You would think that two of the UK’s best known sailors attempting to break a record would make for a great story – wouldn’t you? Coming off the back of successful round the world campaigns in the Vendee Globe – Dee Caffari and Sam Davies teaming up to sail around the UK faster than anyone else has an angle for almost any editor. Whether it’s breaking stereotypes, or the day to day practicalities of being aboard a modern offshore race boat, or human achievement – it’s the kind of thing that most people would be happy to sit down on a Sunday and read about in a magazine.
Seems not. According to an article written by Jo Payton for Sailing Anarchy – Editors across the board couldn’t care less about such a feat. The full article reveals how Jo’s perceptions about sailing were turned around by Dee, Sam and the rest of the team that eventually broke the Round Britain Record, but sailing event promoters, rights holders and sailing PR people take note… the sport is failing to be interesting and relevant outside sailing-centric media.
Here is an excerpt from the story:
My editors unfortunately, did not concur. With six kit bags stacked in orderly piles in Dee’s office and weather forecasts being obsessively analysed, I had pestered and exhausted every contact in my little black book. Like Isabelle, who had to be available for the Quiberon Solo on June 14th, my place on the boat was already in jeopardy due to the uncertainty of the departure date. My cut off point was June 9th, at which point pesky issues such as paid work and childcare had to take precedent.
I also knew I couldn’t sail without a commission for my adventure. I had expected editors to bite my hand off. Surely any women’s magazine worth its salt would want to feature a bunch of sassy, seafaring record breakers? Sadly, I met with unbendable opposition. Either they’d featured Sam Davies previously (even two years ago constitutes sailing ‘overkill’ to consumer magazine editors), simply didn’t ‘do’ sailing, or deemed the feat too wimpy for print. One editor told me she only covered feats of endurance if, say, they involved taking seven years out to walk from the Horn of Africa to the furthest tip of South America!
It was with great regret that I waved the girls off on June 15th, but I felt that my life had been changed. In spite of missing the main event I’d been bitten by the sailing bug. I was determined to challenge the preconceptions and prejudices of the consumer media by badgering them until they’d let me write about this fun, addictive and exciting sport.
We are not really surprised that Jo found it hard to position the story. The experience says a lot about the ‘failing’ mass media and the perceptions of sailing. Luckily, as we constantly highlight, digital media and social networks are making ‘consumer magazines’ increasingly irrelevant as consumers build their own media channels from the stories that they want to read. This however changes the business model. For someone like Jo to cover the story – someone has to pay.
Sailing is not doing a good enough job of changing people’s perception about it, but this story does make you wonder about those making the decisions about what stories we read in various outlets. It’s a real shame that a reality tv star’s make up tips or diet secrets are more worthy of publication than a Round Britain Record.
Here is a challenge to any editor of substance to show that they can recognise a good story.
Jo tried every national, all the Sundays, every glossy…all to no avail, but she hasn’t given up on them or sailing:
I’m still trying, plugging away, hoping to find a chink in an editor’s armour so I can spread the word. In this small way, my own ‘girl power’ may make a difference. I’ve learnt that women’s sailing is about so much more than Dame Ellen’s Vendee Globe achievements almost a decade ago. Women’s sailing is alive and kicking, and if a landlubber like me can be converted, anything is possible.