show me the money, part 9,873

Editor

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carlsbad
gp going down.jpg


Could the whole SailGP circus be beginning to fall off its foils? The overnight announcement that the Japan team – consistently one of the event’s better performers – has been dumped from the tour is extraordinary.

Even more dumbfounding is the stated reason for the sacking.

The skipper, Nathan Outteridge, and his crew weren’t jettisoned because of poor performance. They failed to raise the level of sponsorship money the SailGP business now demands of its participants, so they have been forced to give up their boat to a new team that can accumulate the required pile of cash.

What this reveals is the unpleasant commercial underbelly of the whole SailGP enterprise. It seems that Larry ‘The Oracle’ Ellison is only prepared to fund his traveling foil-fest for the first few years. Beyond that, each team is expected to support itself financially.

So why does that business model now start to look shaky? Let us count the ways.

It’s not about the boats – the outmoded AC carbon foilers. They could be racing Cape Cod catboats for all most of us might care. It’s the competition that counts.

To conventional sailors (i.e. 99% of us) the problem is the racing itself. The courses are so abbreviated the boat that wins the start is invariably ahead at the first mark – a leg that takes less than a minute to sail. After that, barring catastrophes, it’s usually a procession.

In an apparent attempt to counter that predictability Messrs Ellison & Coutts imposed a ‘winner-take-all’ final that apes the equally silly ‘Medal Race’ conclusion to championships in the Olympic classes. While the professionals might tolerate this attempt to generate synthetic excitement, most sailors have more respect for the skippers and crew who establish their winning credentials over a whole series.

The next problem is nationality. By opting to make the competition appear as if it is a contest between teams representing countries, SailGP has locked itself into a transparent hypocrisy. It is difficult to engender the type of national pride that animates truly international sports when the USA and Japan boats are helmed by Australians and an Englishman or Kiwi sails for China, Spain – or Outer Mongolia. Or, whatever.

Beyond those immediate issues, the fundamental hurdle SailGP is yet to clear is that sailing is just not a mass spectator sport, and never will be. It is too specialized and (dare we say) elitist.

Anyone can buy exactly the same equipment and clothing as Rafael Nadal uses for $500, and enjoy years of simple, social tennis at their local court. But to race even a basic Laser will set you back a minimum of $5,000. You then have to spend years mastering a complex skill, learn its arcane rules, and join a club. Want to be competitive offshore against the big boys? Try $5 million.

The commercial core of any major sport is television (and now internet) exposure. Without it, they will always struggle. Truly popular codes can demand huge rights fees from the networks but the also-rans often have to provide coverage free of charge to the mainstream outlets, or even pay to have their sport feature on-air or online.

The Catch-22 of all this is that without proven viewership numbers, the sponsors won’t support teams or buy naming rights and signage. So the minority sports, sailing included, try to tart up their ‘product’ in increasingly frantic attempts to attract eyeballs. They strive to make their sport flashier, more intense, and shorter – everything that sailing is naturally not. It’s hardly surprising that so much of the PR guff pumped out by the SailGP operation emphasizes their inflated TV audience and live-stream claims.

You can sense this creeping desperation in the tone of the SailGP TV programming itself. While the coverage and computer graphics are excellent, the commentators hype the action to ludicrous levels of uninformed sensationalism. (In any case, with the boats often sailing at 40 knots, and each race only taking around 12 minutes, they are often way behind what informed viewers can see for themselves on screen.)

But for the moment, with Ellison’s support, the circus rolls on to the next town. Meanwhile, we should prepare ourselves for more plaintive appeals for sponsorship. That some of the world’s best sailors are reduced to putting out the begging bowl only heightens the suspicion that the flaws in the SailGP business model might eventually prove fatal.

Mr. Oracle’s pockets are deep, but not bottomless. He didn’t become the world’s 8th richest man by throwing good money after bad.
 

