A glam party for sports stars, pseudo reality tv stars and jewellery aficionados to launch a new trophy from the suppliers to royalty and purveyors of diamonds begs the question – what’s wrong with being elitist?
The sport of sailing is increasingly obsessed with volume. Quantity. Gross metrics. And this site is part of the problem - fueling a race for Facebook likes and criticising low figures for mass-market YouTube views. The rights holders are consumed with a race to the bottom – to accumulate as many ordinary people as possible, at the risk of alienating an affluent, desirable market demographic that sailing has always delivered.
The basic questions of what product are you selling to whom are being ignored in a desperate quest for viewership numbers that rival sports like golf, motorsport and extreme sports that may never be achieved. The event that decides to position itself as a premium product, might do quite nicely.
As the World Match Racing Tour unveiled its latest trophy, made by Garrard, the same craftsmen who created the America’s Cup, at a ‘posh’ party in the center of Mayfair (the most expensive property on the Monopoly board), the contrast between the movement to make sailing more accessible, simple and understandable and the historic audience for the sport and how it is perceived by the public, highlighted the identity crisis that the sport still grapples with.
Once upon a time, there was a space on the product offer matrix that occupied the premium spot. An event that attracted the type of fan who knew the difference between luggage and a backpack. But the America’s Cup seem to have turned their back on that premium positioning. The new America’s Cup is for people who want a cold pie in a fold-up chair on Plymouth Hoe.
The World Match Racing Tour perhaps has an opportunity position itself as being a bit more classy, and it’s not such a departure from the current plan. The St Moritz Match Race for example is shamelessly exclusive.
And just because an event is positioned as exclusive and premium, it doesn’t mean that an element of the mass-market won’t follow the sport through an aspirational need to be part of the scene. Thousands of tickets are sold yearly for a party that happens after the polo, to people who have never ridden a horse but who know that that’s where the in-crowd will be.
That’s not to say that all sailing events should abandon the quest to appeal to the broadest possible audience. If your title sponsor is selling four-door SUVs to suburbia, then a luxury positioning might not make any sense.
There is no doubt that sailing needed to be shaken up. Just like golf, the sport can appeal to a broader base and exist without the blue blazers and striped ties in wood paneled model rooms.
Just like golf, there can be a place for a kid to have access – to bash a few balls around a public course or drag a dinghy into the bay and go for a sail; but there can also be a place for gold and silver, for champagne and diamonds, and for history.
The launch of the new World Match Racing Tour trophy boasted a guestlist including; Olympians Colin Jackson CBE and Mark Foster, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, British designer Ozwald Boateng OBE, and Strictly Come Dancing stars Brendan Cole and Darren Gough as well as a brief appearance from Spence and Caggie.
For the trophy fans, the new prize is described as:
…made from sterling silver with partial gilt and enamel, and adopts a nautical theme complete with spiralling waves, nautical rope detail and the Tour’s famous double sails symbol which sits at the top of the trophy. The trophy perfectly reflects the combative, heated nature of match racing where teams go one-on-one in a winner-takes-all battle on the water.