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counterpoint

There are, I believe, a number of flaws in a couple of Brian Hancock’s recent articles. I would preface these comments however by saying that I like and agree with most of what Brian writes but in his article of the 4th “better than ever?” there were, I believe, a couple of errors.

I do agree that sailing is not ‘broken’ at the higher end of our sport but there can be no dispute that the numbers of people out racing regularly is somewhat lower than 15-20 years ago. I just look at the figures from my old club in the UK and entries are certainly down on a regular basis and a recent visit to the club where I was first thrown into the water so to speak saw a sparsely populated dinghy park where 30 years ago one had to almost fight to get the boat out it was so crowded and the picture appears to be even more concerning across the ‘pond’. So at that level I really don’t think we are in a healthier ‘more vibrant’ situation than back then.

Even the big races don’t have the floods of entries that we used to see.

To use the Whitbread/Volvo as an example would be unfair. This event has morphed from a once in a lifetime adventure to as professional as in the upper echelons of any sport. It is certainly an entirely different animal than it was 27 years ago when Brian last competed in the event. That original ‘adventurist’ role from 40 years ago is now largely filled by the Clipper Round the World Race which, and I have to say that is it great to see the continued success of that Venture

Here in China the trend is in the other direction. Sure we have challenges here but the participation, especially the Corinthian participation, is certainly growing – never quickly enough for those impatient amongst us (myself included) but there are certainly more bums on seats.

The America’s Cup has, I agree, changed up a gear in terms of satisfying the Top Gun “Need for Speed” but gone largely is the combative pre-start and, C’mon Brian, the AC Class did rather more than 6.5 knots – the 12 metres disappeared from the AC more than 20 years ago.

And speaking of lumbering lead mines, of the 8 J-Class that are expected in Bermuda, actually most of the fleet were not “once wrecks”. There are only 3 original J’s that survive.

Velsheda and Shamrock were found as houseboats along with the first to be ‘discovered’, Endeavour – which was rescued by Elizabeth Meyer. The other 5 J’s are relatively new builds in the last few years, albeit to original plans from the class’s heyday. It would be nice to see Endeavour joining them but she doesn’t appear to have been quite so active of late.

With regard to budgets, the America’s Cup has always been a rich man’s game and the sorts of money thrown at the event are, in reality, no greater than there were in the Vanderbuilt and Lipton days where crew number weren’t half a dozen, they were dozens.

Then where the Volvo Ocean Race is concerned, at least one of the teams in the 2005-06 Race had a projected budget of Euro15m. It is reckoned you could do the next race for the same amount so in actual fact the ‘Volvo’- largely due to the cost control efforts of Knut Frostad and Mark Turner such as The Boatyard, One Design and smaller crew numbers – is considerably less, certainly in index linked terms.

I do agree that the Golden Globe re-run is a great concept but what professional sailor could take a year off from earning and therefore supporting his family (and presumably like most people – his mortgage)?

The fact however that there is such interest from both ends of the spectrum – fully crewed full on carbon one design on the one hand and the single handed, Corinthian, sextant and paper event on the other shows once again one of the true strengths of our sport – its diversity.

Regarding the multi/mono discussion for the VOR, if the boats are getting from one stop to another faster that adds to the logistical problem with bases. Already pavilions cannot be taken down, put on a ship and rebuilt before the boats get to the next stopover so teams have to fund two that leapfrog around the world. Container ships are not fast – we currently have a boat on one – quite a modern one actually and according to Marine Traffic it is doing 15 knts, even the “slow” VO65 is faster than that.

So the cost savings in one area would perhaps mean 3 bases required, more hotel costs at the stopovers – perhaps not. Either way, it is not a simple conundrum for Mr Turner and the VOR team.

My only real concern is that while a multi is a very stable platform, it is equally stable when rotated through 180 degrees.

The example of Thomas Colvile sailing a big tri single handed without another competitor breathing down his neck is rather a moot point as I am sure margins of safety will be narrowed by human nature if a skipper can see another one design boat breathing down his neck on the AIS and whether a mono or tri is cheaper or could be more lightly (and therefore more cheaply) crewed I wouldn’t like to guess without a definitive costing.

I would also be intrigued to just how fast a fully crewed boat with Dali foils could actually get round the planet.

Finally the comparison between the IMOCA 60s and the VO65 and the comparative numbers in each of the two events is rather like comparing apples with oranges.

Of course there are more entrants in the Vendee Globe – it’s cheaper for sponsors but it is noticeable how few Non-French sponsors there are and even then there is a multitude of stories of how many of the entrants struggled for funding.

1 crew member instead of 7 (or 9) and no OBR and media team to support and one start and one finish NO stopovers to fund and build and only one race village to build and take down and put away – not get it to a ship and ultimately send around the world. No in-port races to run.

On the other hand, for a sponsor with global ambition – and I would include all current sponsors in that category – the corporate opportunities to get their messages out and to “press the flesh” as the MBAs would say, in multiple markets, that are afforded by the those stopovers simply don’t exist with the Vendee Globe.

Don’t get me wrong, as a sailor, I love both of these events but they are different animals.

This is not intended to be a head to head with Brian, far from it. Just as sailing has so many different ways to be enjoyed, that naturally leads to different opinions.

Shanghai Sailor