Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Racing for spectators

After yesterday's post on Extreme 40 sailing in Cardiff Baydog brought up that favourite hot potato of whether it was better in the days of ACC monohulls.

Well over the last few weeks at the Olympics and Cardiff I've watched Lasers, 49ers, Eliot class match racing and Extreme 40s fleet race so here's some ideas from on my experiences.

1) Doing is better than watching, but.....

You knew that anyhow, didn't you. It is better to be out there on the water than on land watching.

But that doesn't help, really. We complain that there isn't high enough exposure of sailing on (say) TV and that means people should watch it - and that means people should enjoy watching it.

Then top rank sailing is expensive and not everyone is a billionaire so that means sponsors and that means audiences.

Plus with an audience you've got more of a chance of some kid going "hey, that looks cool, I'd like to try that" which means sailing has a future. Going fast is cool, remember that.

Also not everyone sails equally well and its actually quite impressive to see the very best at any skill based endeavour showing how it should be done. Those on the Nothe watching Ben Ainslie do his thing must have had a treat (alas that wasn't one of the days I was down there).

2) It's hard to follow large fleets of small boats

Sorry Tillerman but those Laser races may have had Paul Goodison and Tom Slingsby in it but it was really hard to follow from the Nothe what was going on with so many boats at the top / bottom mark. Also each leg took its time so can't see that grabbing the attention deficit yoof of today (or so Sassi tells me).

By all means get schools into sailing and put kids on Lasers asap - great idea. But I can't see it building an audience of spectators.

3) Mono hull match racing is for purists

Not that there's anything wrong with that: of the classes I saw at the Nothe I've already said that Match racing was my favourite. With just two boats you could see clearly who was winning and it was a master class in tactics and sailing skills.

But you had to know at least something about the rules and why boats would all of a sudden dial up or down and be prepared to invest time enough for the upwind / downwind legs to play out.

4) Speed is impressive

Two quotes overheard last weekend from what sounded like a sailing novice: "wow!" and "this isn't what I expected it to be like!" - I'm assuming in a good way. Even the Volvo 70s when they raced in Portsmouth didn't get that reaction - though the 49ers were close.

Ok it wasn't ACC class (let alone Square Metre Rule classic yacht racing) but it did seem to get involved an audience outside the usual suspect (that's us I guess).

Sailing at these close quarters over short courses do need different skills to traditional racing but there are skills there; less chess player more tennis player.

In the face of the super fast catamarans of today no doubt McCoy would say "it's yacht racing JP, but not as we know it!"

But it is yacht racing, and it is getting an audience.

There is room out there on the water for all classes and the Extreme 40s deserves its chance to grab some spectators into the world of sailing.

Anyway that's enough of me - what do you think?


Tillerman said...

I agree. I don't think large fleet Laser racing will ever be much of a spectator sport. But fast catamarans on short courses close to shore (as I saw in Newport with the AC45s) does have that WOW factor.

Bursledon Blogger said...

Tillerman's point is well made

- I wonder how many hits that youtube clip of the open 40 crashing into the wall at Cowes got!!