Sailing has the wrong stars. 5

The BBC is currently broadcasting a live event. For 3 nights, prime-time evening TV is being given over to… Astronomy.

On paper it doesn’t sound like a televisual feast. The action happens intermittently, the presenters need to be filmed in black and white night vision and the concepts are a lot more difficult than Big Brother voting.

Sections of the yacht racing industry give excuses as to why sailing is not more prevalent on TV. Many are resigned to the sport being ‘niche’ because ” sailing is too complicated to understand.”

In reality, when compared to astronomy, competitive yacht racing has a lot going for it.

Even if you take into account that the BBC is compelled to produce certain types of content, there is no reason why sailing can’t be used to explain concepts around weather, the environment or fluid dynamics!!

If Dara Ó Briain can explain what an inverse square law means to something approaching the speed of light, then the public can probably get their heads around VMG.

This leads me to the probable real reason why Stargazing Live made it to our screens. A recognisable personality fronting it – dare I say a celebrity.

In this case I define a celebrity as someone who is recognised by the mainstream public and its something that sailing broadcasting fails at.

What the sport of sailing needs, whether it be the new America’s Cup, compilations from the Volvo Ocean Race or videos made for Youtube is a combination of non-expert presenter who doesn’t assume any knowledge of the audience and who’s job it is to bring them on a journey of discovery with the help of expert commentary and insight.

The prevailing view in parts of the sport of sailing is to treat the viewing public with a kind of contempt and assume that they can’t understand sailing without the product being dumbed down.

Perhaps we should think about it the other way around and say that if we can get someone to take the time to invest in understanding the complexities, they will become a more long term and thus more valuable fan.

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  • Asd

    Dara studied maths and theoretical physics at Uni, so is not just any old presenter.

    The BBC once used their Gardening presenter for Cowes Week !

  • Roger Johnstone

    And talking of Dara….. His “Three men…” sailing TV series oppo. Griff Rhys Jones is not only a keen sailor but a very “well established” and popular TV personality

  • Gavinprint

    What about Dan Snow – he did well aboard yachts for the recent BBC History of the Navy series.

  • sailorgal

    I think that is an excellent idea.

  • The question is who would push it? Astronomy is on because someone behind the scenes is driving to get it on there (possibly someone who has a vested interest in getting more funding for space exploration?). The celebrities are just the tools you use to get your message across in a compelling manner.
    ‘Sailing’ as a whole can only be pushed by an organisation / association that has the remit and responsibility to raise the profile of the sport (and the individuals with the drive and know how to make it happen).
    Since we haven’t seen that happen, it is far more likely that it will take a commercial organisation with a specific marketing objective (selling sailing fashion, technology or something similar) to drive broader social awareness.

    Whilst I sincerely believe the World would be a better place with no more reality TV, if I was going to do this I would get Mark Burnett (Apprentice, Survivor etc.) to sell Larry Ellison on the idea of a reality TV boot camp for people wanting to get on his Americas Cup boat. And get San Francisco Tourist Authourity and Oracle to pick up the bill.

    Glamour, action, ego’s, danger, etc. etc. Compelling viewing. I think most ‘neutral’ viewers (non-sailors, non-stargazers) would tune into that.

    Maybe putting all that together is a job for David Fuller 😉