For sailing to achieve real growth, the sport needs to appeal to a wider audience. Growth in markets like the UK, USA and France will only ever be marginal as sailing fights to maintain its share of an increasingly crowded sports and leisure marketplace. The situation is different in new markets, which is why the most commercial operators in the sport are looking to India, the Middle East and China.
For the World Match Racing Tour to live up to its potential, it needs to redistribute its events to markets which are important for stakeholders. The announcement of the ‘Qingdao Match Cup’ is a great addition to the Tour. The model shows that sailing can be ‘professional’ and develop participation as a consequence.
Vice Mayor of Qingdao Municipal Government, Wang Xiulin, who is also the President of the Qingdao Yachting Association and Peter Gilmour, President of the WMRT have signed a five year agreement through to 2014, which gives the event enough security to allow for investment in infrastructure and consistency of delivery.
The size and relative immaturity of the sailing market in China makes the Qingdao Match Cup the perfect platform to sell more boats. While manufacturers have traditionally kept racing and cruising separate, Beneteau will provide 10 First 40 yachts as the weapon of choice for the World Match Racing Tour competitors.
Just as golf and tennis can support amateurs and professionals, the World Match Racing Tour is sending a message to competitors that there may be a living to be made from being one of the best match racers in the world. The Qingdao Match Cup will have offer a total prize pool of USD$500,000.
Unlike some past Olympic sailing venues, Qingdao has used the infrastructure provided by the games to become the foremost location for sailing in China. Qingdao, THE SAILING CITY has already successfully hosted stopovers for the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race and the 2009-2010 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
During a speech at the official signing ceremony, Wang Xiulin, Vice Mayor of the Qingdao Municipal Government, said to host the World Match Racing Tour is an important step for Qingdao.
“The WMRT is a top class global series amongst international sailing events. It is important to us to have a world class event here, especially for those who are now fond of sailing. Once the Qingdao Match Cup is established, more people will get an opportunity to learn about match racing”.
China is a vast population for the WMRT to penetrate and engage with. There are 1.3 billion people within the nation where sailing is growing in popularity. In the City of Qingdao alone, there are 8 million residents, about 2 million of these locals regularly take part in sports. Over the past few years in excess of 10,000 people have accepted the opportunity of sail training in Qingdao, which has led to 5,000 local residents taking part in regular sailing leisure pursuits.
The Vice Mayor added,
“With the World Match Racing Tour coming to Qingdao this year, Qingdao will take the lead in hosting important international regattas in China”.
The WMRT President, Peter Gilmour added
“The ability of the City of Qingdao to organise a stage of the WMRT in such a short amount of time (four month period) was something we analysed carefully. As both a competitor and organiser I am delighted to see that the penultimate stage of the 2010 Tour will be simply outstanding as the City Of Qingdao is now ready for the Tour.”