The Extreme Sailing Series and Cowes Week have a tense relationship. Even though the Extreme 40 series has been to Cowes a number of times and adds an entertainment element that would otherwise be missing from the competitor based regatta, the catamaran event has been forced to play by Cowes Week rules to the detriment of their crowd-pleasing formula. In the beginning, the Extreme Series benefited from the media activity that Cowes enjoyed with a title sponsor, but now, the balance of power has probably shifted and Cowes Week perhaps gets more benefit more from having the OC Events run circuit next door than the other way around.
Despite having to fit in with a timetable imposed by Cowes Week management that saw hundreds of spectators watching Moth and windsurfer demonstrations while some of the best sailors sat in the hospitality tent, the UK round of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series exceeded OC Event’s expectations both on and off the water. In a statement released late last week, organisers said:
In ‘Stadium’ sailing mode, the 12 to 15 minutes races delivered some of the most spectacular racing the circuit has ever seen, in front of an estimated total crowd of more than 60,000, every day the beachfront being packed over a full kilometre.
Visitors to Cowes had more choice for night-life this year. As well as the old pubs, London nightclubs Raffles and Mahiki added a welcome touch of glamour to the event and the Extreme Bar also proved a popular destination for visitors with a four-fold increase on 2009. Over 900 guests were entertained in the VIP lounge of the Extreme Race Village, many of whom were reintroduced to sailing from a new point of view.
The online following was boosted by dramatic action captured on video, including Groupama’s near collision with the sea wall that had the crew leaping for safety. That video alone has already been viewed over 40,000 times across youtube and other channels.
It remains to be seen if the Extreme Sailing Series will return to Cowes Week in 2011. While the event can probably stand on its own two feet, there are still some advantages to being part of the Cowes Week activity. For some media, Cowes Week is the only UK sailing event covered and having thousands of competitors who are sailing fans in the same place provides an audience that is ready-made. Perhaps the two do need each other, but as the Extreme Sailing Series grows, Cowes Week will have to change to accommodate the growing popularity of the Extreme 40 event.
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