sell or sink

I know what some Anarchy readers will be thinking, not Shanghai banging on about the Volvo Ocean Race and Dongfeng again! Well not quite.
Time can be a great friend when you need it but can be the worst of enemies if there is not enough of it. It has to be said as a marketable entity the (insert name of your choice) Ocean Race is at an all time high and for most sponsors in the past the relationship has been, certainly financially, a happy one.
I have just been browsing through the VOR Race Report for the 2011-2012 race where the average team sponsor’s ROI was Euro87m and stopovers economic impact significantly surpassed the cost of being a stopover in every instance.(I would love to get my hands on the latest one where the likes of the RAW footage and the closeness of the race must surely have provide dramatic returns to all sponsors once again.
Basically one doesn’t have to be an economist with the vision of Adam Smith to realize that this event has been good value for those who got involved. So to the next event, which in terms of fund raising is perhaps only 12 months away.
But the next race isn’t until 2021 I hear you say and it starts in October – that’s 3 full years. Well. Let’s look at the time line.
China needs to be on the route! Does it comes the cry. Well there has been a Chinese team in the last 4 editions but more importantly than that is that every single sponsor from the last two races  (if you don’t believe me go check yourself) has business interests to some extent in China besides teams generally wishing a ‘home’ stopover.
Add that to the time cost of ‘diverting’ the race up to Asia and the fleet ends up in the Southern Ocean very late in the southern hemisphere summer. So logically , and from a safety point of view an earlier start than October would be sensible. So we are already potentially looking at mid 2021.
The race has got into bed with the IMOCA class and I am not critical of that at all, they are fast and exciting especially now they are foil assisted and the mainstream class will be IMOCA 60s.
To design and build a new 60 footer is going to take (and boat builders can correct me here) 12 months, maybe more and please bear in mind these are boat that have to be able to stand up to being “driven like they were stolen” , not looked after and steered by auto-pilot for a large percentage of their race. Or at the very least an existing boat would have to be modified to be stronger for the workout a crew of 5 or 6 is going to give them on the race around the world.
Sure they are going to have pit stops rather than non stop like the Vendee Globe but still the work load on these boats is likely to be much higher than when sailed single handed.
Sop design & build or convert and existing boat reduces the 3 years to the next start even further.
Then of course as the last race largely proved, those teams that had most time on the water end up at the front of the fleet and I just wonder that if Brunel had been able to hit the water earlier would there now be a different name on the trophy and that’s a hard thing to write as a admitted Dongfeng fan.
So potentially a mid 2021 start with 6-12 months recruitment and training plus 12 months design and build brings us down to around 12-18 months for teams to suspect, prospect, arrange meeting with and close a sponsor with pockets deep enough to fund an IMOCA campaign in the next race.
Having seen first hand how long it can take to close these sponsorship deals and having been in sales my whole career, that is not long and that is if teams can start telling their sales  pitch NOW on before the end of September.
But how do you sell something that is likely to have a Euro20m price tag if you don’t know what you are able to provide for the sponsor?
Imagine the questions – when are the final rules for the boat going to be announced? Er, not sure.
Will the racing be as close as the last time? Don’t know but perhaps not.
Will the race be stopping in any of our key markets? Sorry, haven’t a clue.
But can you give us the Euro20m anyway? Er Not sure, perhaps not.
A salesperson needs something concrete and tangible to be able to sell, people – and corporates are of course run by people, need to know what they get for their money. They need to be sold the sizzle and not the sausage. At the moment they can’t even see the sausage.
Lord, oh lord, I hope I am wrong and all of the above is not intended to be critical for criticisms own sake, it is because I am, like I am sure many fans of the Whitbread/Volvo fans, concerned that time is not on the side of those who will have to do the hard yards of raising the cash.
I have followed the wonderful event since a Mexican washing machine manufacturer won it 45 years ago, tripped over drunk Kiwis in Ocean Village along the way as Big Red stormed up the Solent at the end of her dominating circumnavigation and attended multiple stopovers along the way. As an offshore and keelboat sailor myself I have an inkling (just an inkling mind you) of the challenges, frustrations and exhilaration that these sailors go through.
I firmly believe that the race is in strong hands with Richard and Johan but I get the feeling that there is a lack of perception from within as to just how tight the timeline is.
We have 4 World Sailing special events in our sport, the Olympics (naturally) which many sailors see as a stepping stone to further endeavours in our sport, the Extreme Sailing Series, the America’s Cup which is so healthy the entry deadline has had to be extended to allow more teams the opportunity to raise funding but only one that is full on offshore. It would be a terrible blow to, at the very least, the image of our sport as one of adventure or endeavor if the Volvo, or whatever it will be called for the next lap of the planet were to fade away.
But… the clock is ticking. – SS.