Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Entertainment events

The World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is an organized series of 10 events providing professional sailors with the opportunity for income and elite competition. The third stage of the tour - Korea Match Cup - had 12 teams competing last week at Gyeonggi, Korea, where eventual winner Mathieu Richard (FRA) earned just over 60 thousand dollars.

Increasing the prize money has required the events to expand both their commercial and spectator platforms. But making the events more ‘fan-friendly’ has come at a cost. Much like the Medal Race at the Olympics, course locations at WMRT events may be great for observers but not so great for the sailors.

Here is a report from Australian Torvar Mirsky’s Mirsky Racing Team (MRT), who is ranked fourth in the Tour standings, and was eliminated by Richard in the Korea Match Cup semi-finals:

“The race committee was eager to race the semi-finals before the Live TV broadcast came on, so racing began in unfavourable conditions. The first race against Richard saw MRT dominate the prestart, before a big windshift forced both boats under the start line, and putting Richard in the lead. MRT managed to work their way back into the French Match Racing Team, but it wasn't enough and they went down one race.

“The second race was in a completely different wind direction, with shifty winds plaguing the race course once again. MRT dominated the race, and held onto a substantial lead, however Richard followed their line on the final run, and managed to take advantage of a private gust which took them down to the finishing line, winning the quarterfinals by a mere seconds.”

Made for television events transforms athletes into entertainers, which is fine for the athletes when their income is guaranteed. But on the WMRT, the only guaranteed money is from each team’s sponsor. Tough way to make a living when a winning prize purse can get snatched by the random will of the wind.

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6 Comments:

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Beau Vrolyk said...

As sailing has attempted to morph itself into a TV-worth spectator sport, it has failed so far to consider what is probably the most important feature of TV broadcasting - Schedule. Without being able to predict exactly when a race will start, when there will be breaks for commercials, and exactly when it will finish TV producers and directors will be loath to try to match the economic demands of their business to the vagaries of sailboat racing as we know it.

To become "entertainers" that are worthy of TV time, sailors will need to race on schedule, without any excuses made for windshift, breakdowns, or lack of wind. Clearly, this will dictate that many of the places that we currently race are unacceptable; it will force sailing into venues where the winds are predictable, the weather it good enough to run TV cameras outdoors easily, and where there is an opportunity for an audience to observe the racing and provide the "Fan Images" that TV loves.

All of this will change (and is changing) our sport substantially. One may debate if this is an improvement or a degradation of sailing as we know it, but it is and will change.

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger David Storrs said...

My view: Of course it is easier to sail in a venue where the course is laid out perfectly to the wind and the wind never changes, but life is life. Is P or S in any way disadvantaged by a starting line that is biased, or a windward leg that is not 90 degrees, or a wind that shifts direction? No, that just creates more opportunities for the alert team to take advantage of an opportunity. Perhaps these bad environments just create different opportunities for the two boats, rather than creating an unfair competition?

 
At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like Torvar forgot the #1 rule in match racing - stay between your man and the hoop, especially when you are 1 nil down!

 
At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Tough way to make a living when a winning prize purse can get snatched by the random will of the wind."

I was always under the impression that making the most of random will of the wind was what sailing and particularly racing was all about.

If you want constant wind then you need to be sailing your toy boat in the bathtub with a fan to provide the "perfect" conditions.

I see the complaint about a private gust as instead being a reason to celebrate the proper anticipation of a change in the wind pattern, instead of claiming that someone lost because of it, rather someone won because of sensing and seizing the opportunity.

 
At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The identical tv pressure was on the 2008 olympic 49er gold medal race, albeit at the other end of the wind range. Nathan Outridge capsized in very difficult conditions, the race went on after one of the teams raced back to shore and changed boats and won the gold medal. You did not hear a much out of nathan, real dignity in a difficult situation.

 
At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Just because some racing will become TV-worthy doesn't mean that all sailing will. And in my estimation having variable conditions across the sailing field be it wind/crew/boats/rigging/etc will give TV viewers more aspects to care/argue about. Make courses tighter and there will be more chance for rules infractions and contact. TV loves a bit of carnage.

The only area's I see as a detriment to the TV viewership are lack of winds, but I imagine ESPN could figure out a way to show it later in the evening, rather then live if they were pressed...

 

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