the world at war
After a half-decade of recession, the US economic recovery has stalled. Europe’s economy is crumbling, with Eurozone unemployment reaching record highs and little hope for improvement on the horizon. Even the far East is suffering.
Conventional wisdom would say an expensive sport like sailboat racing should suffer big losses in participation, especially with the plethora of competing designs and the ever-escalating cost of travel, lodging, and boat upkeep.
So why are some of the highest-profile racing classes having their best year ever, both in terms of participation and sponsorship?
- The International 5O5 – not a cheap dinghy by any stretch of the imagination – just finished their record-breaking 188-boat Worlds in politically and economically charged France.
- 126 Melges 24s – also an all-time Worlds record for the Class — are racing in Lake Garda this week, nearly all of them traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to compete. Nothing about Lake Garda is cheap.
- 33 Melges 32s are forecast to sail their Worlds in Newport next month; likely another all-time record in a Class whose costs have been known to make ordinary folks’ eyes bleed, and which just signed a charter jet company as a sponsor. And did we mention it was in Newport, at the NYYC?
- The Farr 40 Worlds next month in Chicago will likely be the first respectable fleet in years, despite the expense of sailing in one of the USA’s biggest cities and the logistics involved in getting a boat there.
- The Farr 30 Class has their biggest Worlds fleet since 2008; 19 boats from seven countries are racing in Bastad, Sweden starting Thursday. The 2013 Worlds is likely to take place in Newport, with an even bigger fleet likely to attend, and the big Swedish Class just signed a Class title sponsor for next year’s schedule.
- 104 boats are already registered for October’s A-Class Catamaran Worlds in the Florida Keys, and they’re shipping their pricey little rocket ships in from literally all over the planet.
In the 7 years I’ve been researching and writing for SA, I’ve never seen a year with this kind of growth across so many Worlds fleets, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. I have some ideas and plan to spend some time trying to better understand how they’ve been so successful, but am very curious about what the intelligent folks on this site can come up with.
So what do you think is going on here?