Winning Races versus Hearts and Minds.

Two large sailing events began in France over the weekend. The new Louis Vuitton Trophy – featuring old America’s Cup boats and idle America’s Cup teams and the Transat Jacques Vabre – a much anticipated return to offshore racing featuring the IMOCA 60 class as well as a couple of multihulls.

Both races feature UK teams, so we decided to follow both events using the web. While the Louis Vuitton Trophy came way out ahead in terms of the experience, the teams competing in the TJV seemed to evoke a much more personal response from fans.

Following on from the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series held in Auckland at the beginning of the year, the Louis Vuitton Trophy, held in Nice, is providing live streaming of video and an an audio commentary for each race, augmented by the cool Virtual Eye animations that allow non-sailing fans to get a really good handle on what is going on – they need it too – racing is quite a way offshore and with an air temperature of 9-10 degrees Celsius, it would be a keen fan indeed that was watching from the water. The French based Transat Jacques Vabre site is not so easy to navigate with almost no real-time information available leading up to the start of the race yesterday in La Havre. Eventually we found the real-time tracking page by going to the Artemis Ocean Racing site and finding a link from there.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been critical of some of the teams competing in the Louis Vuitton Series. Websites have been flat and static with sign-up pages for press but not much to keep fans engaged. TEAMORIGIN have finally got themselves a Facebook page and have amassed 577 fans who can tune into news and video from the team. BMW ORACLE sidetracked any attention their sailors might have been getting in Nice by showing off their new wing this weekend, but the team has added a ‘Social Media’ page to their website, have been providing regular updates on the blog and facebook page and say that Twitter is coming soon! Emirates Team NZ’s site is pretty traditional – some news and some pics and Azzura has a big facebook following. Most of the Twitter traffic for the Louis Vuitton Trophy is automated media bots with a couple of journalists on the scene and a couple more tweeting from the web-feed.

a-twitter-deecaffariIn contrast to the corporate feel of the Louis Vuitton Trophy, some of the personalities racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre are shining through. While it was hard to work out what was going on from the official site, regular updates were being sent to the internet via Twitter from Dee Caffari, Alex Thomson, Mike Golding and OC Group CEO Mark Turner amongst others. Fans also responded, sending messages in real time.

While we seem to bang on about Twitter, there are more traditional audiences that can be brought along for the journey using other methods. Sam Davies, whose blog updates from the Vendee Globe were heartfelt and entertaining, is writing an online diary for the Telegraph, and already there is an engaging tone that speaks to both the experts and the more casual fans. Part of her update today says:

We will be using an enormous new spinnaker! It is a HUGE monster that nearly covers two tennis courts and measures 485msq in total. We need this surface area to pull Artemis along downwind as she is a bit of a heavy boat! For an idea – this sail is more than 100 m2 bigger than “Sophie” – my big spinnaker on Roxy (who is a lighter boat!). It is a bit daunting, but in training Sidney and I managed to deal with the hundreds of square metres of cloth – even when it is pretty windy!

Looking forward to putting it up in the race…. Actually, I guess I need to find a name for the sail too, in true tradition! Any suggestions welcome from Telegraph readers!

The Louis Vuitton Trophy runs until the 22nd. Perhaps, once the competition moves from the round robin to the finals, more interest will focus on the event which is supposed to rival the America’s Cup for glamour and prestige. meanwhile, we’ll be tracking exposure and coverage for both the Louis Vuitton Trophy and the TJV, both at an event level and a team level to see who is delivering for their sponsors!