Since announcing an ambitious expansion plan which will see the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) grow to 15 events by 2013, the Tour has been overwhelmed by the level of interest from potential new host regions and is now in extended talks with 10 venues who are all eager to embrace the benefits of hosting a stage of the Tour.
Monsoon Cup Venue, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. - World Match Racing Tour
Having officially launched the Venue Application process last November the financial, tourism, marketing and sailing development benefits associated with bringing the Tour to town have clearly resonated with venues around the world, with no fewer than 77 locations having submitted initial expressions of interest.
With such a huge level of interest in joining WMRT cities, regions and countries were invited to apply for the right to host a stage of the leading world match racing series. The application process, which is being managed by consultancy Regatta International, will see the new venues join the Tour from the 2012-2013 seasons.
The successful new venues will win the right to hold an official stage of the ISAF recognised Match Racing World Championship series, with each stage typically lasting five days with qualifying rounds being held from the Wednesday to Friday before knock out stages and the final on Saturday and Sunday.
'The benefits of hosting a stage of the World Match Racing Tour has clearly had a huge influence on why people wanted to enter applications. What has been clear from the process is how aware countries are of the positive impact hosting an event of this magnitude would have on their region. What has been most surprising about this process is that we haven’t had to up-sell the Tour, they know the value of being associated with it and want to be a part of it.'
'Rather than go out door knocking we decided to let those who understand the scale of the event come to us instead, so this response has shown that the process we set out to achieve is working.'
The Tour already has a significant presence in nine different locations around the globe with France, Germany, Korea, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Bermuda and Malaysia each hosting a leg of the competition. The Tour is now keen to focus on further growth in the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.
The venue application process has drawn interest from both venues which have little sailing heritage but a fully aware of the development prospects a WMRT event bring, as well as already established sailing locations. With benefits ranging from attracting global and regional media awareness, generating private and government investment for regional development, to providing a platform for destination marketing venues in all corners of the world a more than aware of just how significant an impact hosting a WMRT event can have.
The WMRT’s season finale, The Monsoon Cup in Malaysia in November is the benchmark when analysing the impact the WMRT can have on the region. Since joining the Tour in 2006 the event has established itself as the second biggest sporting event in Malaysia, behind the country’s Formula One Grand Prix.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators flock to the region, which was formerly a wasteland but has been transformed into a luxury marina development, to see the world’s best sailors battle it out for the WMRT crown.
With the region having previously suffered from a lack of investment at that time of year due to the inclement seasonal weather, The Monsoon Cup has generated thousands of new jobs and dramatically impacted on local tourism. The number of airport arrivals has swelled from 300,000 a year to 4 million in just five years. The Tour also brings endless marketing opportunities for potential sponsors.
Another significant benefit which the prospective host countries also realise, is that an event would not just be about the week that the Tour is in town but rather the year long impact on the area in terms of development, inward investment and nurturing of new sailing talent. Part of the criteria for venues applying is the need to demonstrate the ability to purchase their own fleet of boats and the long term viability of having them remain at the venues is an element Newby said is extremely important to all the cities in the bidding process.
'By having the boats at the venue they will act as an ongoing advertisement for the WMRT event. Boats are going to be a focal point of each city and each city council I have visited so far is very confident in the positive impact they will have. They offer a wealth of options from running CSR programmes to corporate challenges so will be a real added assets for the venues.'
'Some great models of how to successfully fund these boats have been put forward to us. From interest free government loans to individually owned boats or corporate sponsorship, each plan has its own merits for that particular location.'
Having the boats as a permanent fixture is all part of the aim for venues to promote local tourism and get the local population to take a stronger interest in their own waterfront. The fact the many of applications have been for brand new waterfronts or rejuvenated ones shows the emphasis on infrastructure development rather than just sport.
The seriousness of the applicants has also been mirrored in the proposals which require them to be completely open about who is making the application, what the plan is made up of and who the promoter is. Having complete disclosure means only those who are really eager and serious about joining the WMRT have applied.
The sheer number of applications indicates the WMRT could potentially expand beyond its target of 15 events, however Newby feels that the original target remains the right number to aim for by 2013, while further expansion can be considered beyond that date.
'We’ve been very pleased with the number of venues who have managed to meet the deadline. It’s a complex process with multiple stakeholders at each venue, each with different requirements and contributions and pulling them together is a huge challenge. It has also been a positive experience because we’ve seen how different organisations can come together to create a single team with the desire, focus and drive to make the event happen.'