Talking with Andrews on other thread we were commenting the very poor coverage of a great race, the Sydney-Hobart. With a coverage like that the public audience will not grow, the sponsors will not be interested, great racing boats will not be commercially viable and the race instead of becoming a top professional one will become an amateur event.
Imoca class (open 60) has a big race, the Vendee Globe, that is raced each four years. One race in four years is problematic in what regards making new boats commercially viable. There are three more races, one less important, the Transat Jaques Fabre the much more popular Route du Rhum but where the Open 60 have to compete for attention with the multihulls that normally are faster and the Barcelona world race.
They decided to change things and increase the visibility and spectacularity of the races as a way to increase audiences and curiously they resourced to a British to do that:
IMOCA 60s: A French Revolution?
The solo class has signed over all their commercial rights to a company set up by Britain's Sir Keith Mills. Is a revolution ahead?
Today a multimillionaire British businessman came to the Vendée Globe race village to announce a revolution to how the boats are to be raced and marketed. ..
To the French media the Vendée Globe, once every four years, is the story and everything else the boats and skippers do is more or less incidental. But the skippers don't see it this way and, as a class, they have just signed over all the commercial rights to a company set up by Sir Keith Mills (pictured above).
The deal with his newly established Open Sports Management is a potentially far-reaching sea change for the short-handed ocean racing class, and uniquely the 90 members of the class were unanimous in agreeing to it.
From next year on, Open Sports Management will take over the marketing and planning of a matrix of events designed to revive the declining class and boost its value to sponsors.
"This need to be a lot more economically viable," says Sir Keith Mills. "What companies are looking for is consistency and payback and we need to find a way to make ocean racing more accessible."
..Sir Keith is probably the best placed businessman involved in sailing to take on the transformation and inject a dose of public passion into countries besides France. ..
The high costs have become hard to justify and it's compounded by the haphazard nature of the class calendar. Apart from the Vendée Globe and Barcelona World Race it teeters precariously on shifting sands.
First of all, Open Sports Management, based in Switzerland and underwritten initially by Sir Keith, will make a significant investment to improve camera technology on the boats.
"The commercialization of selling TV rights is at best haphazard," he tells me. "We will be investing to get a consistent feed. It's got to be accessible and we've got to make the stories better known to more people in the world and build the audience with some events that are attractive to teams and sponsors."
The company will not run races itself but will agree with the class about where and when to compete. The solo Vendée Globe and the two-handed Barcelona World Race will stay as the prime long-distance races and two more will be added so that there will be one major event every year of the four-year cycle.
He adds that the certainty of a fixed programme will make it easier for an organizer to negotiate commercial deals with host ports, and cites the success of the Volvo Ocean Race in making these deals pay.
"We want to have 25 skippers here [at the Vendée Globe] next time with more nationalities, and the only way to do that is to change the economics," he says.
He says he is looking at markets in Asia and South America in the longer term, and at today's press conference a TV arrangement was announced with a Chinese broadcaster.
It's clear that Sir Keith Mill's aims for the class are ambitious. If Open Sports Management is successful in creating an international appetite for short-handed racing it will change the face of this type of racing. It will, in the process, dilute the dominant French culture.
Skippers and sponsors obviously see this deal as essential. ..
Like any club committee or parish council with a lot of strong-minded individuals, IMOCA has more politics than the Vatican. Perhaps it will feel like room temperature to Sir Keith after the white heat of the America's Cup. But still, interesting times ahead.
IMOCA 60s: A French Revolution? | Elaine Bunting's Blog | Yachting World
Well, I had said here already that something like this was necessary to take away racing sailing as a sport from the hands of millionaire playboys to the hands of true professional sailors and I don't mean the ones that crew the boats of the millionaires
but true sailing stars by their own merit that run their own racing machines in a commercially viable way after proving themselves in the lower classes as the best.
Maybe this is the beginning of a true international top championship with all top world sailors competing, kind of a F1 of the seas.