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Media analysis of first Global Solo Challenge and future opportunities

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 21 May 04:45 PDT
Cole Brauer – First Light © Teddy Weathersbee

With the first edition of the Global Solo Challenge 2023-2024 drawing to a close, we commissioned a third-party media analysis to assess the results.

While the full report will soon be available for download, we can share some of the highlights. Starting and finishing in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain, this event saw 16 skippers from nine countries taking on the challenge of a solo nonstop circumnavigation by the three Great Capes: Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, and Cape Horn.

As we look towards the next edition scheduled for 2027-2028, the event is likely to remain in Galicia but start from a new port that can ensure increased public participation and offers naturally protected waters to stage the starts and finishes, allowing for much easier live video coverage and TV involvement.

Reach and Audience

As organizers, we are very pleased with the results achieved in the 2023-2024 edition, which exceeded our expectations in terms of reach and audience. The event's metrics are positive when compared to similar events and stand up well even against more established ones, especially considering our first edition budget represented approximately 1% of that of an event such as the Vendée Globe. The Global Solo Challenge clearly did not, and could not, aspire to reach the same coverage and audience size, especially in France, the home country of offshore solo sailing. However, as a new inaugural event, we believe the metrics are extremely positive, laying strong foundations for the future with a very international audience and excellent coverage, including outside the traditional European market, particularly in the United States, certainly boosted by the inspiring participation of young and talented sailor Cole Brauer.

Media Coverage

The total audience was estimated at over 80 million, with social media and online media coverage accounting for about half of this total. Additionally, TV coverage played a significant role in doubling the reach, adding visibility outside the core sailing community.

Social Media Presence: The skippers collectively had a social media following of around 750,000, which helped amplify the event's reach through personal updates and interactions, reaching an audience of around 25 million people. The Global Solo Challenge's own social media platforms grew rapidly from humble beginnings ahead of the first start, with over 134,000 community members reaching an audience of 10.2 million people.

Online and Media Coverage: The Global Solo Challenge website attracted 2.2 million visitors with 13.2 million page views, while sailing media coverage reached 3.5 million enthusiasts. Additionally, newspapers contributed to a further 5.2 million in reach, with magazines adding another 2.5 million.

Television Distribution: The event's distribution agreements and news channels reached 106 TV channels, with a potential reach of 854 million households in 157 countries, providing an estimated actual audience of around 40 million people.

The Role of Starlink in Expanding Reach

Traditionally, the extremely high cost of broadband internet satellite connection left non-elite events such as the Global Solo Challenge with a budget hurdle that made it too costly or even impossible for skippers to send live video back to shore. This capability was almost exclusively reserved for events such as the Vendée Globe or The Ocean Race, whose rise to fame was also aided by their ability to make instant imagery available to the public, requiring substantial financial investment from participants for satellite communication alone.

A key factor in the Global Solo Challenge's reach was the release of Starlink's Global Roaming Maritime antenna just months before the start of the event. The reliability and efficiency of this new technology at high latitudes were uncertain. Only 8 of the 16 starters decided to test Starlink, while just 1 skipper relied on traditional but costly broadband solutions. The remaining skippers had access only to low-bandwidth data, sufficient for accessing weather data and occasionally sending low-resolution pictures. Even with just half the fleet using Starlink, it made a tremendous difference.

Looking ahead to the 2027-2028 edition, the affordable Starlink satellite communication systems will undoubtedly become the norm for every participant, enhancing the event's global reach and engagement. This technological breakthrough will ensure that fans can follow the skippers' journeys more closely, as is typical in elite events, bringing the excitement of the race to an even broader audience and giving the Global Solo Challenge significant growth potential.

A Sustainable and Inclusive Event

The Global Solo Challenge is committed to sustainability and inclusivity. The event's budget-friendly approach discourages the construction of new boats, emphasizing the use of existing resources. This not only makes participation more accessible but also aligns with the event's environmentally conscious ethos. The Global Solo Challenge is independently ISO 20121 certified by Tuv Thuringen, ensuring that it meets the highest standards of Sustainable Event Management.

Moreover, the Global Solo Challenge's inclusive format allows a wide range of boats and participants, from professional sailors to adventurous amateurs from all backgrounds. This inclusivity fosters a diverse and vibrant community, united by the shared dream of solo circumnavigation.

Looking Ahead: Global Solo Challenge 2027-2028

We can reasonably expect the event to grow to 20 starters or more for the next edition. The Global Solo Challenge 2027-2028 is set to build on the success of the inaugural event. The advancements in satellite communication technology through Starlink will play a crucial role in enhancing the event's global reach and engagement. As skippers prepare to set off from a new port in Galicia, we believe this location will contribute significantly to the event's growth, addressing the desire to build the event around the host city and make it easier for the public to come together to watch in person. Full details on this will be provided once the partnership agreement has been signed.

2027-2028 Notice of Event and Regulations

Following the review of the 2023-2024 edition of the Global Solo Challenge and the collection of feedback from skippers, the Notice of Event for the 2027-2028 edition has now been updated and published. The Regulations have also been revised to incorporate the experience gained during the first edition. Skippers interested in participating are encouraged to make inquiries and can join our dedicated WhatsApp group. Entries are now formally open, and details of those who have already submitted their applications will be published in the coming weeks. Currently, 5 skippers are formally entered from a continuously growing list of over 80 interested skippers.

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