Does Sailing Need an Annual Super Event that Can Capture Fans and Casual Observers?

Does Sailing Need an Annual Super Event that Can Capture Fans and Casual Observers?

Avanti at Moffett Finish Line
Avanti at the Moffett Race finish line: One man's super bowl.

By David Lott, WaterViewHome Publisher

Does sailing need its own super bowl--its own annual event that captures the attention of sailors and non-sailors alike?

Given the nature of the sport of sailing and its ever-in-flux components of wind and water, no playing field is ever the same. Courses change, the boat lengths vary, the players change, even the definition of the competitions are at a wide variance.

I think the public needs to be presented a consistent and understandable competition in order to be engaged in the sport. Most major sporting events benefit from the attention of casual observers--they serve to introduce the sport to possible converts. And the core participants love to rally around their sport's showcase event. Sailing should have one or major events per year as well.

Major Competitions
Baseball has the World Series, football the Super Bowl, tennis Wimbledon and the US Open, bicycling the Tour de France, golf the Masters and US Open. These competitions focus on the best the sport has to offer and happen every year in the same time period.

Their predictability and well-televised schedule make them easy to follow, bringing in the casual fan, and thus greatly expanding the viewing public and sponsor value. The America’s Cup, post-Dennis Conner, has yet to present itself in such a manner that I can remember.

Perhaps there could be city sailing teams, open to any sailor who lives in the area.

Local, National, Maybe International
The event would be open, and a local competition would determine the city representatives. Then an elimination tournament—playoffs and a Sailing Super Bowl--would be held the same week every summer to determine a national champion.

A standard boat would be selected as the boat of choice for all competitors. The event would create great opportunities for sponsors while exposing sailing to the casual fan. There might even be a design competition to create a new ‘city sailboat’--great PR for the sport and shipyards involved. Eventually, the competition could culminate into a world sailing event.

Stats Engage the Public
The other key ingredient(s) that brings in fans are stats. What stats does anyone remember from any America’s Cup other than the name of the winning country? What’s the fastest speed overall, fastest mile, course record, Cup MVP, coolest tactical move, best offensive maneuver, best defensive maneuver, memorable moment, etc? Fans love stats and there seems to be none for sailing.

Iconic moments are important, too, and push a sport beyond the realm of the avid fan. The image of the exultant Cassius Clay standing defiantly over Sonny Liston lying prostrate on the canvas is a sports moment that will live forever.

Does sailing have a moment like that? Could it?

An annual super sailing event might start to create them.

What do you think? Send us your comments and we'll forward them to the Editor of SailingWorld magazine.

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