Questioning Future of Match Racing

Published on April 19th, 2018

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Launched in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour has been the leading international professional match racing series, with a storied history marked by the list of hall of famers that have plied its waters.

The Tour got heightened status in 2006 when a partnership with ISAF (now World Sailing) granted the Tour ‘Special Event’ status to award the Match Racing World Championship Trophy. Not only was there now money on the line but also a prestigious title.

But after years of shrinking paydays and credibility questions, there appeared to be hope when Aston Harald AB acquired the World Match Racing Tour in 2015 with an inspired businessman eager to improve the landscape for professional sailors.

The foundation of interest was bedded in the promotion and manufacturing of the one-design M32, a 9.68m carbon fibre racing catamaran designed by Göran Marström and Kåre Ljung, which the company acquired in 2015.

The 2016 Tour announcement in December 2015 revealed an exciting format with events on three continents using the high speed M32, a total prize purse of over $2 million USD to the teams, and a $1 million USD prize to the winner. It was a powerful carrot that synched with the high performance shift in the America’s Cup.

Then came the 2017 Tour announcement in December 2016, with details less clear and no mention of prize money amounts. It was understood that while the Tour owner carried much of the financial burden in 2016, the model was now for the event hosts to carry the load, and that model proved hard to sell.

Looking toward the 2018 Tour, I had repeatedly inquired about the schedule, with the announcement finally revealing on April 19 that an abbreviated season with fewer teams is the blueprint. No mention of prize money. Plans soon to be revealed on how to qualify. Promises of additional events.

The question now is, not so much about the future of the Tour, which appears troubled, but rather the future of the Match Racing World Championship title. With nearly all match racing in the world done in monohulls, including now the America’s Cup, shouldn’t World Sailing reconnect this prized asset to the sport it represents?

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