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McConaghy Boats 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Time to catch breath

by Mark Jardine 1 Feb 13:00 PST
Yannick Bestaven on Maitre Coq wins the Vendee Globe 2020-21 © Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

As if it weren't an already extraordinary time, the start of 2021 has been an incredible one for sailing. The Vendée Globe finish has been simply sensational and the PRADA Cup racing between INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli kept us all on the edge of our seats.

From the point of view of reporting on the racing, having many of the major events happen in the middle of the night on UK time has been challenging. The irony of feeling jet lagged while in lockdown isn't lost on me...

My last newsletter focused on camaraderie, and this was on display in spades at the Vendée Globe finish port of Les Sables d'Olonne. We saw line honours winner Charlie Dalin being one of the first to congratulate Yannick Bestaven, who took overall victory thanks to his 10-hour time compensation for his part in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier. Then Kevin Escoffier went out on the water to greet Jean Le Cam, who was given the warmest welcome of all and crowned 'King Jean'. The finish itself was sensational and unprecedented, the camaraderie shown by the skippers was heart-warming.

The Semi Final of the PRADA Cup was somewhat of an anti-climax. Against all the odds New York Yacht Club American Magic managed to get PATRIOT back out on the water after their spectacular capsize, but it was clear that there were issues controlling the boat. The crew looked anything but comfortable battling around the course and went out of the event without winning a race.

The damage to the hull was major but having to remove and test all on-board electronics, replacing components where necessary, was a gargantuan task. Couple that with the near vertical learning curve the teams are on with the AC75s meant that the lost development time alone made this a one-horse race.

Terry Hutchinson's team can leave Auckland with their heads held high with the way they conducted themselves, and the thank-you message on PATRIOT when they relaunched the boat was true class.

Getting sailing coverage on mainstream media is a constant battle. In Australia the Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race is broadcast (although obviously not in 2020) but in the UK even INEOS TEAM UK's success so far in the PRADA Cup has only gathered the odd bit of coverage on the BBC. As a few sailors have recently commented, if the crew kicked a ball around on deck then they might get more airtime...

In France there's no such issue with the Vendée Globe regularly being national news and it would be fantastic to see this spread worldwide. It was nice to help with a little bit of sailing coverage on BBC World's Sport Today programme talking about the PRADA Cup and Vendée Globe on 22nd January and the Vendée finish on 27th January. They're short features, but every little bit helps getting awareness of our great sport out to a wider audience.

On Thursday I was delighted to host the first Scaramouche Sailing Trust webinar, aimed at boosting inclusivity in the sport of sailing. The achievements of the programme have been remarkable, using sailing to help engage students, transform lives and create a lifelong interest in a sport that is not common to children at an inner-city state school. Jon Holt and the kids from the Greig City Academy in Haringey, London are inspirational to listen to and you can now watch a replay of the first webinar here.

The Vendée Globe finishers continue to pour in, but the remaining America's Cup challengers are hard at work preparing for the PRADA Cup final, which starts on 13th February. The British and Italian teams will battle it out to be the first to win seven races and, judging by how close the racing was in January, it's going to be electric.

In the meantime, Emirates Team New Zealand have been continuing their development apace, with their latest skinny foils causing quite a stir. The speeds these boats have already demonstrated, with PATRIOT clocking over 53 knots while racing, are incredible and the Kiwis may well be pushing this to the next level.

All this has resulted in record readership for Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com. We're of course proud of reaching over ¾ million unique users in January, with over 167,000 in the UK and 93,000 in Australia being major milestones for us. We thank every single one of our readers for choosing our websites to get their sailing news fix; it's what drives us on to do more.

In my chat with Sail-World's Australian Editor John Curnow this morning (his Monday evening) he said, "Being just shy of 800k unique visitors to the group's websites for the month of January is certainly wonderful. However, the entire team never forgets that it is you, the readers, seeking the best and most timely information that makes this all possible. We all want to thank you, as well as all the people we contact via email, phone, Skype and WhatsApp who provide the content we turn into the material you read and watch. It's hot in Australia right now, so I'm raising a cold glass to say cheers, thank you, and please stay safe."

So yes, we did catch breath over the weekend after the incredible start to the year for sailing, but we're right back on it and raring to see what developments are coming out of the America's Cup team sheds in Auckland ready for the next race.

Please continue to send us your reports and feedback on everything you read on Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com. We love reading your thoughts and it helps guide our future.

Stay safe,

Mark Jardine mark@yachtsandyachting.com
Managing Editor, Sail-World.com & YachtsandYachting.com

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