Despite an exciting boat, top sailors and great events in premier locations, the RC44 Championship Tour is often overlooked when thinking about yacht racing’s top tier of events.
In a very unscientific poll down the pub, we asked a couple of sailing fans to think about the top (commercial) sailing events in the world – almost all mentioned the Volvo Ocean Race, several mentioned the World Match Racing Tour, the Audi Med Cup, the Extreme Sailing Series (previously – and still known as the iShares Cup), and a couple mentioned the Louis Vuitton Trophy – though it was described as “that thing where they race old America’s Cup boats”.
When prompted about the RC 44 Championship Tour, the reaction was: “Oh yeah – I always forget about that.”
Perhaps it is because the Class sits somewhere between amateur and professional and is aimed at boat owners rather than spectators, that the awareness is not higher, but given the names of the sailors on board the boats, the RC44 really should have more recognition.
To date, 22 RC44 One Design boats have been built. The Class has announced that two new boats will be constructed as the Class grows on the back of news that events will be held in the USA.
Certainly there is scope for more sailing circuits in the USA. In the country where NASCAR puts on a travelling show almost every week of the year, it’s a little surprising that no-one has managed to create a series using the 18 Foot Skiff or Extreme 40 or some other boat as a platform for a professional tour.
Will the RC44 Class be able to manage it? A project to expand to North America is underway. The first regatta on US soil, the Oracle RC 44 Cup Miami, will take place on December 7 – 12 in South Beach Marina.
RC 44 founder and co-designer Russell Coutts says:
“I really look forward to competing in Miami. First of all because it is a beautiful sailing venue, but also because it is a symbolic step for the RC 44 Class as it will be the first time we race on American territory. Our goal is to develop a parallel circuit in the USA, and to see the European and American fleets meeting during several events, including the yearly World Championship.”
Following the Oracle RC 44 Cup Miami, the first regatta of the Championship Tour 2011 will also take place in the United Sates (west coast) whilst other regattas will be organised on American waters in the coming years.
The American events are important. Notably missing from the World Match Racing Tour, the USA is a massive market that is not well served by sailing as a professional sport.
The RC 44 Class has also announced that its historical partnership with SLAM has been extended until 2012. SLAM is the RC 44 Class’ official clothing supplier; it provides the Class management, umpires, race officials and guests with technical clothes that are particularly well adapted to their work.
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