Stadium Sailing: The makings of a good boat

Published on April 16th, 2015

The Extreme Sailing Series is in its ninth season, with this year’s eight event tour travelling through Asia, Europe, and Australia. This successful, commercially driven circuit launched the ‘stadium’ short-course racing format, providing spectators, sponsors and media easy access to the competition.

The boat used today by the Extreme Sailing Series is the same boat from day one… the one design Extreme 40 catamaran. But has the clock expired on this non-foiling boat?

Mark Turner, Executive Chairman of OC Sport, the creator and organizer of the Extreme Sailing Series, explains the role of the boat in the success of their circuit…

In isolation, it’s hard to really find much fault in the Extreme 40 in terms of delivering in our Stadium format, reliably and in an exciting way for the spectators. The sailing is as good as it’s ever been, the sailors love it, the format works better than ever, and the boat ticks pretty well all the boxes.

So it’s hard to consider as we have done each year the possibility of a new boat. But the sailing world has evolved, and whilst we were the first to bring multihulls to professional sailing in this way, there are of course new developments such as foiling which are hard to ignore.

In reality, foiling isn’t the right solution for the Stadium format – we don’t need more speed than we have already, as we are already at maximum in many of our most iconic but small stadiums like Cardiff (GBR), St. Petersburg (RUS), and Sydney (AUS). However, we are working on a new solution – either with an existing class or a new design completely – with the idea of making use of our open water days and hours to go to foil mode, and going classic foils when the space doesn’t permit.

But the worst thing for us to do would be to go back to a traditional sailing course out of sight of people – which is a bit what foiling tends to force people to do.

It’s back to who do you need to entertain – the sailors or those paying for it…and it’s still the case that those paying for it, mostly, can’t tell the difference between the different types of boats. In fact, heeling is very often still more exciting to watch from land than foiling, to the non-sailor. And we are touching new audiences all the time at every event.

So it’s a bit of a difficult one for us to be honest – but we do understand that to remain at the top of the game where we are now, we might need to evolve the support we use at some point. Hence this new phase of analysis over the next few months.

The list of other things we’d change for a new boat is quite short – but includes better performance in the very light stuff, built in media technology, a better position for the Guest Sailor so they can watch more of the action. Not much more…

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