Earlier this month 30 skippers started the gruelling Vendee Globe. Teams with budgets of several million, state of the art carbon fibre yachts with sophisticated auto-pilots painted in the livery of brands like Aviva, Hugo Boss, Artemis and Ecover. But as we reported, the start barely made the sports section of the papers in the UK. This Sunday, the front page of the Sunday Times featured a photo of Michael Perham, a 16 year old who is attempting a circumnavigation.
The estimated cost of the venture is £200,000. The return on investment for sponsors like Totally Money is already plainly visable in terms of media coverage. But is this about sailing. Is this about sport? Or is this is about human interest – the slightly side show freak element of headlines – the youngest, the biggest, the smallest, the poorest, the underdog.
Perhaps in the end, the motives of the media don’t matter and the profile of sailing is increased and the value of sponsoring sailing projects validated. The companies who have backed Michael have got a great deal. They have invested a fraction of the cost of a Vendee Globe or Volvo Ocean Race project and are already seeing the results. Michael’s sponsors are listed on his website.