Bored Stiff

Member
224
154
Copenhagen
I’m all for a pro racing circuit, and there are some good ideas in the SailGP method, but the who.e show would lose none of the appeal and be far more affordable if it were run in Moths. Twelve teams of two, F1 style. This would:
a. Reduce costs
b. Reduce carbon footprint
c. Speed up development cycles
d. Focus the racing on the sailors and their personalities, whilst still being techy
e. Increase the number of sailing stars
f. Be more relatable to the audience as something to aspire to.
g. Allow top sailors to earn more
h. Be far more affordable for sponsors
i. Provide better exposure and value for sponsors

In so far as the media have picked up on SailGP at all the focus is solely on the helms. There are some terrific sailors acting on flight control and wing trim, but these guys are not getting the same level of respect, fame and pay as the helms. Move to singlehanded Moths and they can compete on equal terms. It seems to me everybody wins by running SailGP as a pro Moth circuit.
 

Gouvernail

Lottsa people don’t know I’m famous
37,359
5,065
Austin Texas
I have been racing sailboats since 1958
The mega bucks games have zero to do with my life and are of no interest to me.

In fact, we KNOW it is a way for rich guys to pad their egos by being part of it.

I have zero objection to these guys trying to make themselves feel better.

So…
I will shed endless praise on the first megabuck boat owner who says:

I am going to drop from Megabucks sailing and re-focus my spending. I am going to fully equip 50 sailing clubs spending $1,000,000 each with everything needed to have a top notch junior program. I will also pay for the staff for the first year.
And…. Challenge others to do the same until there are a thousand clubs with fantastic junior programs.

In 2040 the game of sailing would be awesome
 

LionIsland

Member
361
84
Pittwater
I find myself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory here.
I actually agree with that whole (unfortunately true) rant and I’m one of the sailors who’s mad about those foiling carbon cats.
 

Norcal

Member
107
49
I’m all for a pro racing circuit, and there are some good ideas in the SailGP method, but the who.e show would lose none of the appeal and be far more affordable if it were run in Moths. Twelve teams of two, F1 style. This would:
a. Reduce costs
b. Reduce carbon footprint
c. Speed up development cycles
d. Focus the racing on the sailors and their personalities, whilst still being techy
e. Increase the number of sailing stars
f. Be more relatable to the audience as something to aspire to.
g. Allow top sailors to earn more
h. Be far more affordable for sponsors
i. Provide better exposure and value for sponsors

In so far as the media have picked up on SailGP at all the focus is solely on the helms. There are some terrific sailors acting on flight control and wing trim, but these guys are not getting the same level of respect, fame and pay as the helms. Move to singlehanded Moths and they can compete on equal terms. It seems to me everybody wins by running SailGP as a pro Moth circuit.
You don't even need to switch to moths for your concept.
- Keep the F50's, automate the wing and jib trim, stored energy for the power and reduce the number of humans on the boat to 1.
- develop some sort of DRS system to manufacture passing (ala F1)
And there you go, one massively expensive race vehicle, one driver and a huge staff of technicians!
 

Monkey

Super Anarchist
10,498
2,157
I’m all for a pro racing circuit, and there are some good ideas in the SailGP method, but the who.e show would lose none of the appeal and be far more affordable if it were run in Moths. Twelve teams of two, F1 style. This would:
a. Reduce costs
b. Reduce carbon footprint
c. Speed up development cycles
d. Focus the racing on the sailors and their personalities, whilst still being techy
e. Increase the number of sailing stars
f. Be more relatable to the audience as something to aspire to.
g. Allow top sailors to earn more
h. Be far more affordable for sponsors
i. Provide better exposure and value for sponsors

In so far as the media have picked up on SailGP at all the focus is solely on the helms. There are some terrific sailors acting on flight control and wing trim, but these guys are not getting the same level of respect, fame and pay as the helms. Move to singlehanded Moths and they can compete on equal terms. It seems to me everybody wins by running SailGP as a pro Moth circuit.
And no one would watch.
 

