Mini Transat vet and now Classe 40 skipper Ryan Finn gives us his take on this weekend’s Atlantic Cup ocean race. It’s an interesting event in many ways, and we’ll have lots more about it for you over the next few days.
So I’m in Newport preparing for the Atlantic Cup, presented by 11th Hour Racing, and in many ways there are a lot of good things going on up here. When the race was announced I thought it was really exciting to finally have a non-handicap offshore race with PRIZE MONEY! AAARGGHH, WTF!?! This is exciting. Money, cool boats, sponsors, the environment… All good bullets but I didn’t know how real it was, because in the age of the internet, races, like boats, campaigns, and breakthrough technologies are often announced, but don’t necessarily materialize nearly so often. As readers of online sailing publications, you may know what I mean. I had a lot of questions.
A big question for me was could they draw out Classe 40 sailors from Europe to increase not only the number of boats, but the level of racing? I know they had hoped to, and with US $15,000 there was at least incentive, but I don’t think there was enough buzz within the French organization and media. Also there is some overlap with some of the longer European events, and this is a short event for guys to delay delivering their 40’s back from the Route du Rhum finish, especially if they don’t need the 15K. Pending on what this year’s event delivers, I think a longer event with a bigger push within Europe would help attract foreign participants.
Another big question was who the hell is supplying 15K for a 200 mile doublehanded race with two days of inshore racing the following weekend? It sounded too good to be true, and I didn’t understand the motivation there, because as sailors we meet a lot of wing nuts making wild claims. However, the people involved were encouraging, and at that point the only person I was aware of was Hugh Piggin, who by anyone’s account is not a wing nut, and if he’s speaking up must have something to say. So, after getting the tap to fill in for Nick Halmos on Cutlass, as he has business to attend to, I’ve become more familiar with the concept, who’s behind it, and what my role as a sailor is in this event.
From what I can gather, and without speaking for the organization formally, this event is a platform for Manuka Sports Event Management to produce a ‘proof of concept race’ that will hopefully evolve into a much bigger sailing series next year, while proving their ability to run a large-scale professional-level event in the US. They’re using a lot of cool ideas, like real-time race tracking, constant social media updates throughout the race and having a dedicated media crew member onboard for the offshore leg so we can get some cool race footage. Almost ‘reality TV’ except for I got a haircut. All of this media will be uploaded on the race website, and I’m sure will be embarrassing for us, and great for you.
It’s also about drawing attention to environmental sustainability, as evidenced by 11th Hour Racing’s and Sailors for the Sea’s commitment to certifying the race as a ‘Clean Regatta.’ This could standardize the environmental impact of sporting and PR events and influence the culture in a way that is one degree beyond the norm as opposed to trying to push our psyche twenty degrees at once, or the ‘hippy way’ which is alienating and ineffective. I assume the logic is that each event can be turned up an additional degree until we take these green events for granted, something like the antidote for “boiling frog syndrome”. The organization involves many sailors who are passionate about the environment and the sea. However unlike most of us who share those ideals, they have money, so a sailing event seemed a natural fit with obvious “green” implications. It could have been a board passionate about ultimate Frisbee or trials biking, so we got lucky.
On paper it will appear to the critics that we are left with a small, five-boat fleet in a short, two-weekend event. That would only be looking at a small part of the picture though. This is a toe-in-the-water event for a Class that has proven it has the ability to grow astronomically. It’s a way for the sponsors and organizers to see if something like this can work in the future, and if it does, what are the mechanics involved to create a bigger platform for the next event? Think about the Tour de France a’ la Voile or the Figaro events in Europe with an American twist on format and branding. What a concept!
And now, a competition for you guys. Background: Some of the other sponsors who have made this event possible are Thomson-Reuters (who are sponsoring the NYC hospitality events), Atlantis Weather Gear (who’s put together all of the official gear), and The Boomer Esiason Foundation (who are the official race charity). As a way to raise money for the foundation, 41 North in Newport is donating a 2-night stay and on the water spectator rides and guest spots at the awards ceremony. Here is the link to sign up to win the trip.
So support the sponsors and sailors of the Atlantic Cup! www.AtlanticCup.org (if you go to the website you can vote for your favorite team. Right now that team is Dragon, so throw us a bone here!)