Robbie Ferron participated in the World Yacht Racing Forum which took place in December at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. Founder and co-owner of the Budget Marine Group, and widely-known for his many contributions to the Caribbean nautical world, Ferron was invited by event organizers to speak in a debate, “Assessing the Impact of Sailing Events on Host Cities and Venues.”
Over 300 key figures from the yacht racing industry attended the conference with a schedule that included 37 speakers from 15 different countries.
“This was the first running of this event,” said Ferron. “The participation level was awesome, to say the least, and the room was crammed with many of the most famous people in sailing.”
Organized by the Informa Yacht Group and hosted by the Yacht Club de Monaco under the patronage of HRH Prince Albert II, the Forum brought together some of the best known sailing events, racing teams, sponsors and venues to meet, network and debate key issues around the business of yacht racing.
The two day format featured presentations and panel discussions on key subjects, according to the organizers, including the global growth of yacht racing, maximizing the exposure of the sport to media and broadcast, the growth of classic yacht racing, learning the value of sailing sponsorship, and the rise of yacht racing events in the Middle East and Asia. There was also a separate panel discussion on the future of the America’s Cup, and the future of multihull racing.
“The focus was very much on the sports marketing side of sailing and in this respect, the professionals and the high tech are getting an inordinate amount of attention,” said Ferron after he returned from the forum. “Recreational and non-extreme activities don’t cut it in this media environment.”
Most of the discussion was about Americas Cup, Vendee Globe, I Shares Cup and World Match Racing Tour, Ferron said. “The participants were from all over the world but the UK was over-represented. Nothing related to the Caribbean at all except for my very short presentation.”
In summing up the discussion of the impact of sailing events on host cities and nations, organizers reported in their follow-up notes that the potential is huge: 500,000 people followed the start of the Barcelona World Race; the Velux Ocean Race drew 300,000 people to Liverpool and huge crowds at the start in Bilbao. Rod Carr, CEO of the RYA (Royal Yacht Association), used Croatia and Great Britain as examples of nations that have used yacht racing as a focus in their strategic planning. The Olympic Games and other global events can have a major effect on a city.
“The conclusion I reached was that in the Caribbean we need to be a lot more sophisticated in respect of our media content development and distribution if we are to compete with the likes of the major events like Americas Cup,” Ferron said. “The level of operation of sponsorship management is much more advanced than I thought.”
Pat Lilley, Chairman of the Forum, highlighted the quality of the debates in his closing speech, announcing that the event should and will be repeated on an annual basis.