Gstaad Yacht Club Hosts World-Class Conference in the Swiss Alps

In July 2022, we accepted the challenge from Gonçalo Esteves, ICOYC Vice-President Europe, South America, and Africa, to host the ICOYC’s 9th European and South American Conference in Gstaad. After a great deal of preparation, the three-day conference took place March 9-11, 2023, and surpassed all expectations. During registration, it became clear this would be a highly attended conference by ICOYC members. While initially preparations were for a regional European conference, it rapidly escalated into a worldwide meeting with a record number of participants.

Overall, 44 delegates accompanied by 13 partners from 27 clubs and 20 countries traveled to Switzerland to meet their peers, after a long absent period due to pandemic restrictions. On the first day of the conference following a welcome lunch, a Flag Ceremony officially opened the Forum and we welcomed the new Member Clubs in attendance: Coral Reef Yacht Club, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Salinas Yacht Club, Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona and the Cruising Club of America. Technology was key as Members of Coral Reef and St. Petersburg Yacht Clubs participated through transatlantic video conference! The ICOYC organization is developing and growing at a remarkable rate.

Content Well Chosen

The agenda was replete with important topics and discussions. The first day was allocated to topics relating to yacht clubs, sailing and the results achieved by athletes. The Olympic Games were at the top of the agenda, for which clubs discussed how they help their athletes achieve the pinnacle of the sport and overcome obstacles, such as arranging agreements with reciprocal clubs to allow athletes to train all year. Then followed a discussion in regards to boat parking: the necessary maintenance, the boats chosen to suit different purposes and for what reasons. The future generation boats for youth were also debated, weighing foiling vs sailing.

The first day of the 9th ICOYC European Conference came to an end with a closing statement. In the evening, the crew gathered at the Gstaaderhof Hotel for a most welcome, delicious, and traditional Swiss Fondue dinner experience.

The economic environment was the kick-off topic for the second day, with a focus on inflation and how clubs are adjusting. It was clear that it is affecting all the clubs, and energy is the commodity that is most consuming resource. As a response to the situation, many clubs increased membership fees to allow members to continue enjoying the same service standards, and in tandem, cost control policies are being reviewed and adapted.

The opening topic of the afternoon was addressing emergency situations. From accidents offshore or inland, the spectrum of potential risks was demonstrative that all clubs should have an emergency plan, with all knowing how to react in a given situation. Equally important in these difficult times is to know how to communicate with the impacted parties.

This led to the next point on the agenda, which was how the Clubs handle communication channels, why some channels are selected over others, and preferred strategies. Without argument, social media is significant in this day and age, and the speed that news travels on social media has its positives and negatives. Per some clubs, at least one member of staff should be allocated to manage this important and sensitive communication vector. Content is critical to magnify the exposure and increase engagement, and it is also important to adapt the communication according to times and trends.

The ICOYC Currents was also discussed to make members aware that their individual contribution is crucial to communicate what is happening around the globe. The GYC through its Managing Director, Cindy Schönrich, presented how the club positions itself in this topic, adding the importance that the GYC brochure plays within the Club communication along with the local and international media partners.


A key topic was social sustainability. Three clubs across geographies as diverse as Asia, Europe and North America, presented their initiatives and how they evolve. Driving forces include government requirements, the Club’s desire to be more progressive, the importance of social responsibility, putting people first, making a difference in the community and improving the Club’s image.

We are living in an era of high mobility which underlines the necessity of clubs to retain staff. It is important to find the right balance between full-time and seasonal staff, especially because replacing high-quality staff is expensive and difficult. What is the right balance when facing this challenge? Seasonal coaches provide a specific skillset, and due to the seasonality it is important to give them adequate conditions and benefits to help contribute to their well-being and fulfillment without provoking instability in the club’s budgets.

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Jack Griffin, a well-known personality in the America’s Cup circle, spoke about the book he is finishing about the Cup in partnership with Karolina Stefanski from Robbe & Berking Silver. Nearly every topic about the oldest trophy in the world was covered, including how it all began, low and high points, technological advancements in the boats, the role the crews play, foiling and what it brings to the spectacle, and introduction of the Alinghi Team with some of GYC sailors. Jack also talked about the America’s Cup that the GYC proudly displays to our Members and guests.

Before the wrap-up of the conference, GYC’s partner and cutlery maker Sknife had the pleasure to give a sample of the knives one can find in many of the most exclusive restaurants around the world, to each of the delegates with their Club’s name engraved, as a symbol of the high-quality and precision of Swiss products. 

Final Gathering

At the end of the conference it was time for the ICOYC Vice-President Europe, Gonçalo Esteves, to announce the two upcoming ICOYC Conferences in Vancouver and Sweden, respectively. The Commodores from each Club proceeded to present the countries and the cities where the conferences will take place so delegates could add the events to their calendars. Delegates were then given the opportunity to express what they desired to see from the next conferences in regards to content.

The delegates and their partners, the ICOYC Organization Committee, and the host met for the last time that evening for the Closing Gala Dinner at the GYC Clubhouse. All celebrated the gathering in Gstaad with a burgee exchange between the Commodores of the GYC, Salinas YC, Chicago YC, Southern YC and the Nyländska Jaktklubben.

As for the GYC, the Club is proud that the conference was a major success. We look forward to meeting you all very soon in Vancouver!


For further information contact Club & Event supporter, Alberto Almeida: events@gstaadyachtclub.com  – www.gstaadyachtclub.com

Thank you to our Partners