Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Professional sailing

At the editor’s desk of Scuttlebutt, there is no shortage of press releases announcing the launch of new events or professional teams, with many of them badly needing the early press to have any hope of meeting their stated goals. When Paul Cayard and Russell Coutts announced their plans for the World Sailing League in February 2007, the sailing media - including Scuttlebutt - all bit hard.

This week in Scuttlebutt 2866, Paul discussed the initial concept of the WSL, and why it failed to succeed. Taking a further look at the development of the professional sector of sailboat racing, Scott MacLeod, whose company Force 10 Marketing has owned and operated the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) since 2003, shared his thoughts:

As for pro sailing, there are two areas in the sport for professionals to make a living: self-supporting commercial events and existing events within the sport that permit ISAF Group 3 (paid) crew. The question is: Can professional sailing be commercially viable without the support of a patron (billionaire, rich owner, etc)? Right now the answer is no for a number of reasons:

- Fragmented and confusing offering of opportunities to sponsors.
- The ROI doesn't match with the costs or prices being asked.
- The ROI measurement isn’t' real or the numbers are skewed.
- The governing body/ISAF provides no control over the structure.

As for self-supporting commercial events that do currently exist, I know the WMRT is in that category, and I think the iShares Cup is close but I don’t know how many of the boats are fully sponsored (commercially viable) or actually paid for by owners. This would all be moot if the America’s Cup had rolled on nicely out of Valencia as that event was a commercial home run.

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At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Norman F. Angus said...

hopefully professional sailing will go the way of the dodo bird. All the focus of professionalism is a big problem in retaining and attracting new members to our sport. The pros? represent a tiny percentage of sailors yet the world seems to revolve around them. Time to get a grip!

Juniors need a coach? Pros needing a day off while getting $1000+ a day to sailing for a day?

Time to get real! This is sport and we need to understand that. The Olympic's, pro sailing, AC, Volvo have all contributed to the FUN of sailing.

In the past racing and club sailing drove the developments and support for sailing.

Please get rid of the threads on coaches - they (the coaches) are in my opinion, little better that roaches.

Just look how Little League has negatively been effective by the over arching push for professionalism!


At 1:54 AM, Blogger David Fuller said...

This is a great debate that should run and run and run. One wonders why it is a bad thing to have to have the support of rich benefactors? Soccer does it - many clubs wouldn't run without wealthy owners, or NFL or NBA for that matter.

Professional sport is here to stay. That doesn't meant that there can't be room for both. Golf manages the balance very well and even ancient sports like Cricket and Rugby realise that professionalism drives technology and interest from non-sailors.

I agree with Scott Mcleod's reasons why it is hard though.


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