What Sailing Can Learn from the Fans. 2

Who are yacht racing’s stakeholders? Traditionally, the sport has been self serving. It exists for its competitors. This was made perfectly clear last week at the World Yacht Racing Forum in Monaco, when the last question to the Americas Cup panel revealed that without continued private backing, the event would not exist. 

Next door, in the Motorsport Forum, they recognised another important stakeholder: the sports fan. While Tom Ehman reiterated Larry Ellison’s regret for the Americas Cup situation, one got the feeling that fans were the last people to be considered in any decision. 

In the Motor Sport Business Forum, a panel gathered to discuss the findings of a global survey of over 70,000 motor racing fans. The fact that they even asked the fans what they thought of the sport, shows how the two forms of entertainment differ. 

Motorsport heavyweights said that the survey gave them a mandate to push further in the direction they areheaded. Looking at the survey, the fans want overtaking, they want high technology and they don’t mind this high tech being used to increase overtaking.

Seems that the following quote could be made as much about sailing as motorsport:

“The problem at the moment is that so much money is spent on things the fans can’t see or relate to. The future is in damping the competition down a bit by not competing in those areas that have no effect on the product. But we will keep the high technology element by making it very clear where we are competing and try to encourage innovation and super-high technology in those areas.”

But it was not just the armchair fans that were being considered. The experience is also important.

“Giving the fans a successful race weekend is also fundamental to the sport. Within the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) we are trying to address how we can help promoters and fans. We do feel that making the weekend as a whole more engaging for fans is important. We have to do more to make those events really quite special because they are expensive for the fans and for the promoter. Within FOTA it is one of our top priorities to try to do more including looking at the race format and the qualifying format. It is very high on our agenda and we’ll have some ideas for 2010 but hopefully for next year as well.”

So who is watching sailing? And what do they want? Has anybody asked them?

  • First of all, thank’s for a agreat blog, covering an increasingly important aspect of our sport!

    Great point. I think the development of sailing is more dependent on personal views (or misconceptions) and special interests than on hard facts! And this is not a good platform for making the right decisions.

    Ask the fans, ask the sailors (and maybe even more important, the sailors that’s not taking part) and ask the sponsors. Better facts will lead to better strategies for developing the sport.

  • How can we best get this information if the “powers-at-be” do not even recognize it as important? Furthermore, would love to have some solid data which gives an image of how the mass population of the world perceives sailing in today’s time.