I watched a sailing special on ESPN. I enjoyed it because I could just watch videos of boats sailing all day, but it was horribly done. They covered the entire regatta, 9 races, in an hour and you couldn't tell what the hell was going on. They'd show footage of a boat and you had no idea where they were in the fleet or how close they were to a mark or a finish. It was all just random. I can't imagine a non-sailor becoming interested in the sport from that kind of thing.
Now, the VOR specials were excellent. I think they showed those on public television. Very well produced, excellent content, and they clearly communicated what was occurring in the race. Good enough to Tivo.
The last America's Cup coverage on Versus was a step in the right direction, but still just OK.
All of this is to say that there will never be widespread interest in the sport without better production of the events. You can get people involved in the Volvo and Vendee because the action is easier to follow and you can tell the human side of the story and show the sailors' families missing them and the obstacles they've overcome, blah blah blah. But watching a round-the-buoys race is pretty far from being interesting on TV, in my opinion.