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Making the world smaller

by Mark Jardine 30 Nov 2021 04:00 PST
18ft Skiff JJ Giltinan Championship day 3: Shaw & Partners fly downwind © Frank Quealey

They used to say any publicity is good publicity, but that has been severely tested in recent times by celebrities and sportspeople who wish they were anywhere but the limelight when things go pear shaped.

When it comes to sailing, most publicity is good publicity, but there are times when classes, clubs and events put out great content which is quite simply excellent publicity.

Take the 18ft Skiffs for example. When I was growing up, the Sydney 18s were the gold standard of dinghy racing. Sailing a Cadet or 420 in the 80s and 90s, you'd watch the videos of the mighty skiffs at any opportunity you could, and smile in awe at the photos of them flying and capsizing on Sydney Harbour. Back then the wings were getting longer and longer, the rigs more powerful, and the odd team tried sailing two-up. It was all top-notch entertainment!

While the boats are more standardised now, the racing in Sydney Harbour every Sunday throughout the season still makes for superb viewing. I've mentioned before how I look forward to receiving Frank Quealey's reports on a Sunday morning and reading how the race progressed. Right now, it's the NSW Championship taking place, and I just spent a very pleasant afternoon with my dad watching the replay of Race 2. It's all broadcast live on Youtube, but thanks to the technology we all take for granted nowadays we can watch literally anything anytime we want.

The footage the Australian 18 Footers League put together really is quality and recently moved up another level. James Bury, Andrew Buckland and Peter Shipway provide insightful commentary together with the occasional special guest. This is all done from a single boat and a couple of drones, streamed live around the world. We really don't know just how good we've got it and I encourage anyone who hasn't been watching the racing to do so.

This coverage, in words, pictures and video, really helps the 18ft Skiffs stay current in a time when the technology of sailboat racing has taken a quantum leap forwards. The Moths are now faster, but the sheer power of the 18s is still a sight to behold and, as we regularly see, the huge rigs are ready to catch out even the very best of sailors.

Also, in a time when international travel is difficult, and is in the process of getting harder again, it makes the world a smaller place. If you're outside of Australia (or at times, just outside of New South Wales) then it's very tricky to get to Sydney to watch the 18s in-person or Sail Grand Prix Sydney which is taking place on 17-18 December, but you can watch it live or on replay via Youtube and embedded in the reports we run on Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com.

There are many different levels to event publicity, from the club racing report with a single photo, to the polished presentation of the America's Cup racing complete with overlay graphics, but with the technology available today there are always methods which can be used to push coverage up another notch.

The phones we pretty much constantly hold in our hands are incredibly powerful computers and often capable of taking extremely high-quality photos and videos. If you're not already, then why not take some video footage of the starts and, if possible, more of the racing, then upload it to Youtube? Those who do have quickly transformed their race reports, bringing the words to life with the action. The reporting isn't just a vanity project, or a way of the winner getting their name in lights, it's a way of growing interest in that event, class, or club.

A classic example is the Illusion class which sails most weekends throughout the winter on Bembridge Harbour. These sit-in one-man keelboats are not dissimilar to a 2.4mR, based on the lines of a 12-metre yacht, with foot steering, an overlapping genoa and spinnaker. Without fail, Mike Samuelson sends me a report of the weekend's racing and the class has been growing steadily in popularity.

The reports include photos, start-line videos, plus a few of mark roundings, and gain a huge amount of interest which undoubtedly has helped increase participation; this year saw 34 helms take to the water for the UK National Championship, which I believe is a record for the class.

Yes, it takes a bit of dedication to go the extra mile to create the content, collate it, upload it and then send it to the yachting press, but it has the power to turn a moribund class into a thriving one, providing better racing for all while also protecting the investment of boat owners, as second-hand boats become more sought after.

So, go on, in a time when travelling is hard, make the world a bit smaller by thinking about how you can raise the publicity for whatever racing you're involved in. I'm here to chat to about ideas, and I regularly do with contributors who want to do more. What I can tell you is that quality reporting on events works for everyone. Attendances grow, interest grows, participation in sailing grows, and those interested in the sport are more entertained. It's a true win-win situation!

Mark Jardine, mark.jardine@sail-world.com
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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