Hell, I'd watch it. If we're going to do this we'd better get started now!
Smack, you are onto a great thing here.
First, they are separate issues. I am interested in how to achieve good media coverage, specifically TV/internet. All the issues around race participation and costs are separate and peripheral to this issue – and incidentally, a non-issue in Europe where all classes from youngsters in dinghies to production boats in cruiser races are well attended. After all, F1 racing has a respectable audience, yet you can count, say, 30 drivers and teams in the whole world? Volvo Ocean Race, the same. They are not “people” sports, yet they inspire.
, I have tried desperately to watch a sailing race with enthusiasm, but every time they kill it. It is, as Chall03
says, a case of knowing how to tell the story. What you said about the Sydney to Hobart is right on.
I was a fanatic follower of F1 while getting the BBC coverage and their superb commentators. It was a treat to hear them add technical or personal detail minute by minute while the cars went around and around monotonously, sometimes with fewer than half a dozen overtakings in hours of racing. Inboard cams, curb cams and the rest added some excitement, but without a story it was still nothing. Only when I lost the BBC coverage did I realise how boring F1 was. Or perhaps it was when I attended an F1 event in person for the first and only time: you
may get excited by standing along a track where you can see one car at a time fly past every few minutes, hour after hour, but I’d rather peel potatoes.
I am sure we’ve all met the frustration of camera angles from our own sailing; you take forever the same shots from the cockpit, preferably in good weather when water doesn’t blind the lens; you get no real impression of the swell and waves. The camera by the chart table is possibly the greatest disappointment; ironically, because it follows the boat’s movements, you get no impression that the crew is holding on for life and rocking from side to side. Everything looks calm, it makes no sense.
In so-called TV coverage of races, there’s a follower boat or when extravagant a helicopter, and they mostly cover one boat at the time. Unless the boat is literally about to sink, nothing much changes along the way. The Vendee Globe was possibly the best covered in this respect, but even they had to skip the tougher parts in the Southern Ocean because boats and helicopters couldn’t keep up that far from land.
I believe it could be done, and we should not underestimate audiences. Non-sailors may not have intimate knowledge of knots and sail angles, but they grasp tactics. They would indeed be fascinated to hear more details of sail choices and changes explained, to get inside the head of the captains and join them in pondering impossible choices. BTW, this counts against having the perfect real-time coverage, because the skippers are notoriously secretive about their tactics.
I totally disagree that races need be boring TV. In the last Vendee Globe, one skipper caught the attention of thousands of viewers. Samantha Davies had none of the macho skipper nonsense, but let us into her cramped world and showed us dirty socks, sharing meals with us, and occasionally proving in brief flashes what a superb sailor she is. It was a story.
The other element to keep up interest in these excruciatingly long races was the accompanying VG online racing game. Racing in real-time with the identical weather forecast, several hundred thousand (!) participants competed online for 2 months, and had the real world progress of the skippers to compare against. If you had seen me get up in the night to adjust to wind shifts, or if I had admitted (blushing) that I acquired 3G mobile internet just for the purpose, you would understand the level of obsession a sailing race can engender. I just had to get the mobile access because I could not bear to miss a course change; I spent much time in a car at that stage, and would stop by the roadside to log on and optimize my “boat”.
We have heard time and time again of sports that “cannnot” be made into spectator events, and each time we were wrong. Poker? Billiards? Golf? Cricket? Marathon? Seriously, Tour de France?
The technical challenges cannot be ignored, but I am convinced that the guy who comes up with a storyline would turn sailing into a superb spectator sport. Let it be me! I’d make a fortune.