An overview of the 7th ICOYC Forum, hosted by the Royal Southern YC


The Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, recently hosted senior representatives from 20 international yacht clubs and a number of UK ‘guest’ clubs for the seventh International Council of Yacht Clubs (ICOYC) Forum, lending a fitting international dimension to the Royal Southern’s 175th anniversary schedule in 2012.

The ICOYC itinerary commenced with a two-week cruise in company along the South Coast, calling in to yacht clubs and marinas as far west as Weymouth and rounding off with a tour of the Sir Max Aitken Museum and dinner at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes. They then joined forces with the remaining overseas delegates in London and enjoyed a dinner hosted by Royal Southern member the Rt. Hon. Lord Wakeham at the House of Lords before being transported to the Southern’s Hamble riverside Clubhouse for a three-day Forum.

Delegates were welcomed by the Royal Southern’s Commodore Mark Inkster and followed with the opening address by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, in which the world’s best known sailing Knight noted that he had spent money in eleven of the attending clubs, bemoaned the general lack of mainstream media coverage of sailing and spoke of the need to promote ‘boating’ to a wider and less demographically biased audience.

Remarkable similarities between challenges and problems shared by the majority of clubs

Day one of the Forum opened with a session on membership development and using club assets and activities to bring new participants into the sport of sailing, moderated by Gero Brugman from Hamburg’s Norddeutscher Regatta Verein. Ensuing discussions underlined the remarkable similarities between challenges and problems shared by the majority of clubs. Breaking the image of exclusivity, inaccessibility and high cost, understanding the dynamics of your club and your members, scaling fees by ages across the spectrum and scaling members’ rights by participation, were some of the most interesting points raised by speakers from Australia, Canada, Finland and France.

Royal Southern and Royal Thames member, Jack Edwards, Chairman of Trustees for the Mansura Trophy competition for development of hybrid powered vessels, gave a fascinating overview of the inexorable rise of hybrid technology in the marine world. He was followed by Rear Commodore George Dort from the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, who outlined the ways to run accountable ‘green’ regattas and events through Sailors for the Sea, a US non-profit facilitator.

Effective communications embraces all mediums

Past Commodore Ambrose Lo from the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club chaired the session on Effective Communications, where it was agreed that new platforms such as social media were not replacing existing mediums, but rather supplementing them, and both were discussed in detail.

Mike Pope, CEO of Forum sponsors, GJW Direct, had previously shone the spotlight on yachting disasters and the role of insurers working for owners. This theme was picked up in the third session of the day, on effective external communications and reaching out beyond membership, when speakers Ray Lynch, San Francisco YC and Koko Mueller, Royal Hong Kong YC gave sometimes harrowing descriptions of dealing with accidents at sea and the delicate communications challenges that often surrounded these incidents.

By comparison, the PR specialist Peta Stuart-Hunt, PR Works, speaking on behalf of the Royal Southern, detailed how the Club’s programme of external communication had been developed and was being rolled out in support of the Club’s 175 anniversary activities. The roles of reaching media, contractors, the general public, sponsors, governmental and other authorities together with quantifying the results were all covered and valuable discussions ensued around the essential crisis management protocols that should be in place in every club for every event.

The delegates then heard from David Fuller, CEO of Pilote Media, whose take on the effectiveness of the various social media platforms and their place in a properly integrated communications plan was by turns exciting and frightening as he outlined ways to deliver the brand that is the club to a vastly differing raft of social and age demographics. The day ended for some watching a fascinating on-line, real time virtual regatta training tool and sailing racing simulator called SailX.

Importance of strategic planning

The following day delivered a riveting session moderated by Commodore Phil Smith from the Eastern Yacht Club, Marblehead, with a top line panel whose members presented and discussed the importance of strategic planning, the vision and the mission.  This was followed by a lunchtime address from David Tydeman, CEO of Oyster Yachts who gave a frank resume of the state of the yacht and superyacht market, which unsurprisingly, saw numbers down and a modest market owner base. He foresaw several tough years ahead for new boats, but brokerage figures increasing and identified a clear split in sizes with yachts up to 62ft, still mostly owner-drivers, doing relatively well, while those over 80ft and requiring permanent crew doing less well

Guy Walters, Commodore Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, presented the ICOYC Club survey on regattas and their management that revealed that most clubs ran multi-class regattas but it was also evident how important evening racing is to some clubs. It seems that while Team and Match racing were run by relatively few Clubs, it was very important to those that did.

