NASCAR don’t do sailing, but if they did, it would probably be the best sailing competition in the world. The OC Group does sailing and it is the closest that the sport gets to a product appealing to a mass market, with exciting close racing, visually stunning machines and sailing superstars. It’s entertainment and it makes no apologies.
The iShares Cup 2009, billed as ‘the perfect antidote to distant slow yacht confrontations!’, will feature 10 eXtreme 40 catamarans. Skippered by names that are recgonisable in the sailing world and some that might even be known to the public ( in France) include, Loïck Peyron and Franck Cammas, who are unrivalled in the oceanic multihull world.
In addition to having five World Oceanic Multihull Champion titles to his name, Peyron won The Artemis Transat in 2008 making it three career wins on the toughest solo transatlantic course and in doing so rising one step above French legend Eric Tabarly. Peyron joined the Oman Sail project in March this year and will now be charge of his own Extreme 40, Renaissance, for this season.
Cammas holds the North Atlantic speed record and has recently been “teaching” the BMW ORACLE Racing team how to use their brand new maxi (90′) trimaran. The young French skipper already had a taste of the iShares Cup having raced at the French event in 2007 and at Cowes last year, and wanted to come back for a full season with his long-term sponsor Groupama.
Double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson will skipper Team iShares in 2009 and the Olympic contingent is also represented by Carolijn Brouwer on Holmatro, Yann Guichard on Gitana Extreme- Groupe LCF Rothschild, Darren Bundock on BT and Pete Cumming with Chris Draper on the helm of Oman Sail’s second Extreme 40, Masirah – not to mention the plethora of Olympian crew members throughout the fleet, including the Mourniac brothers aboard Erik Maris’s LUNA.
Australian Nick Moloney brings his eclectic experience as a round-the-world and America’s Cup sailor back into the fray with BT, after finishing the 2008 iShares Cup on the podium
Also coming from the prestigious world of the America’s Cup, James Spithill onboard BMW ORACLE Racing will be a real rival for the number one spot.
The final top-flight team will announce their participation in the coming weeks to make it ten teams in total coming head to head on the demanding, short and sometimes unconventional courses, competing so fiercely that heart-stopping close encounters always feature on the menu.
It’s a show as well as top class racing and the public has full access to the action from the shore, in carefully chosen venues that combine challenging sailing conditions and spectator-friendly configurations. Three of the European venues have been officially announced – Venice (ITA), Kiel (GER) and Almeria, Andalucía (ESP) – the remaining three venues in the UK, France and The Netherlands are confirmed and will be announced shortly.
The iShares format has a real chance at breaking out of the sailing bubble and into a wider consciousness, but it will be a while before sailors will be having their own action figures, or appearing on corn-flakes packets.