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America's Cup - Who cares about the starving sailing fans? Not ACEA

by Rob Kothe & Richard Gladwell on 21 Oct 2015
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Bermuda - Racing Day 2 ACEA / Ricardo Pinto
Racing finished in the third and final round of the 2015 America's Cup World Series Bermuda on Sunday afternoon.

The Bermuda regatta was shortened to just one day because of lack of wind on the first day. There was a similar occurrence in Portsmouth, where the regatta lost a day because of too much wind.

The most excruciating moment of the first day's television coverage was Shirley Robertson’s interview on BT Sports One with the Hamilton Town Crier. Overall Day 1 was akin to Seinfeld gone sailing - the Show about Nothing.

The Brits were lucky, elsewhere on the planet, all those who had paid for the C+ App coverage of the Event got was a news ticker feed across the bottom of their phablet (Phone/Tablet) screens saying there was no racing that day. Shirley's efforts to make Something out of the Show about Nothing would have been devoured with relish by starving Cup fans outside Dear Old Blighty.

By our count, the America's Cup World Series has sailed more Practice Race days than actual Race Days. Who else is silly enough to schedule a two-day regatta, and expecting to get the full card of racing away?

As it stood this event, consisted of just three short races of about 12 minutes racing each - with the ramming of Artemis by an errant umpire boat almost stealing the show.

Our erstwhile Asian Editor (he's an expat Pom) Guy Nowell has been on station in Bermuda.

Guy who is one of the best-known yachting photographers in Asia was able to put down his Dark 'n Stormy long enough to provide us with some great images and impressions of the regatta. The Adventures of a Sailor Girl, Nic Douglass, provided some great interviews too.

Bermuda is a tourist gem, and the America’s Cup is an event coup for the 65,000 locals. The Cup will be a major boost to the economy. But too bad the 2017 Cup venue gets only one shot, just over an hour of hard-core racing, before the Main Event in 17 months time.

Sadly most of the world was once again forced to see live coverage of the Bermuda regatta by squinting at the mobile phones, or iPad/tablets.

Interestingly even in sailing-mad New Zealand, no-one has been able to pony up with the dollars asked by America's Cup Events Authority for the New Zealand rights - either on the free-to-air network or pay to view.

Kiwi viewers are probably authors of their own demise for daring to watch the 34th America's Cup in such numbers and setting the record for viewership of any sporting event in New Zealand history.

Quite what happens from here remains to be seen.

As Sail-World's America's Cup Editor, Richard Gladwell notes - Some of us have swallowed the dead rat and ponied up for the payment of the per regatta subscription. So far we have only had to pay two subs for four days of racing across three regattas.

The coverage is very good, the racing exciting, and it is possible to throw the video up onto a screen bigger than a mobile phone - while cursing the propeller-head that dreamed up this ridiculous broadcast model.

Like so much with the current America's Cup, the video coverage seems to have a death-wish. A great product that does its damnedest to take the most awkward approach to event management - and seems to go out of its way to shed its existing fan base at every opportunity.

Sure Bermuda will be a great event for those that are there - on the tiny island, 650nm out into the Atlantic Ocean - but the major fanbase isn't in Bermuda. It's global.

Other events such as the Volvo Ocean Race, Extreme Sailing, TP52's, GC32's and World Match Racing Tour have a way better understanding of the marketing of sailing than do the mandarins running the America's Cup. Even dear old ISAF have got their act together.

ACEA now stands in a broadcast model of its own. Are they really the only ones who have got it right, and all the rest are wrong?

Next year sailing fans will have much more choice - with the Olympics, TP52's, a new format of the Extreme Sailing Series sailed in foilers and the new Match Racing event - all competing in the same performance sailing space as the America's Cup.

All except ACEA will be running the same video broadcast model - available live, or in replay either in highlight or on-demand.

With that bevy of sailing action available able to be watched from the comfort of your own home on a large high definition video screen - who is going to be bothered squinting at the America's Cup coverage on a phablet screen, and paying $8-$10/event for the privilege of what is often about and hour or so of racing??

For serious sailing fans, they seem doomed to fiddle-ass around with an iPad feature trying to get the Cup video running on a big screen. Imagine the scream if the Rugby or Football World Cup coverage was available only on phablet?

The America’s Cup coverage is like a Porsche with no wheels. It looks good, feels good, but goes nowhere. Before too long even the most ardent fans tire of trying to re-engage with the event they loved in San Francisco, and change channels.

Others are fast coming to realise that there are many pirate television re-broadcasts available for which the internet links take just a few minutes to find. But that trip into Geekdom is beyond the capability or interest of the general viewing public who will instead watch a sport that is more fan friendly.

The only prize that ACEA can expect to pick up at the next TV sports awards is that for the Slowest Learner, or the Event that Promised Plenty but Delivered Short to their global audience.

What you are missing:

Flagstaff 2020 - Oceanis Yacht 54 - FOOTERRonstan 2020 - Sailmon MAX - FOOTERX-Yachts AUS X4 - FOOTER - 2

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