Last week in Cowes, sailing fans got to see several forms of the sport side by side. Beside the amateurs, who disappeared off the start line into all corners of the Solent, was the 1851 Cup – an exhibition match for version 5 America’s Cup boats, the Artemis Challenge for the IMOCA 60 class and the Extreme Sailing Series.
Each of these events is designed for a different audience. the general racing is for competitors – participants who drive the grass roots of the sport. the americas cup also exists for competitors, just more wealthy ones – with spectators requiring sizable power boats to watch. On the other hand, The Extreme Series unapologetically places the spectators at the centre of their product offer.
Part of the product that OC Events is selling with the extreme series is a sailing format that rewards good sailors and punishes the smallest of mistakes.
There is a dark side of many spectator sports that tempts viewers to keep watching because there is a high risk of something going wrong. Just as a percentage of ice hockey fans want to see a fight or NASCAR fans want to see a wreck, the prospect of an extreme 40 flipping or breaking adds a different dimension to the sport of sailing that many other formats either fail to communicate or hush up.
Some may want to criticise the promotion of a 40 foot carbon catamaran sailing into a wall at 35 mph, but the 50,000+ Youtube views of Groupama’s accident at cowes week dwarfs viewing numbers of any other clip from the event. People are still talking about it, but they are also talking about the good news too.
I was asked again last week – “If you had a client with a decent budget, which sailing event would you place it with.” Like all good sponsorship consultants, my answer was “it depends” – because different sponsors have different objectives. However, the Extreme Sailing Series consistently delivers to its sponsors and partners and has aggressive plans for the future.
Regular readers will know that we have a problem with the phrase ‘the F1 of sailing’ because nothing in the sport currently comes close. But if the Extreme Sailing Series expands from its current European and Asian events into a couple more international markets, then the series may just be the platform to help sailing really go pro.