry highlighted the fact that active participation in sailing is reducing every year and offered advice about how to actively promote the sport, Ehman proposed that there should be a Global Brand Strategy on sailing in place before we hope to get any active results. ‘Without a strategy,’ he says, ‘it’s like shuffling the deckchairs on the cruise to nowhere!’

The day was concluded with a dinner and more amusing speeches from two of sailing’s greatest heros – Ron Holland and Gary Jobson. And after the closing speech by Alistair Murray, there is no doubt in all our minds that this year’s summit achieved what it set to do by playing an important role in actively uniting the industry and the sport.