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Biscay Offshore Race at Royal Southern Yacht Club postponed

by Peta Stuart-Hunt on 3 Jul 2012
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Biscay 2012 Offshore Race was to be held off the Solent in the UK from 16th to 29th September. The Royal Southern Yacht Club has taken the difficult decision to postpone the staging of its inaugural 950nm Biscay Offshore Race, until 2014. The precise start date will be advised in due course.

Launched in August 2011 and forming a signature event in the Club’s 175th Anniversary year, the Biscay Race was planned to take competitors from the Solent to La Rochelle and Brest, before returning them to Hamble. It had the additional innovation of offering Sunsail Racing’s Beneteau F.40 charter fleet for competitors new to the experience of offshore competition and had been widely heralded for its novelty and opportunity.

The Club, ever-mindful of its race stakeholders, has prudently decided that, despite a healthy interest, owners are continuing to hold back on firming up their entries and it has therefore become impossible to plan the race logistics and stop-overs, or the essential social events and media coverage, to deliver to the high standard required.

Chairman of the Organising Committee, Tom Richardson, expressed the frustration of his team.

'This year, the pattern of converting potential competitors from general interest to committed entrant is noticeably running much closer to the start date of races and regattas than before and we see this mirrored among many other clubs.

'We also suffered the setback of losing a major sponsor within the past two months, when the company concerned withdrew from all yachting sponsorships and, taken together, despite receiving more than 35 expressions of interest and fielding many more enquiries, we have taken the view that everyone involved with this big event needs to be given as much warning as possible of our intentions. As a responsible organiser, we are uncomfortable to let things run any further.'

Race Director, John Walker, cites the Royal Southern Yacht Club's recent experiences running its 175 Regatta, sponsored by Brewin Dolphin, as an example of a general dynamic of pre-event commitment from competitors this year.

'We don't know whether this is down to the economy or that there's simply too much going on in the sailing and sporting calendar this year, but people are certainly leaving things to the last possible moment.

'This was mirrored in the build up to the Clubs’ recently completed 16-day 175 Anniversary Regatta. Within the seven days prior to the first weekend, entries rose from 15 to 55 on the line; in the ten days before the second weekend there was an acceleration from 45 entries to a starting fleet of 107, and within five days before the final weekend, entries went from 45 to 86 starters. All were great entries but very late in arriving.

'We could persevere to the bitter end and suddenly find ourselves overcome by the rush of entries but, in reality, we would need extremely strong nerves to follow this course of action,' said Walker.

The Club's planning, logistics and marketing teams have been working on the Biscay 2012 Offshore Race for 18 months and it is with the greatest regret that this decision has been taken. However, a postponement to 2014 ensures that the Club preserves the goodwill and good working relationships with a number of partners going forward.

These include Sunsail Racing, two French Club partners in the Société des Régates Rochelaises in La Rochelle and the Société des Régates de Brest and the Fédération Française de Voile (FFV), Race Ambassador, Sam Davies, the many people involved in the Race planning and, not least, the potential competitors who have expressed their interest.

The City of La Rochelle was quick to offer its support going forward and commenting on behalf of Sunsail Racing, Andy Wallace, Business Development Manager, said:

'Sunsail Racing is also disappointed that the 2012 event has been postponed but we feel that the Olympics has stolen a little of the Corporate thunder for 2012. However we are still very keen to support our Partner, the Royal Southern Yacht Club in this venture and it allows us to provide a bigger, better and more successful bi-annual event for years to come.'

The Biscay Race was created as a legacy to members from the Royal Southern in its 175th Anniversary year and was always planned to run as a biennial and international event. Royal Southern Yacht Club website
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