Brad Hampton on The State of Yacht Racing


Brad Hampton, the publisher of YachtPals.com has given his view on the state of Yacht Racing. It’s a good summary and we agree with most of it. 

It’s no secret that yacht racing is becoming more popular around the globe. Clean, Green and technologically advanced, it seems recently that the entire world is catching the sailing bug. While the sport in Europe has been progressing steadily, in the Middle East, Asia and North America, the popularity of sail racing has been growing by leaps and bounds. The boats are getting faster, the crowds larger, and the sponsors of a higher profile. No longer is yacht racing about rich stodgy men and their expensive toys – racing under sail is now a young, extreme and entirely accessible world sport whose time has come.

Perhaps the greatest technological gains in yacht racing haven’t been the exotic laminates, designs and construction techniques, but the communication technologies. Until recently, the press coverage of sailing races was limited to a few grainy photos and the results – usually published months after the completion of the race. These days, we are able to offer up-to-date information, comments from the racers, photographs and video as it happens, and present this to you within hours, on demand, in the comfort of your own home or office. New Media like YachtPals has brought sailboat racing into the hands of the fans, and believe us when we say that the response is overwhelming.

Cyberspace isn’t the only new venue for sail racing. Last year saw record crowds at races like the iShares series, where the venues are chosen not for their proximity to a yacht club, but for the accessibility of spectators. The iShares Cup series worked on the simple principal that if people could actually see the races, they would be more interested. Despite dire predictions and resistance from some of the old guard in the sailing world, hundreds of thousands of spectators proved the iShares Cup organizers right: people like sports they can watch. The racers are happy, the sponsors are happy, the fans are happy, and the cities hosting the races are happy – so much so that many major cities around the world are tripping over themselves trying to create their own spectator-friendly sailing venues.

The sport is not only growing in terms of fans, but competitors as well. From children racing dinghies in harbors, rivers and lakes, to seasoned singlehanders and professional teams racing maxi yachts across oceans, there are more races and more competitors than ever before. There are also more boats, as the plastic used for the last 50 years in boat building isn’t going anywhere. This means that for racers (and cruisers, and weekenders) boats are now available for little more than the elbow grease required to get them into condition. We’ve seen everything from 8-foot prams to 50-foot world cruisers offered for free “to a good home,” and many are being drawn into sailing as a personal excercise in what they call “plastic recycling.”

Perhaps the greatest thing that draws people to yacht racing (and sailing in general) is that it’s good, clean fun. This is not just in regard to carbon emissions and noise pollution, but the competitors themselves. With very few exceptions, sportsmanship is alive and well in the sailing world. The finger-pointing, trash-talking, cheating and poor conduct which have sullied so many other sports simply isn’t a part of mainstream sailing, and the fans appreciate this facet of the sport in particular. Sailing’s heroes can be admired not just as athletes, but as people, and that’s grown increasingly rare in the world of competitive sports.

As we enter 2009, yacht racing is more popular than it has ever been. From the emails and messages we receive here at YachtPals, we know that many of you are new fans of sailing. “Now I’m hooked!” is a phrase we hear often, and we’re happy to share the addiction. This year’s racing promises to be the best ever, and it is our goal to bring you the best of the best in 2009. Stay tuned – we’re going to show you sailing like you’ve never seen it before, and keep you up to date on this most ancient of “new” sports. No doubt about it, 2009 is going to be a splendid year for sailing!