Anders Kristensen, CEO Royal Danish Yacht Club, outlined their programmes of youth, student and adult ‘learn to sail’, ‘old boys’ racing, daytime corporate sailing, club evening and weekend sailing, the surplus on their corporate side subsidising club sailing. With several classes at the club, the most popular were their six J/80s, used for youth, adult learn to sail, fleet and match racing and local cruising.

Inge Strompf-Jepsen, Past Commodore Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, presented a case history in which a combined order for J/80s from the club, some jointly owned, and others ordered by neighbouring clubs and their members, had turned into a combined fleet of 22 boats, used for fleet racing, inter-club events, industry events and major regattas. Interestingly, the acquisition of this new fleet galvanised the older fleets into renewed action as well.

Melbourne-based Sandringham Yacht Club’s Commodore, Chris Carlisle, described how their Beneteau 7.5s were funded over a five year period by commercial sponsors, with the boats carrying sponsors’ branding, and having the use of their boat for sponsored events.  The club also subsidised members with J/24s who made their boats available for events.

All three clubs reported experiencing continuous demand to increase fleet numbers and noted the benefits of standardising fleets in neighbouring geographical areas and all agreed that controlled maintenance was a key factor. Often, professional instructors were used, relying on them to carry out minor running repairs, but there had to be an accountable person responsible for fleet management and maintenance.

Jerome Pels, Secretary General of ISAF, rounded off the business of the day with a review of the new Rules, the recent Olympics and television coverage, and highlighted the process of equipment selection for the Rio Olympics, including the move to kiteboarding.

On the final evening, delegates were joined by Royal Southern members and friends for dinner aboard HMS Warrior in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. On a perfect late summer evening, the assembled gathering was beaten to dinner by the Corps of Drums of the Royal Marines. Dinner was followed by yachtsman, raconteur and yachting journalist, Bob Fisher, unbundling the history, politics, peccadilloes and disasters surrounding the America’s Cup.  John McNeill, past Commodore of the St. Francis Yacht Club, was announced as the new President of the ICOYC, taking over from John Stork of the Royal Thames.

The final morning session, conducted by club managers attending, revolved around the role of operating management and how Clubs manage member expectations, promote usage of facilities, gain cost efficiencies and examining the practicalities, differences and financial implications of in-house versus bought-in catering.

Summing up at the Forum close, the outgoing ICOYC President, John Stork, thanked all the moderators, panelists and guest speakers for their input and the Forum was declared the most valuable, biggest and best in the history of the organisation, due in large part to the organisation and delivery by the Royal Southern as host club.

The next Forum host club is the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.


Member clubs attending ICOYC 2012:


Annapolis Yacht Club

Brussels Royal Yacht Club

Eastern Yacht Club

Norddeutscher Regatta Verein

Nyländska Jaktklubben

Royal Danish Yacht Club

Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

Royal Norwegian Yacht Club

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

Royal Perth Yacht Club

Royal Thames Yacht Club

Royal Vancouver Yacht Club

San Francisco Yacht Club

Sandringham Yacht Club

Seattle Yacht Club

Société Nautique de Marseille

St. Francis Yacht Club

Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee

Yacht Club Italiano

Guest clubs attending:

Island Sailing Club

Royal Air Force Yacht Club

Royal Corinthian Yacht Club

Royal Ocean Racing Club

Royal Malta Yacht Club

Royal Motor Yacht Club

Royal Yachting Association

Royal Yacht Squadron

Further information about the ICOYC can be found here:

For news and further information about the Royal Southern Yacht Club visit:


Media Enquiries:

Peta Stuart-Hunt | PR Works +44 (0) 1590 679621 or Mob: +44 (0) 7711 477707



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