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Malta well poised to host international sailing events

Yachting Malta chairman Jonathan Borg addressing the forum.

Yachting Malta successfully hosts yacht racing forum

The two years of disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic raised questions about the state of the yachting industry and the overall health of the sport of sailing by industry leaders and experts during the two-day Yacht Racing Forum, which took place in Malta earlier this month.

The Forum, hosted by Yachting Malta, brought together a myriad of experts in the field, amongst those present were some of the world’s leading sailors, designers, engineers, boat builders, marketing and communication specialists and event organisers, team managers. 

Two hundred and 50 delegates representing 23 different countries – some as afar as Australia –  were keen to discuss the challenges being faced, the sports’ status, visibility and future as well as establish the level of commercial attractiveness both from a technological and commercial point of view.

Topics of discussion and concerns have clearly evolved over the years.

In 2022, speakers discussed youth access to the sport, the commercial potential of sailing and the impact of the new Olympic classes on media coverage.

New topics that did not form part of people’s discussions pre-Covid, were in fact the pandemic and blockchain. This year, however,  explanations as to how the sport can benefit from blockchain technology were discussed.

Welcoming the delegates at the opening of the forum, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Dr Aaron Farrugia enthused about the fact that Malta was back in the game of hosting international events like the Yacht Racing Forum.

Viewed as a key sector for Malta, there have been various initiatives that show the high regard sailing and yachting enjoys on the island, continued Minister Farrugia. 

Through several Yachting Malta initiatives, the past months have seen support being given towards the Paralympic Sailing Programme through the donation of Hansa 303 Class boats given to local sailing clubs,  development of equal opportunities in sailing and the investment into the setting up of an offshore sailing team, which will be able to offer Maltese sailors the opportunity to race on the international offshore sailing boat, Viva Malta. 

The National Yachting Policy, the regeneration of the Grand Harbour to make it even more attractive and functional are all happening to ensure that Malta is the next port of call for yachting events organisers.

Malta’s location in the cradle of the Mediterranean enjoys excellent wind conditions, clean and clear waters and the expertise of hosting international events such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race and forthcoming events such as the 2023 ORC European Championships taking place in April, Minister Farrugia concluded.

A common thread running throughout the conference, were topics that included social and environmental change in the sport, gender equity and equal opportunities for which the Yacht Racing Forum is known to be a pioneer.   However other discussions ensued on the state of the sport, its positioning in the global world of sport and entertainment, the media and the commercial value of sailing as a competitive sport. 

On the design and technology front, the latest technological developments, key technical drivers of change in sailmaking, aero and load monitoring gains, foiling technologies were discussed.  Sustainability in the development and construction of racing yachts was also addressed for the first time. 

Strategic maritime importance

Yachting Malta chairman Jonathan Borg remarked that Malta has always been considered a site of strategic maritime importance and has over the years built a strong pool of experts that are able to support international organisations to host their events in Malta.

The hosting of the Forum is a testament to Malta’s position as an excellent location for bringing together yachting enthusiasts – in various capacities, for a Yachting Conference which provides Malta with an excellent opportunity to show case what it has to offer. 

Borg remarked that Yachting Malta is well geared to offer its experience and expertise, as well as investigate possible partnerships to facilitate the hosting of high-quality international yachting events in Malta.   

However, was quick to point out that Malta is not just about yachting events. 

Malta is also a destination that offers quality facilities for refits, hard standing, a cruising destination, a home port, a reputable flag, a safe wintering destination and home away from home for crew and employees.

Malta has excellent crew training facilities and first-rate sail training facilities for youth, and Olympic classes. 

With the sailing population being an ageing one, and with little diversity, the training facilities available in Malta were of particular interest by those stakeholders discussing youth participation and ways to encourage the younger generation to join.

Yachting Malta has achieved a lot since its inception, but “we are not resting on our laurel” remarked Borg.

“There is a lot that needs to be done and it is with satisfaction that I see the motivation and energy required for us to say we are “Open for Business” he concluded.

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