The debate in sailing circles about sporting entertainment being related to the number of hulls a boats has is a bit like the debate between Apple and PC fans. There is a lot of ideology, but many of the arguments don’t really make sense to an outsider. There are parallels in other sports though. F1 has four wheels and MotoGP has 2. They are different disciplines, different audiences, different products that entertain in their own right.
Certainly catamarans can provide great excitement, and when marketed properly, like in the case of the Extreme Sailing Series can also provide great entertainment. On the other hand, monohull classes like the 18 foot skiff, 49er and International Moth can also deliver great sporting spectacle. But can the two live side by side at the same event, or are fans of multi-hulls a different breed altogether? Mixed car and bike races aren’t attempted very often because the crowds are very different.
It’s hard to say if multihull fans and monohull fans exist, or whether there are just fans of exciting sailing. If the latter is true, then combining the two disciplines in the same event should give a better sports entertainment experience.
The Extreme Sailing Series™ and the International 49er Class Association have announced a strategic partnership to help broaden the media appeal of sailing. Starting in 2011, the Extreme Sailing Series™ will see the 49er racing alongside the Extreme 40, as part of the ‘Stadium’ showcase format.
OC ThirdPole’s Sailing Events Director, Gilles Chiorri, commented:
“The Extreme Sailing Series™ combines top professional racing with challenging and innovative short-course race formats that are also entertaining for a growing fanbase around the world – at the events and online. The 49er is the current Olympic class that offers the most attractive way for us to add another small boat ‘act’ in support of the Extreme 40 racing – as part of a strategy of providing up to 8 hours of entertainment for the public and VIPs who visit our events around the world. The 49er is also a class that has been a stepping stone for 2009 and 2010 Extreme Sailing Series winning helmsmen Chris Draper and Paul Campbell-James. The collaboration with the 49er Class is an exciting addition for us as we scale up the event for 2011 and beyond.”
Malav Shroff, President of the 49er Class commented:
“This is a very exciting partnership for us. Kids today want to sail fast boats and from the Optimist Class, kids are straight away jumping into the 29er class, the junior class of the 49er and an ISAF Youth World Class. At an early age they are exposed to high performance sailing and have no fear of the high speeds and performance of these classes. By 18 or 19 years of age they are already moving into the 49er. These high performance classes give them a unique exposure at an early age which they can adopt to various other sailing disciplines.
The 49 class is been trialling “Theatre Style” racing in Perth, Australia. The goal is to trial a style of racing that results in competitive racing and gives close access to media and the general public.
Designed to last only 8-10 minutes, 5 fleet races will be run on a width restricted course, framed by swimming lane lines which will keep the competition tight The top 2 boats will move on to a match race final to determine the winner. Within a 2 hour time slot the top 8 boats from qualifying will face off to determine a champion with nerves of steel and a broad skill set for ‘Theater Style’ sailing and match race skills. Given the prevailing breeze typical for Fremantle, the racing will be highly exciting and entertaining.
The first test was held in Weymouth, England in September of this year with favourable reports from the sailors, coaches and the sailing media.