Student event seeks to broaden the sport of sailing

Published on February 10th, 2014

As the U.S. collegiate racing season approaches its spring national championships this year, two of its prominent schools – Tufts and Georgetown – will be sending teams to the 2014 EDHEC Sailing Cup on April 25 to May 3 in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

This annual keelboat event is totally organized by students for students. It’s also on a mission to help sailing. Here’s a report by French student Nicolas Degroote…

The EDHEC Sailing Cup in Les Sables d’Olonne, France is the leading student sporting event in Europe. Year after year, the aim of the event remained the same: broaden the sport of sailing.

For a long time, sailing and especially keelboat sailing, has been associated with elitism. Several reasons can explain it. First of all, sailing is associated with elitism because it is a sport hard to understand and especially how a regatta works. Sailing is not attractive for non-sailors; even just for watch.

Then, sailing can be associated with elitism because the sailing world is a closed world. It is a world composed of passionate people and professional sailors, with a technical jargon. In short, it is not always a welcoming world at first sight. Finally, sailing is also a sport with many techniques and know how. Technical skills can reject beginners or non-sailors that may have been interested.

However, some organizations are trying to break this image of elitism and broaden the sport of sailing. Among them is the EDHEC Sailing Cup – the leading student sporting event in Europe. Now celebrating its 46th year anniversary, the event in part as it has always pursued the same goal: broaden the sport of sailing. To achieve that goal, the EDHEC Sailing Cup is trying to limit the reasons of the elitism vision of sailing.

First, the organization authorizes student crews to compete with the help of professional skippers to help beginners to take part in the regatta. Every year, a lot of students coming from all around the world sail for the first time in this international competition, thus discovering the world of sailing.

For instance, last year a Belarussian crew got on a boat just before the regatta for the first time of their life, and successfully competed in the event. During the event, total beginners can live the same experience as professional sailors and have a first glimpse of the sailing world from the inside, and make a breakthrough in this “closed” world.

To enable as many persons as possible to discover the sailing world, the EDHEC Sailing Cup also organizes other sporting competitions such as the Land Trophy (a multisport raid) and the Air Trophy (a windsurf and Kitesurf contest). All the competitors are gathered on the same village of 12,000 square meters. During the week of competition they share unforgettable moments with the participants of the Sea Trophy (the regatta) and can get a foothold in the sailing world.

But the Village is not only for competitors, as during the week the organizing team is seeking to make the sailing world known to its 10,000 visitors. For instance a sailing simulator will be set up in the village to let the visitors and non-sailing participants discover sailing

This year the EDHEC Sailing Cup wants to tackle the lack of visibility and the lack of openness of the regattas to spectators. It can be hard to understand how works a regatta, to know in real time who is the winner and so on. That is why the organizing team will set up a geolocation system to enable the non-participants to live a better experience. That is why, willing to innovate and aware of the impact that had the 33rd and 34th America’s Cup with its giant catamaran, the organizing team decided to introduce a match race competition on sporting catamarans (SL 5.2).

This match race competition will be held on a basin near the Vendee Globe’s harbor and the Village of the event and the spectators will be less than 50 meters away from the boats. The proximity of the spectators and the format of match racing should produce a great show and attract a lot of visitors or participants whether they are sailors or not! Thanks to this kind of project, the EDHEC Sailing Cup is trying to make sailing more accessible to non-sailors and give them the desire to try sailing.

With different actions the EDHEC Sailing Cup is trying to tackle three of the most important reasons for which Sailing is associated with elitism:
– The technical skills required to participate in a regatta
– The impression of a closed world
– The lack of interest of the mainstream public
All these actions are led by one intention that has been the same for 46th years: broaden the sport of sailing.

Students or coaches interested in participating in this year’s regatta are invited to visit the EDHEC Sailing Cup website  or email  the international team.

Background:
The EDHEC Sailing Cup is organized by a student association of the EDHEC Business School. Founded in 1968 in one of the most prestigious Business School of the World by 3 students: Pierre Jouanet, Jean-Luc Picot and Francis Prat, the EDHEC Sailing Cup is now ranked as the first student association in France and organize the leading student sporting event in Europe. Since its creation in 1968, the aim of the association has remained the same: broaden the sport of sailing.

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