Game On. The Business of Virtual Yacht Racing.

The World Yacht Racing Forum continues to publish some great insights into the business of Yacht Racing. Their latest newsletter features an in depth look at the phenomenom of virtual yacht racing games.

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The WYRF looks at sailing online….

Hundreds of thousands of people competed virtually in the last Vendée Globe and Volvo Ocean Race, comfortably sitting in front of their laptop or mobile phones. The new IT technologies allow the development of popular games, race players and viewers, as well as strategic assistants for those who actually like to sit on a real boat…

CEO of KaliBee Emmanuel de Bressy and Marketing and Operations Director at Many Players Philippe Oliva tell us about the present and future of virtual racing.

WYRF: Please tell us about the current state of the technology, and what your tool is all about.

Philippe Oliva: “Virtual Regatta is a race simulator for offshore races. We have developed a game that aggregates and combines topographic and meteorological data with the characteristics of the boats (VPP, measurement rule…). We use Adobe Flash as graphic interface. This leads to a game that depicts the reality whilst remaining simple and compatible with most computer hardware.”

Emmanuel de Bressy: “KaliBee develops support tools for debriefing and live broadcast of inshore regattas. Our web architecture is very powerful and evolutionary; however, what’s most spectacular with our technology is the 3D rendering that it offers. It is very fluid and very detailed at the same time. Thus, with the same tool (TCPlayer), we can broadcast on the internet, project on a huge screen or produce TV images.”

WYRF: What are the main purposes of virtual sailing

Emmanuel de Bressy : “Two different types of virtual sailing must be taken into account:

The multi-player games – this is all about mobilizing a large number of players through a low-tech solution. The games have become essential in offshore sailing events. But they don’t adapt to inshore races yet.  The live coverage of regattas, with two objectives:  Communicate around the sailing events, provide live broadcast at the race village and on the internet, offer content, explain the regatta and bring value to the sponsors. Help competitors and sailing fans to debrief their races. This requires a fluid solution with pertinent information. Every KaliBee solution can be replayed (check”

Philippe Oliva: “Virtual Regatta finally allows the public to take part to the world’s biggest oceanic races. People are not only spectators anymore; they become actors and compete in the same conditions as the real sailors. The characteristics of the boats, route, weather and schedules are identical, which allows them to live the race just like the real skippers. It also strengthens the bonds between the real and the virtual races. When you hear the players talking about their regatta, you really wonder if they were on the water or playing a game. It’s amazing.”

WYRF: How far will development go? How do you see the future?

Philippe Oliva: “The potential for development is huge and we regularly add new applications. If I tell you that in the future, the players of Virtual regattas will steer a real boat in a real race, from their home, it sounds like science fiction. But it is already the case. During the four last legs of the Volvo Ocean Race, Ian Walker, the skipper of Green Dragon, was receiving instructions given by the players of Virtual Regatta. That’s when he got his best results in the regatta (he was third twice).
Perhaps Virtual Regatta will compete in the next Vendée Globe. The real one!”

Emmanuel de Bressy: “The technologies are in place; now the key is whether the race organizers will use them. Globally, we can say that Internet is going to have a privileged place in the broadcasting of information (real time follow-up, classification, ranking list etc).  Personally, I believe that a more local marketing must be developed in order to generate the public’s loyalty, by providing more content. Our sport suffers from the absence of ticketing and the lack of images that explain the game. The virtual footage compensates those lacks by offering real-time content and by providing a marketing platform in the race villages.”

WYRF: Does virtual sailing bring people into sailing or does it take them away from the sport?

Philippe Oliva: “Virtual Sailing definitely brings the public closer to real sailing. I’ll give you some examples:
A primary school class took part in the Vendée Virtual Globe on Virtual Regatta, finishing at a brilliant 350th place out of 340’000 players. The teacher used sailing to illustrate her program. In April, the whole class went sailing for real in the club closest to their home.  Numerous players discovered sailing with the Vendée Globe, many of them by playing on Virtual Regatta. Some joined training courses; others went to les Sables d’Olonne for the arrival and to get in touch with the real sailors. Finally, the French Sailing Federation (FFV) recognized virtual sailing in March 2009 as a new discipline. Virtual Regatta is now officially affiliated to the Federation and is authorized to deliver (real) sailing licences. The FFV quickly realized that virtual sailing brings a wide public to real sailing.”

Emmanuel de Bressy: “The games definitely bring a new audience to the sport. People are not scared by the complexity of the game and they go for it.
This broadens the reach of our sport, thanks to the tools developed to explain the event and provide content to the media and the race villages.”

WYRF: What are the commercial perspectives for virtual sailing?

Emmanuel de Bressy: “An offshore event cannot exist any more without a virtual tracking tool. The market is mature, and saturated.
It is less true for the inshore races; however, at KaliBee, we believe that the promotion of inshore races will happen alongside the development of tools that allow the public to get closer and this will inevitably be in 3 D. This market is less mature, however much bigger. We are here to help the organizers set up their communications strategy and to help them to broaden the reach of our sport. The TV’s and web based TV’s also need some didactic content.”

Philippe Oliva: “Virtual sailing can use the same model as sailing whilst avoiding the constraints of real life. First of all, the sports calendar is almost unlimited: type of boat, route, period, duration…we have no constraint and can offer all year round exposure to brands. The opportunities to join virtual sailing are numerous and varied. The brands or the companies can create their own virtual sailing event and thus strengthen their impact.”