Let's get a few things straight, because there is a lot of OTT blind assertions being made. But first, an important disclaimer. I loved the AC72's and i am excited about the AC62's. I think we have the right boats for the event and the race format wasn't too bad.
Don't kid yourselves about the spectacle. After the thrill of seeing foiling high speed boats wore off, which for most who aren't diehards was pretty quick, the racing was boring until the comeback was well underway. I know many sailors who watched the first few matches, got bored and didn't tune back in until the score was something like 8-5. If ETNZ had won 8-2 or 8-3, we would all be saying "great boats, boring racing". Once you got used to the fact ETNZ could sail past OR at will upwind, the excitement of place changing went. Even somebody like me, who is a total obsessive for this type of thing, missed a fair number of the races in the middle of the event. My guess is that if you were an OR fan, you kept watching out of hope and if you were an ETNZ fan, you watched to see your team win. For others, it became predictable and boring, until the comeback.
As for viewing figures, there is no doubt they were disappointing. And to suggest that there has never been so many people watching an event from the shore is simply wrong. The ESS has got bigger crowds at certain events and the start of the Vendee gets bigger crowds as well. I even suspect that the daily total at Naples ACWS was bigger than the crowd in SF. The total visitor figures were well short of predicted numbers. Official figures for visitors to offical sites was only 1 million in total, while AC32 had a total of over 2.8 million.
It is a simple fact that despite being some of the most spectacular boats ever, the overall viewing figures, be it live, TV, internet etc fell well short of expectations and in most areas, didn't produce the bigger audiences that RC said he was after. For the fairly few hardcore enthusiasts, it was brilliant, but it failed to achieve the growth in audiences that RC said were needed to make the event more commercially sustainable.
I believe that the poor figures were due to so few teams. Even poor teams bring in audiences from their home country and those audiences are more likely to keep watching after their team is out. The only way to broaden the appeal is to have more teams. It is that simple. And the only way to get more teams is to get costs under control. That is possible without losing any of the spectacle, because the boats make up a relatively small portion of the budget needed.
I agree with your thoughts on the spectacle of the foiling cats. However, I don't think just lowering the costs will get more teams to sail AC62's
- There aren't enough qualified sailors to sail 11 AC62's at a high enough level. Again, we don't want to kill someone
- There is not a large enough pool of designers for 11 teams
- Where will future team owners come from?
- One of the great selling points was the ability for the owner or sponsor to sail on the boat. That is gone
I hope they can make the event commercially sustainable with 4-5 teams in AC62's. However, it won't be easy