Sitting around at a computer catching up on work this week has been a bit more enjoyable than normal; For the first time in my memory, I’ve been able to switch back and forth between two different live racing feeds in my neverending quest to put off important phone calls and writing assignments. The first has been the excellent SAP-sponsored 505 Worlds coverage that we recognized for media excellence yesterday, and the second has been the somewhat less inspiring but still interesting trouncing BMW/Oracle are getting during the 1851 Cup thingie going on amidst the packed Cowes Week on the South Coast of old blighty. Neither of these events are top shelf – there are no gyro-stabilized helicopter cameras or specialized million-dollar video trimaran platforms (though the Cup event does have the beautiful Virtual Eye) – but they are both watchable for minutes at a time, which is more than I can say about a lot of events. Even the Team Origin/BMW Oracle race is – dare I say it – grassrootsy.
The 5-Oh guys are ecstatic – their media results have far exceeded their expectations, and they’ve learned that live coverage combined with a creative and open interface can deliver a real return on the investment made by attracting racers – existing and potential – to an exciting event, and it can help build excitement for future events amongst people that might not have considered it before.
And the best part? All this sailboat racing is out there for our entertainment, and I haven’t had to produce, direct, commentate, troubleshoot, or get kicked out of any of it!
But that’s going to change this week as the On-The-Water Anarchy schedule loads up for the next 6 weeks with 5 cool events from sea to shining sea, with new features and new toys at every stop. In part, we’re so booked because classes and events have learned that live coverage is a great way to market, and in part it’s because new venues have continued to open up as the technology catches up with what we’ve been trying so hard to do for almost five year; provide entertaining sailing broadcasts at a budget price for events that know that it’s worth it.
Our first stop is the Racine, WI stop for the shockingly thick fleet at the F-18 North American Championship. From next to nothing just a few short years ago to a powerful international entry list of 56 boats, the F-18 Class is proving to be the biggest-growing cat class in the US, and is finally gaining the prominence that the European F-18s have enjoyed for years. Names like Casey, Glaser, Ferrar, Heemskerk, Struble, and MacPherson dot the entry list, and with the help of Jeremy from Surf City Catamarans as well as a pile of Anarchists including PRO Matt Bounds, we’ll do our best to capture the excitement that is big fleet, big power cat racing from the sparkling waters of Northern Lake Michigan, as well as the 60+ Miller Lite and Bacardi chicks that ‘The Dude’ is bringing in to liven the party.
Following that, we’re back to the urban enclave that is Bayview Yacht Club to broadcast the Toyota International Match for the Detroit Cup, the second of the three Grade 2 match racing events that make up the East Coast Trifecta that is changing the match race landscape in North America. This is our second year at the D-Cup, and we’re trying out some very posh new gear: Live onboard audio from the raceboats and umpires, a new live cameraman and camera, and a slick real-time tracker that will bring it all together. In part it’s a test for the incredible event that will follow, but it will undoubtedly offer some of the most entertaining commentating of all, thanks to the local anarchists that made our 2009 D-Cup coverage such a success to over 12,000 unique viewers.
Five minutes after we turn off the cameras trained on the D-Cup awards ceremony, our road crew of 6 will load up two trucks and head straight over to Newport, RI, for what we expect to be the most interesting and watched non-AC event of 2010: The Little America’s Cup. You already know about this one – the rebirth of the thing was almost entirely chronicled via the players themselves chatting on the SA forums – but we think the reality will be even better than the anticipation. Seven of the sexiest, fastest, course-racing craft on the planet, seven international teams comprising some of the most interesting and intelligent characters in sailboat racing, and seven of us working to document every minute of this historic event at the NYYC.
After the LAC, it’s back to the Midwest to do some lower-pressure coverage of the A-Cat North Americans on Lake Erie, and then across for the booze-filled, speed-junkie event that will be the 2010 Sailing Anarchy Sportboat/Pre-sportboat/Moth/Dinghy/Cat Worlds ISAF regatta at the Coronado Yacht Club in San Diego, when we’ll hopefully be able to kick back and enjoy a hard-earned drink served by a few local strippers hired for the occasion.
If we can stay alive and out of jail, we hope to entertain a few of you along the way, and with a cast of very interesting OTWA crew and interns and our fast-developing gadgetry, we’re confident we can.
To the naysayers that ‘just don’t think sailboat racing can be interesting,’ realize that, to some people, it undoubtedly is. The numbers are there, the audience is there, and if a few thousand people watched the 5-Ohs, and a few thousand watch the silly Cup match, and a few thousand watch the F-18s, and a few thousand watch all the others, that will be tens of thousands more than could ever see this kind of racing up close and personal.
And if the trends continue, the people doing it – our crew and others – will get better and better, the money will be available to buy better gear and hire better talent, the producers will get more creative with their solutions, the prices will continue to drop so that more events can afford it, and more people will continue to attract more people to livecasts as well as to racing itself. And once in a while, like during our Great Texas 300 broadcasts, and hopefully during our Little AC coverage, events will conspire to get a mass media ‘pop’ that will bring in an order of magnitude more folks, which will simply accelerate the process.
This is how it had to happen – from the ground up rather than the top down. There aren’t too many Class Championships that can afford the kind of stuff you see at the MedCup or America’s Cup, and thanks to a handful of people around the world and the continuing acceleration of technology and broadband development, it’s only going to get better. And wait’ll you see what we have lined up for you for the rest of 2010 and into ’11.