Sailing and motorsport are similar in the sense that anyone (with enought cash) can just decide one day to create a new class and a new series. As if there weren’t already a bewildering choice of boats and events competing for sailors, sponsorship money and media exposure, promoters continue to try and carve out niches.
This week it has been announced that a Swiss company will attempt to resurect the MOD70, a trimaran design based on the ORMA 60 class. It’s been tried before, but last time, sponsors weren’t interested. Now the new owners plan to manage and promote the MOD 70′ multihull professional circuit comprising a crewed, multi-leg round the world race and a European championship comprising a mixture of offshore and inshore races.
Meanwhile, the OC Group are trying to create a different series with 100ft One Design triamrans like the one built for Oman Sail.
The planned MOD 70 calendar for a new circuit would be a fully crewed round the world race from October 2013 to April 2014 and repeated on a 3 year cycle. In addition an annual European Championship would try to find space in the busy summer months, starting in June 2012.
As with all these things, “the aim of the class is to be international and elite, attracting the world’s very best sailors.”
But haven’t we heard it all before? In 2007 Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard announced plans to create The World Sailing League (WSL). A dozen teams would compete in identical, state-of-the-art 70ft catamarans, with events held at premier sailing locations around the world.
No doubt, the new management team have done their homework and have a business plan that makes it all stack up. Perhaps they know something about the state of the sponsorship market that we don’t. Perhaps they have in-depth consumer data that shows a huge pent up demand for more round the world racing, however it is highly unlikely that such a series would attract new sponsors or viewers to sailing. Therefore the only place to get backing is to cannibalise existing programs.
Pro-sailing has to change. Instead of proliferation, now is a time for consolidation. Yacht Racing promoters need to think about the sport as a market, with products and segments and consumers. Moreover, promoters who are pushing basically the same product need to think about the bigger picture and instead of breaking a niche into smaller and smaller parts, combine to provide a compelling product to the widest audience possible.