The business of yacht racing currently relies heavily on the backing of destination marketing and tourism authorities. The model is simple. Staging a high-profile yacht racing event like a stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race, provides a platform to promote a city and introduce tourists to a new destination. But for the model to work best, you need to align a host city or country with a participating team.
This model works, whether you are the Clipper Race or the America’s Cup World Series – tying the teams to the venues allows for a better return on investment for the host city.
The Volvo Ocean Race will be used by China to promote the city of Sanya as the ‘Hawaii of the Orient’, and to ensure the message is carried through the entire race, not just the Chinese stopover, a new team has been announced. Mike Sanderson, who has won the Volvo Ocean Race twice, will skipper the new Chinese entry to be called ‘Team Sanya’.
The announcement of Team Sanya brings the total number of entered boats to seven.
Mike Sanderson said at the launch of the new Chinese team in Beijing:
“This is a fantastic opportunity to race under the flag of such a great country and culture. We are building up a strong team and are ready to take on this exciting challenge. Our approach will be one of compelling intent, working fast and smart, representing this great country and team with ambition, dynamism and colourful energy.”
There is a sense that China, like Abu Dhabi, are willing to make large investments to use sailing as a mechanism to leap-frog other destinations in competition for tourism and investment. China will also compete for the next America’s Cup, with their team amongst those announced this week in San Francisco. Cities within China are also competing against each other for events, with Qingdao hosting the Olympics and the Extreme Sailing Series.
Li Quanhai, Vice Chairman of the China Yacht Association said:
“China is a sports power and has abundant marine resources. Our involvement in top sailing events, such as the Olympic Regatta and the Volvo Ocean Race, greatly improves the development of China’s water sports. The appearance of several high-level domestic games – such as the China Cup International Regatta and Hainan International Regatta – has drawn attention to the sport from the public. This will increase the popularity and development of water sports in China.”
Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race said:
“We are very excited about the news of Team Sanya and the return of Mike Sanderson, a veteran and true ambassador of the Volvo Ocean Race. This will be the seventh entry for the next edition and will not only bring a competitive yacht to our first class field but also will allow China to build on its already large sailing following. Team Sanya will allow the Chinese sailing fans to connect with the Volvo Ocean Race again and will be an amazing platform to engage with new audiences and attract potential tourists to Sanya and China itself.”
The Volvo Ocean Race is one event that can leave lasting infrastructure, both in terms of physical facilities, but also in terms of intellectual property and the skills and knowledge to stage and promote a major sporting event. Results from the last Volvo Ocean Race show that cities can use this legacy to bid for other events and deliver long term benefits.
The Deputy Mayor of Sanya, Wu Yanjun, agrees that the city will directly benefit from hosting the Volvo Ocean Race:
“Hosting world class events like the Volvo Ocean Race will directly improve our sailing and yachting related facilities. We can also use this opportunity to enhance our profile as a top tourist destination, showing our ability to host and manage world-class events. Team Sanya will be an ideal ambassador to promote Sanya and Hainan around the world.”
The city of Sanya will host the Volvo Ocean Race from the 4th to the 19th of February.
The chinese team will also benefit from a relationship with the finish of the race in Galway. Discover Ireland, promoting Irish tourism, will be a secondary sponsor of the Chinese team. Other sponsors include Helly Hansen as official clothing and apparel supplier.