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03 August 2020

Lars Larsson, professor at Chalmers and chairman of the international sailing conference INNOV’SAIL 2020 which was arranged online this week.

The International Conference on Innovation in High Performance Sailing (INNOV’SAIL 2020) would have gathered researchers, shipbuilders, shipowners and others from all over the world in Gothenburg for a few days in June.

Now it was arrangened online instead. How did things go?
“It went very well, and we had twice as many participants as the conference had in previous years.”

So how come? Is it just because it's easier to go online than to fly all over the world to Gothenburg, or could it be due to something else as well?
“Well, I think the most important reason may be that the program area has been expanded. Previous conferences have only been about sailboats and racing, but now the development of wind-assisted ships was also involved. Many lectures were about that. Then I also think we got good publicity by using a new network platform that was launched.”

The big disadvantage of conferencing online is that you miss out on social interaction, that you do not talk during coffee breaks and so on. The digital networking platform would compensate this. Did it work?
“It became much more popular than I dared to believe. I thought people would find it too difficult to register and book appointments. But we had 110 such calls. To some extent it compensated the lack of social interaction, but of course it will never be the same as when people meet in real life.”

As you said, this was first time the area of wind-assisted ships was involved. Was it a one off or does this mean the conference is heading in a new direction?
“It is an interesting question that I have thought about a lot. INNOV’SAIL is part of a rolling schedule of three conferences, all of which were previously just about sailing. Next year, the High Performance Yacht Design Conference will be held in New Zealand and I have pushed pretty hard and asked if papers on wind-assisted vessels will be accepted. I haven’t got an answer and the feeling that they won’t allow it. The conference is very focused on the Americas Cup and high-performance sailboats. We'll see what they say.”

“But the interest in wind-assisted ships has barely started to grow and it will explode, I am completely convinced of that. It would be completely insane not to take advantage of the wind at sea and even if it will not be included in the conference in New Zealand, it will be arranged by others. There are already such conferences, by the way.”

Finally, is there anything you want to add about INNOV’SAIL 2020?
“Well,maybe that I have participated in hundreds of conferences during my career, but this was the first time online. And I was also in charge! It was both nervous and exciting. I could only hope that it would go so well as it did. Luckily we had the technology on our side and I think this is something we will use more in the future. It saves time, money and the environment.”

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