AMSTERDAM – Long before superyachts are shown at glitzy boat shows, their design and features have been perused by a few hundred naval architects, designers and researchers in a charmless Amsterdam convention hall.

There is no greater catalyst for developments in yacht building than the HISWA International Symposium on Yacht Design and Yacht Construction. Held every other year in the margin of the METSTRADE Show, it marked its 50th anniversary in 2018.

At the symposium, yacht designers and builders share projects and techniques with colleagues and rivals from around the world. The symposium’s strength is that “yacht design concepts, not their specific applications, are shared,” says Dutch naval architect Gerard Dijkstra, founder of Dykstra Naval Architects whose portfolio spans a vast range of super sailing yachts. “Designers and builders are free to develop their own application.”

The symposium is not for the uninitiated. There were more than a dozen presentations in 2018, ranging from “the prediction of on-board noise propagation” to the “future of battery storage in large yacht system architecture” to “operation-based motion analysis.” The biennial event publishes symposium papers about 6 months after each session.

The HISWA Symposium (HISWA is the Dutch marine industry lobby) was started in 1968. It is organized by HISWA Association, Delft University of Technology and RAI Amsterdam, organizer of annual METSTRADE show.

Dykstra told the symposium, yacht building has benefited greatly in recent decades from a surge in both scientific and commercial research that generated new products and techniques. Not all developments are necessarily ground-breakingly new. “I mean, what is new?,” said Dijkstra. “Development of J Class sailboats was stopped by the 2nd World War,” he said. Its revival in the 1990s was made possible by new load measuring techniques.

Dykstra remembers using a Commodore 64 game console to draw a 38m sailing yacht. It was a breakthrough tool. Hydrofoils first appeared on sail boats in the 1970s but their breakthrough occurred only recently.

“Our generation of yacht designers has much to thank Delft University of Technology and the HISWA symposium,” said Dijkstra. “I cannot wait to be surprised by the next generation.”