More than 280 of the brightest minds in sailing have just concluded two days of intense discussion and debate about the hot topics in sailing, at the eighth edition of the Yacht Racing Forum in Malta.

The Yacht Racing Forum brought up a broad range of big topics that generated heated debate. Expert panels explored commercial strategies for small and medium-sized events, affordable sailing on TV, and making the sport environmentally sustainable.

Doing some crystal-balling for the future of the sport was an expert panel that included America’s Cup winner Ed Baird, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner and former Puma skipper Ken Read, along with World Sailing’s Alastair Fox and leading grand prix designer Juan Kouyoumdjian.

The panel identified the late teens and young adults as the age group that need the most attention. Read commented: “There are yacht clubs buying their own boats, so that the tweeners get a chance to go sailing when life is at its most expensive, when they’re looking for jobs, starting families. We need to convince the yacht clubs to do more to make it fun for tweeners to go sailing.”

Read added: “When you come to the Yacht Racing Forum, it’s not enough to talk, we all have to go away and decide what it is we’re going to do to grow the sport.”

One of the big debates of day two took place in the Risk Management & Safety conference. Delegates explored the rapidly increasing speed of grand prix racing yachts and the recent developments in hydrofoiling, as well as the added risk that comes with that, the safety and insurance implications, and whether or not the sport is doing enough to address the risks.

During the lunch break, in amongst the networking and swapping of business cards, Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker dialled up Alex Thomson in the Southern Ocean, currently battling for the lead in the Vendée Globe. Even with his broken foil, Thomson was optimistic about his prospects and delighted to have an audience as the Forum delegates listened in from Malta.

Running parallel to the Business and Marketing Conference, the Design & Technology Symposium focused on the latest innovations including foiling, the integration of more composite materials in the design process, developments in superyachts and innovations in sail design and construction. The room was packed to overflowing as the moderator Dobbs Davis steered the discussion through some of the big issues in advanced yacht design. “We explored a range of topics not just in design but also in materials, from everything to building boats and building sails, even software applications managing the overwhelming array of data collection tech available,” said Davis.

There were plenty of opportunities to network outside of the formal discussions, at the drinks receptions sponsored by World Sailing, North Sails and GAC Pindar. Event manager Bernard Schopfer was delighted with the friendly atmosphere and the quality of the discussions. “I think we have given people a lot of food for thought, and hopefully for ideas and actions that they can take away from Malta and implement in the wider world of sailing. We’re looking forward to seeing what progress has been made when we come back together next year for the Yacht Racing Forum in Aarhus, Denmark, on 27 & 28 November 2017.”