James Spithill Addresses the 2010 World Yacht Racing Forum. 1

Jimmy Spithill - World Yacht Racing Forum 2010The World Yacht Racing Forum held its 3rd Edition in Estoril, Portugal from the 14th to 15th of December. Over the coming days and weeks, we will be writing up our notes from the conference as well as bringing you insight from some of yacht racing’s top leaders and decision makers.

[cleeng_content id=”984571434″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]This year’s WYRF started and ended with the America’s Cup. The event that for better and worse defines the sport of sailing has embarked on a new strategy and key personnel from the Defender – BMW ORACLE and their newly formed helper organisations were on hand at the forum to sell the vision.

The opening keynote of the conference was given by Australian Jimmy Spithill, the man who drove the impressive trimaran to win back the trophy for America. His speech, which can be found online at the BMW ORACLE website was straight out of the PR manual, but contained some interesting arguments.

The smoke and mirrors trick of playing classical music behind the black and white pictures before switching to a more modern soundtrack for the multi-hulls is a particularly neat piece of propaganda.

The company line; that sailing can be made more interesting through television, revolves around 3 points. 1 – Commentary that explains what is going on, 2 – Audio off the boats in real-time to get a sense of what is going on and 3 – HD cameras.

Spithill used NASCAR as an example (something we’ve been doing for years), to ponder why a family sedan being driven around an oval for 300 laps can be seen as exciting, whereas sailing on television generally isn’t. The use of great commentators, public audio of drivers, spotters and Crew-Chiefs as well as on-screen graphics, turns these bits of tin into a gladiatorial contest where the drivers’ characters are exaggerated into cartoon like representations.

But if ‘family sedans racing around an oval for 300 laps’ can be made exciting by TV, then why change the boat? Surely this argument suggests that if the television product was done properly, then monohulls match racing could be just as appealing to a television audience as a catamaran. As an aside, NASCAR is also occasionally cancelled due to bad weather…!

Jimmy Spithill did end his address to the delegates of the World Yacht Racing Forum by talking about “the fans we have yet to earn.”

This phrase is important for a number of reasons. Firstly because it positions sailing and specifically the America’s Cup as a sport for spectators not the sailors. This is quite a big shift for the trophy that has traditionally been the plaything of billionaires.  The second reason this phrase should be taken to heart by all those in the business of yacht racing is that fans and spectators shouldn’t be taken for granted. If the product is wrong, then they will leave and that doesn’t help the TV numbers or the sponsors.

All the America’s Cup has to do now is implement their vision in a way that earns fans around the world. How they are going to do that was covered at the end of the forum, and our thoughts on that presentation will be on our dedicated World Yacht Racing Forum page.

Video : Jimmy Spithill’s Keynote at World Yacht Racing Forum 2010.


  • Guest01

    If you want people to get attracted to a sportevent, give them something they can relate to.
    Although de AC5 boats are the F1 and certainly no family saloons, racing monohulls is just that.
    Racing in wingmasted tri’s certainly is not!

    The Louis Vuitton Trophy in Dubay was a perfect example how entertaining and attractive the sport can be when all three elements are correctly applied: great commentary, on board camera’s and audio (HD is not an issue yet), and computer animation to explain en envisualize what is happening…

    To me the America’s cup has completely lost it’s appeal in the last event…

    Bring back the monohulls!!!