As the Paris Boat Show begins, the question about how the sailing marketplace and the yacht-racing market place fit together comes up again. When this website was started, some industry figures told us that the cruising market had no interest in racing and vice-versa.
But it’s not that simple. For the suppliers of deck hardware, sails and clothing, there is a massive crossover between racing and cruising and like motor-sport, the professional end of sailing acts as real-world research and development, allowing manufacturers to make claims about performance and durability.
In motor-sport, there is a concept of ‘factory teams’ (Ferrari, Renault, Suzuki, Subaru…) which does not happen in sailing. But while the suppliers of finished boats don’t really use the sport to sell their product, the suppliers are more aggressive. Indeed, a couple of suppliers do have factory teams (Puma, Quantum Racing), but others back multiple disciplines.
Motor-sport comparisons never really work. This article began with a thought that North Sails was like the Michelin of sailing, but of course sails are more like engines than tyres, so it falls down quite quickly, but nevertheless – the strategy of being an integral part of the reason why someone stands on the top step of the podium and lifts the cup and then translating that message into everyday benefits for non-professionals is a sound one.
North Sails have a long list of professional success at sailing regattas around the world in 2010, but it is the way in which they are trying to sell this as a benefit to the cruising market that is interesting. Brands like Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria and Dufour say that there is no point in trying to do this because people who are cruisers don’t care about racing. This is backed up by the total lack of racing imagery in their promotional materials.
This video recognises that perhaps there is a relationship between professional R&D and innovation brought about by racing and better products for casual sailors. Of course there should be. The sport of sailing doesn’t really make any money selling tickets or television rights – in recent years it has been used to sell financial services and luxury suitcases, but in the end doesn’t it have to sell more sailing stuff? More jackets, more sails, more boats? If not – why do it?