Liquid

NFLTG
4,311
684
Over there
Sailing is a participation sport.

That San Francisco final, super ultimate final race was embarrassing! But it did fit inside the programming window! Compressing the racing to speed runs to 'fit inside the TV' removes what sail boat racing really is.

You know, like picking the favored end of the line or side of the course, working a persistent shift, staying in phase with shifts, 50% differences in pressure across the course, gear changes, trim, weight, turns, sets, douses, tides, current, sea state, etc...

There is no racing line to perfect or fuck up. SailGP is just down to a good start, a bad tack or jibe and whether the hulls touch the water. Rinse and repeat. Often some good racing does happen but it's for not cause you missed the final!
 

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas
Sailing is a participation sport.

That San Francisco final, super ultimate final race was embarrassing! But it did fit inside the programming window! Compressing the racing to speed runs to 'fit inside the TV' removes what sail boat racing really is.

You know, like picking the favored end of the line or side of the course, working a persistent shift, staying in phase with shifts, 50% differences in pressure across the course, gear changes, trim, weight, turns, sets, douses, tides, current, sea state, etc...

There is no racing line to perfect or fuck up. SailGP is just down to a good start, a bad tack or jibe and whether the hulls touch the water. Rinse and repeat. Often some good racing does happen but it's for not cause you missed the final!

Point taken, but I'd still rather watch GP's racing on TV than baseball, hockey, or basketball!!
.
 

d'ranger

Super Anarchist
28,769
4,043
I was fortunate to be on the water to watch day 1 of the '17 AC cup, warmups very cool and happy that NZ did so well. Enjoyed videos of the other races. A couple of weeks ago NBC had an hour of the GP in Chicago and I want my hour back. If it was crap for me and I have raced sailboats most of my life it had to be unwatchable for non sailors. Pathetic and not bothering to watch again. The short course might work for spectators but not for TV. Like F1 in the mall parking lot.
 

LionIsland

Member
361
84
Pittwater
Ahhh yes. D’ranger.
Bermuda. I was there too. Very cool. The boats are now obviously more advanced and more similar but still very cool in the hands of those experts.

I take it you’re a Kiwi

"…and happy that NZ did so well."

I can’t see how that adds to your point or is in the least bit necessary to add that or what relevance that has or why you’d find it necessary to mention it.
 

unShirley

Super Anarchist
1,651
249
Ventura
Isn't the Aussie 18' skiffs sailing a pro circuit? I am genuinely asking because admit to being ignorant about it. I enjoy watching the SailGP on YouTube or DVR so I can FF through all of the BS and just watch the races, often muted. But, I have also enjoyed watching the 18' skiffs on YouTube. It seems to me that Aussie skiffs have been racing professionally for many decades....am I right? Why hasn't that taken hold internationally? Only enough money to support it domestically in Oz? IIRC, back in the late 60s some 18' skiffs were brought to SoCal and raced, but, it obviously didn't take off. Somebody please fill in the blanks for me regarding my very limited knowledge about 18' skiffs and compare it to SailGP.
 

OKsailor

Anarchist
Have to admit agree with the Ed here.
I don't watch Sailgp regularly myself as frankly I do not consider it to be a true test of sailing skill and it's boring with too much luck involved. It's mainly on the start then just bang the boundaries and if you're lucky you're in phase with the gusts/windshifts as you go around a mark. I make no effort to watch it and you'd be hard pressed to find a more sail mad person than myself.
 

Marty Gingras

Mid-range Anarchist
The market SailGP is going for is far (far) bigger than the population of sailers. Same with Star Sailors League, 44Cup, SAILING Champions League, and probably others. Each of those has hyped commentary, is light on jargon, has good-to-great graphics, and features short or very short races. 52SuperSeries seems to be a bit more focused on attracting sailors as viewers. It's all good.
 
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