Is Technology the Secret to Sailing’s Resurgence?

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Image: adapted from images from and

Sailing is a sport with a rich history, from the practical to the genteel, but in recent years it has been in serious decline. Though overall participation in outdoor activities has been increasing, traditional sailing demands a lot of skill, which appears to have led many people interested in boating to shift to power boating.

Some, alternatively, opt for a more rugged water-borne activity, such as kayaking. Still, it’s not all bad news.

Experts in the sport believe that sailing may have a brighter future, thanks to technology. By providing sailors with a greater array of tools that can take them from training to operation, as well as emphasizing the environmental benefits of the sport of sailing, there’s real potential for a resurgence.

Reimagining Navigation

In old movies that feature sailing, navigation scenes are some of the most notable, apart from those that involve the elaborate rigging of the sails themselves. That’s because to navigate a boat the old-fashioned way, you depended on a variety of tools, including a map, compass, chart, and watch.

Recently, though, sailors have been able to swap out their old maps for new navigation tools like Garmin’s radar bundle, which can make sailing both easier and safer. People who sail a lot or for significant distances should know how to use multiple tools to discern their location and any potential hazards, so access to a high-quality digital navigation system is undeniably helpful.

Reaching New Demographics

In addition to making sailing easier, one of the major advantages of introducing more technology into the activity is that it makes sailing more accessible to a larger pool of participants, and makes it into as much a leisure activity as a sport. Yes, there will always be those who want to race sleek sailboats, but a significant portion of the boat market consists people more interested in buying a family-friendly catamaran than a speeding vessel out a pirate movie.

For families who look for a relaxing outing, introducing tools that simplify each expedition can heighten the appeal.

Greening the Seas

Even if sailing appears to be on the decline among most populations, individuals looking for a greener way to explore the high seas may represent the perfect target audience for new sailors, particularly since cruises and fishing boats have gotten bad press lately.

Primarily wind-powered, sailing has always been reasonably green, but new, environmentally friendly boat-building practices could increase the appeal even further. Greta Thunberg’s recent landmark sail across the Atlantic — an entirely emissions-free journey — is likely to have captured the imagination of ecologically minded adventurers.

Most people don’t yet have access to the sort of fast, green-yacht technology that Thunberg used to cross the ocean, but if sailing becomes more popular again, the demand for such boats could drive prices down. Cruise companies are already trying to clean up their reputations with greener ships, such as Celebrity Cruise’s new Flora, which recently launched in the Galapagos.

As with so many innovations, demand drives success, and the lack of pressure for greener technology in the sailing arena may have held it back in recent years.

Better navigation tools and greener materials and practices are just scratching the surface with regard technological innovations in sailing, but for a sport that can still be practiced much as it was at its inception, these have been big steps toward a more comfortable, relaxing experience … and that’s what people want from sailing today.

Sure, it’s fun to watch movies about pirates, but pirates developed scurvy and suffered wrecks. Wouldn’t it be better just to enjoy your time on a boat? That’s exactly what the technology is trying to ensure for sailing enthusiasts.