Not many boating events command instant global recognition, but the America’s Cup is one that does.
This summer, the America’s Cup World Series — the run-up racing to next year’s Cup regatta — comes to Newport, R.I., and so does Sail America’s 2012 Sailing Industry Conference and Regatta. Designed to help members adapt and profit in the current economy, the conference will run June 25-27.
“This conference is really going to be focused on helping businesses in the sailing industry thrive while it remains a challenging economic environment,” says Josh Adams, president of Sail America and publisher of Sail magazine. “We guarantee that people who come to Newport at the end of June will leave with practical tools they can apply to their business immediately. And we’ll have some fun while we’re at it.”
A large component of that fun will be watching the Cup multihulls race. The 2011-12 World Series season concludes June 26-July 1 in Newport. “Most of the people involved in the sailing industry are involved because they’re passionate about sailing,” says Sally Helme, group publisher of Bonnier Corp.’s Cruising World, Sailing World and Yachting magazines. “It would be a bonus that they would get to observe some of the America’s Cup World Series. [As the] marquee event of sailing, it helps put sailing on a world stage in a way that no other event does.”
Competitive sailing also is a component of the conference and there are 12 teams signed up for the sold-out industry regatta, Adams says. “That stuff is all fun and adds to the atmosphere and creates an even better networking opportunity,” he says.
Although the racing helps to create buzz and excitement, the third installment of the biennial conference is designed for people who are invested in the sailing industry, says Sail America executive director Jonathan Banks. “Definitely our focus all along was to not really rely on the America’s Cup to draw people to the conference, but to rely on the quality of speakers,” says Banks.
Keynote speaker John Spence will deliver a seminar titled “Turning Ideas into Action,” Banks says. Spence is the author of “Awesomely Simple,” which was named a top 10 small business book of 2009 by Small Business Trends. “We chose topics we feel have broad appeal, irrespective of type and size of company and role in company,” Banks says. “We then have breakout sessions to really home in on skill-building areas. So the focus may be on anything from communications to marketing to the latest in digital technology.”
Conference organizers also have lined up some Cup representatives to speak at the conference. “We’re asking them to talk about the business of sailing,” says Banks. “They’ll talk a bit about the business of the America’s Cup and home in on how the America’s Cup is going to help support and promote sailing in general. I know it’s a mission of theirs, other than putting on a good racing event and attracting sponsors. We’re talking about how the Cup and the sailing community can work together.”
“We get excited about the visibility it brings to the sport and the lifestyle,” Helme says. “We want to rub elbows with it — be a part of it as it’s generating the buzz.”
Participants have said they like to come away from the conference with an action plan, so Sail America has incorporated a Grow Sailing workshop that will segue with the growth summit that the National Marine Manufacturers of America is spearheading, Banks says. “Instead of going back and reinventing the wheel, as the sailing industry is prone to do, we’re going to build upon the NMMA’s growth summit and take this next step forward,” he says. “The goal is to come up with an action plan to take away and say, by working together, these are some of the areas we can address.”
A new Discover Sailing website is in the works and will offer more resources than the prior website was able to achieve, Banks says.
Members of the sailing industry also look forward to networking opportunities at the conference, he says. “In many ways we’re a close-knit bunch, but many times it’s rare that we have the opportunity to come together in a venue that’s not a boat show, so I think people learn as much from each other as they do from the speakers,” Banks says.
“The sailing industry is made up of a pretty wide range of companies,” Adams says. “But by and large they’re small companies and the idea behind the conference … is to bring together all the members who have an investment in the industry.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.