Many sailing events run on long cycles with 2 or 4 years between races. The time between races, gives teams time to evaluate their commitment and plan for the future. Sponsors and sailors will analyse the options, opportunities will be created and chapters will be closed.
Since the end of the most recent Vendee Globe, the huge expense of Open 60 programs has started to bite. Even though they represent the pinnacle of offshore sailing, the backers of these campaigns are subject to the same sponsorship constraints as everyone else, and several have indicated that the sums might not add up.
So far, Ecover and Team Gitana have stepped away from Open 60 programs, focussing on the iShares Cup in 2009. Aviva, long time backers of Dee Caffari, seem to have switched to handing out wedges of cash to Hollywood stars rather than the double world record holder, backed up by a ‘tweet’ from Dee this week that said:
Sailing everyday for the rest of the week and I am very happy about that. It seems my sailing days are numbered.
Even long term sailing evangelist Andrew Pindar is taking a step back from the Open 60. Yesterday it was announced that the radical Juan Kouyoumdjian designed Open 60 yacht Team Pindar is up for sale.
Whilst the sale means a step away from the Open 60 class, the team continues to progress its ‘Sail Bahrain’ plans in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Andrew Pindar said:
“There is a definite interest and excitement in developing a comprehensive sailing programme in Bahrain. As an island nation, they are blessed with fantastic natural sailing conditions, however it’s not going to happen overnight. We have made extensive contacts in the region with people who share the ‘Sail Bahrain’ vision.”
Sam Davies, who provided sponsor Roxy with probably the best ROI of all competitors in the last Vendee Globe has signed on with Artemis Ocean Racing, who with the OC Group’s backing are comitted to the class. As a result of Sam’s step up, her old boat is also up for sale.
The Open 60 is a fantastic platform for any sponsor, but as new build costs start pushing £10 million, there may be an opportunity for boats like the Class 40 to grab a bigger share of voice and sponsorship money.
As the cycle goes around and the next Vendee Globe approaches, no doubt the teams and sponsors will shake out to provide another compelling race and in the mean-time, the Artemis Challenge during Cowes Week will give buyers and sellers of these amazing boats a chance to see them in action.