The USA is a strange place. We get more emails from people in the USA than anywhere else criticising our commercial agenda and bemoaning the loss of ‘corinthian spirit’ in the sport of yacht racing. Yet this is the land that has the biggest, wealthiest, professional sports leagues on the planet. This is the country of NBA superstars, who created sports marketing and then reinvented it with Nike and Michael Jordan. This is a country of sports fans who want to be entertained, but sailing promoters have never had the will to really do it properly in America.
As a result, there is latent demand for the consumption of sailing as a sport. Perhaps Oracle Racing should have staged the the RC44 race before deciding that multihulls were the only way to entertain a crowd – a crowd that have been starved for professional yacht racing for years.
So fair play to the Sailing Events Association of San Diego for staging the RC44 event. It’s no surprise to us that a professionally staged event, marketed to the right audience would do well in the USA, though some seem taken aback by the response. The four-day “stadium” event with a start-finish line located within shouting distance of the Broadway Pier brought much larger than expected crowds to viewing areas stretching from the flight deck of the Midway Museum to the Broadway Pier to the Embarcadero to Harbor Island.
SEA-San Diego president John Laun said:
“We’ve exceeded our expectations for delivering a really good spectator friendly event. We hope to have the RC44s back every year, we’ve had a great time with them.”
Islas Canarias Puerto Calero owner-skipper Daniel Calero said:
“It’s been really nice sailing in San Diego. It’s like playing football with all the crowds behind you, screaming and clapping. San Diego Bay is amazing, great atmosphere.”
Russell Coutts added:
“The San Diego is one of our best for sure, it was just a great venue, lots of variables on the race course, lots of people here and lots of interest, it’s been fantastic. We are hoping to be back here again.
It’s a good sign for the America’s Cup that the sports fans are supporting events like the RC44. Perhaps they would have come out to see monohull match racing, but that ship has sailed and now we move on to a new era – and the fans will adapt.