Produced by the Royal Gothenberg Sailing Club (GKSS) in Marstrand, this event attracts over 100,000 spectators each year, and draws in the top-name sailing talent from around the world. With an operating budget that exceeds $1 million, the Swedish Match Cup garners media coverage that spans the spectrum from local radio to live national TV to Euro CNN and the global Internet.
It's this unique setting that allows for a perfect natural amphitheater for the match-race action. Thousands of sun-loving Swedes line the rocks that face the course area, where there's no need for fancy remote cameras and big-screen monitors to follow the action. In fact, the spectators are so close and so into the game that you can hear them from the water shouting encouragement and advice to the sailors. The scene resembles an outdoor ice hockey game, but without the fights.
"We've turned the planning part of the game on its head and asked 'what do the spectators and sponsors want to see?'" says Peter Klock, the Event Director. Klock is one of three full-time employees of a company that is wholly owned by GKSS and set up to plan and manage the regatta. "Basically," he says, "the event has to be simple to follow, fun to watch, and provide entertainment for the whole family." Marstrand provides the natural backdrop, but the organizers enhance this with a number of features including large, colored bands and prominent sponsor names and logos on the sails, competitor name plates on the mainsails, live commentary piped over a PA system and local AM/FM radio, and large country flags on the competitors' boats to let everyone know who is on the course. For those not out on the rock ampitheater, the action is telecast live to on-site viewers via big-screen monitors that are fed from several camera angles: from up on the rocks, from chase boats, and from onboard cameras placed on the competitors' boats.
Besides the entertainment provided by the on-the-water action, the event features a boat-show-like environment of sponsor tents and kiosks presenting the latest and greatest wares, with everything from mobile phones to cars to real estate opportunities on display. The crowds are composed of tourists and weekenders from throughout Sweden, and the collection of yachts ranging from outboard skiffs to America's Cup contenders indicates a tremendous draw from within the yachting community as well. Because the regatta has grown to become one of the largest sporting events in the country, it attracts interest from sponsors keen on having access to this influential audience.
Besides the event's unequalled hospitality, the Swedish Match Cup also serves as an important test bed of ideas that are used elsewhere throughout the match-race circuit to make the competition itself better. One of the most obvious of these is in the choice of boats. Many match race organizers struggle to find identical boats to use in their competitions, but GKSS is able to choose from a fleet of identical 35-foot, fractionally- rigged sloops that have been specially designed and built as match-race platforms. The choice of small jibs or genoas and reefable mainsails allows for sailing in almost any conditions. Symmetrical spinnakers, aluminum spars, robust construction, and moderate displacement make these boats ideal for match racing, where the action can sometimes get too close and therefore the costs of repairing the occasional damage must be kept to a minimum.
|"Thousands of sun-loving Swedes line the rocks that face the course area, shouting encouragement and advicelike an ice hockey game without the fights."|
While there have been attempts to achieve this kind of success in US match-race eventsmost notably in the former Liberty Cup, the Columbus Cup, and the Brut Cup events in the late '80s and early '90sfew ever break out of their yacht club-driven agendas and into the realm of commercial success. "We have to make money or break even with the Swedish Match Cup and all our events," says Klock, "because even though we draw on the human resources of GKSS, we are a company that must be held accountable for the costs. I think this actually gives us credibility with sponsors because they know we are committed professionals." This GKSS-affiliated management company has been so successful at building this event that they've taken on other challenges, such as hosting the Gothenberg stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race in 2002.
Could a Swedish Match Cup-type event ever be staged in the US? Many acknowledge that there are few places that combine all the elements of geography, timing, sailing resources, and so forth, but certainly San Francisco, Newport, RI, Baltimore, Miami, and San Diego come to mind. "We'd be very keen to have a US event on the tour," said Swedish Match Grand Prix president Pierre Tinnerholm. "It's obvious that access to the US market is a priority with many of our sponsors, so we're here to encourage and help in any way we can."
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|