Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Americas Cup Value to Sailing

I have recently been quite active on the LinkedIn forums about Americas Cup. It is not in my nature to participate in forums because I have found that it is all too easy to get drawn in and become embroiled, fending off attacks by Internet trolls whose great ambition in life is to be destructive to others. LinkedIn is a more closed community and less apt to show this nastiness and aggression. If I feel strongly enough about an issue then I will have my say and keep up with the rest of the discussion.

Just such a discussion came out of my last blog entry, about Race 13 exceeding the time limit. You can read that entry by scrolling down the page or go to the blog archive on the left of this blog. The response was that races should not have time limits and should just continue until there is a winner. It referenced baseball as a comparison. Discussion then progressed to the format that is being used for this current edition of Americas Cup, AC34. Some of my posts have been well received and it was suggested that one post in particular should be read by a wider audience.

I responded to the following question. I don't want to name the poster, I don't have his permission.

"So I am going to go back to my question on the cup. Forty minutes time limit for an Americas Cup race? I would like to see the last race ground out for say 2 hours of excitement vs. just 40 minutes. Are we an ADHD society that if it goes longer that 40 minutes we loose our audiance (sic). I don't care. It's the Americas Cup. It should be raced with sweat and tears to the end. It should go as long as a football game or basketball game(including time outs and media breaks). Shouldn't it?"

Here is my response.

"We all have our own ideas on what should be and what shouldn't be. Who's to say which is right? I agree that 40 minutes does seem too short a time limit but I understand the aim of the organisers to popularise sailing competition with the non-sailors and the parameters within which they were working.

Sailing is its own sport and it is evolving rapidly with technology. Do you really want to watch these two boats sailing back and forth upwind and downwind for 3 hours or more each race and potentially for 17 days (19 days including the 2-race penalty) in a row? That will drive the TV viewers back to whatever they were watching before AC34 came along.

I grow thoroughly bored watching football and baseball. They are stop-start games and they hold the attention of the audience for very short periods of action. The players get to rest for much of the duration and only work in short bursts. They can go on all night if needed, without burning themselves out. The crews on these boats are working hard the whole time, every race.

I think that it will work to compare AC racing with cricket. Test cricket takes 5 days of play, broken into 4 sessions each day. With no limits aside from the 5-day time limit, it often ends with no winner. It bores most people to tears. Then one-day international cricket was introduced, featuring 50 overs (300 balls) bowled by each team against the other batsmen. Suddenly cricket became interesting to a much wider audience. Now they play international 20-over games and the games are very exciting to watch, with massive viewership.

Rugby was always an exciting running game but it has also gone the same route of short, very fast and exciting games with the Rugby Sevens. This is what is needed to hold the attention of the modern world, where there is always something else trying to grab attention. Why should sailing not be right there in the fray also grabbing attention with short, fast and very exciting races.

Sailing is a sport of ageing players and needs new and young blood to survive. This event is likely to attract new people to sailing in one form or another. We can watch yacht racing as we knew it 20 years ago until it goes the way of the dinosaurs or we can embrace the new world and regenerate sailboat racing as a viable sport.

There is still a place for 5-day test cricket, for a much smaller audience than the other forms. Likewise, there is also still a place for the longer duration sailing races. I will be skippering a 38ft sailboat across the South Atlantic in January. We will be racing flat-out for 3 weeks from Africa to South America. There will be exciting times for me and my crew far away from the eyes of any TV audience. I enjoy that racing immensely, as a participant but I don't expect our slow progress across the ocean chart to keep anyone rivetted to the edge of their seat the way that AC34 is doing to us right now.

I think that with AC34 they have hit a winning formula and I am enjoying every short minute of it.
"


Thank you for taking the time to read my viewpoint. It is often a bit off the beaten track but I think that it is valid.