From 29 to 31 May 2023, the Cité de la Voile-Éric Tabarly in Lorient took on the role of world capital for the sailing industry’s scientific community at the Innov’Sail conference. For three days, researchers and industrialists shared their work to meet the challenges of performance and decarbonisation facing sailing, with applications today in maritime transport. Discovering and sharing the latest technological and scientific advances in sailing set the pace at La Base de Lorient for three days. The event also provided an opportunity for local companies to establish relations with scientists from all over the world, with a view to future collaborations.
Innov’Sail®, an ever-stronger link between industry and research
140 participants of 13 different nationalities, over 30 conferences and presentations of research work and companies. The figures are unequivocal, revealing the level of interest in the 6th Innov’Sail®. Supported by the École navale, the Cité de la Voile-Éric Tabarly and BDI, the conference brought together the world’s scientific sailing community at the heart of Lorient La Base.
For three days, the Cité de la Voile-Éric Tabarly, usually a place of cultural mediation where sailing enthusiasts and neophytes flock alongside ocean racing professionals, brought together manufacturers and researchers to move the industry forward in the right direction, between performance gains and the challenges of ecological transition. “Most of the speeches were co-signed by academics and companies, which testifies to the collaborations that are emerging between the two parties. In this respect, Innov’Sail® fully meets one of its main objectives, which is to foster relations between the academic and industrial worlds,” sums up Patrick Bot, teacher-researcher at the Institut de recherche de l’École navale (IRENav), organiser of Innov’Sail. A view confirmed by Neil Temperley, an Australian consultant present in Lorient to present his work: “Bridging the gap between the worlds of research and industry is a very important challenge. Both worlds need each other and strong interaction between them is essential to break down barriers such as lack of mutual understanding or fear of change. This will be particularly true in the fields of wind energy and assisted navigation.”
This 2023 edition has helped to plug that gap. “We’ve taken a big step forward this year, says Jean-Marc Beaumier, director of SELLOR Muséographie, which manages the Cité de la Voile. By providing a network that is more open to applications and industry, BDI has played a major role in breaking down the barriers and creating the porous links between researchers and industry. We’ve been able to bring the sector together in a more global way by including Breton and national companies.”
A boost for local businesses
Pixel sur Mer, based just a stone’s throw from the Cité de la Voile, was present at Innov’Sail®. The company develops and installs high-tech sailing equipment, and was able to learn a few things from its visit to Innov’Sail®. “We were able to take note of a ton of things about how to simply model certain elements of ships for aerodynamic and hydrodynamic issues, reveals Anatole Verhaegen, flight control engineer. We were able to discuss collaborations with some of the architectural firms present to see how we could benefit from their modelling expertise and if we could provide them with a means of integrating a high-performance simulator.”
The same is true of Wisamo, which will soon be setting up in Vannes to develop a large inflatable wing for cargo ships: “The scientific community gives us a lot of input on impact analyses and research, admits Gildas Quéméneur, CEO of this Michelin Group subsidiary. We are able to find certain know-how internally, but we need this scientific input to make the technological solution viable. What’s more, with a view to our future location in Morbihan, we also wanted to make ourselves known to the scientific community and the world of ocean racing, because we need these links at the moment.”
Europe, the world’s epicentre for research and development issues
The leading conference in the scientific sphere for sailing, along with those in Chesapeake (USA) and Auckland (New Zealand), Innov’Sail® seems to stand out from its peers and reflect Europe’s leadership on R&D issues, in particular by drawing on strong ecosystems. “Many participants, even from outside Europe, have told me that the conference is now the best in the world,” reports Patrick Bot. This is primarily due to the quality of the papers presented on key themes such as foils, aerodynamics and speed prediction programmes.
Another strong argument for the continent to justify its leading position in the sailing landscape is its dynamism, based on strong ecosystems, of which Bretagne Sailing Valley® is one of the figureheads. “The United Kingdom and Sweden, which, along with Brittany, are leading regions in these areas, were present. Europe is taking the lead in competitive sailing and wind propulsion. Even though it is published by the SNAME (Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers), which is American, the main contributors to the Journal of Sailing Technology are all based in Europe.”
Innov’Sail® heads for Sweden in 2026
Sweden will be present at Innov’Sail® 2023, and is set to host the next edition of this triennial conference. In Göteborg in 2026, in one of Europe’s major ports, “the challenge for us will be to promote French and Breton companies so that they can highlight their know-how and expertise, look for collaborations and open up northern European markets to them”, says Patrick Bot.
Taking the conference, for which the Cité de la Voile is the brand owner, to a foreign country is part of an alternating strategy. Jean-Marc Beaumier explains: “Strategically, it’s a good idea to relocate the event for one edition to another European country where the scientific nature of the event is a structuring element of the region. This alternation can prove to be a virtuous circle for the conference. It will enhance the attractiveness of Innov’Sail® and its reputation, but for the future, it will have to come back to Lorient after 2026…”.