Monohulls to top Match Racing Pyramid
Published on October 29th, 2018
Launched in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) has been the leading professional match racing series sanctioned by World Sailing. But as the professional side of the sport has evolved, the WMRT has had its ups and downs with various ownership groups seeking to fulfil the need to reward worthy prize money.
Based in monohull racing, the WMRT had been a pathway to the America’s Cup but that all changed once the Cup shifted to multihulls for the 2010, 2013, and 2017 editions. With the shift impacting the Tour’s future, there was hope by World Sailing that a well-funded new owner could put the shine back on the trophy.
This group was the Swedish company Aston Harald AB which had acquired in 2013 the design and production rights to the one-design M32 catamarans. Looking to capitalize on the shift to multihull sailing, the group in 2015 acquired the WMRT and reorganized the 2016 season to utilize their M32 for the racing.
But this led to massive disruption. The Tour was now being used as a means to sell boats. The match racing structure throughout the world, dominated by monohull racing, now had catamarans as the top step of its ladder. And the America’s Cup was less about match racing skills and more about performance.
However, with a million dollar bonus for the 2016 WMRT winner, the elite match race sailors were willing to become catamaran converts if it meant filling their wallets. But what seemed like a good idea soon became less so. The level of price money couldn’t be maintained, the production of M32 catamarans likely didn’t meet projections, and the enthusiasm of the owner soon waned.
So the ownership of the WMRT is changing hands again. During this transition, the 2018 schedule has been shortened and the final planned tour event – 2018 Match Racing World Championship on November 8-12 in China – is now cancelled. The result of this turmoil means the distinct possibility of no World title being awarded this year.
With formal announcements soon to come, what is known is the new owner CShine has skin in the game, having been the group that organized the 2017 WMRT Finals in Shenzhen, China. The Tour will return to the previous template of monohull racing, with each event to provide their own fleet of class boats. Details, with luck, are soon to follow.
For the structure of the sport, the top of the match racing pyramid will once again reflect the foundation below it. Hopefully a sustainable commercial model and supportive ownership can keep it there.