Setback for sailing broadcast

Published on March 25th, 2019

Shirley Robertson

Aspirations to increase the popularity of sailing through the wider reach of broadcast television suffered a setback with this announcement from two-time Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson:

The CNN Mainsail segment has been a part of CNN’s sporting line-up for 15 years, and for the past 13 years, it’s also been a very considerable part of my life. In television terms, over a decade is almost a lifetime – 156 editions – but the beauty of this programme was that no two months were the same.

It was a wonderful testament to how diverse, how colourful and how so very full of engaging characters our sport really is. And each and every one of them providing amazing memories. Finding a compelling sailing story for the ’CNN audience’ was rarely a challenge. Its longevity is also a testament to how loyal and supportive Rolex have been, and continue to be, in our sport.

However, the sad news is that as of the beginning of this year, Mainsail is ‘on hold,’ it’s future, at best, is uncertain, although the search is still fully on for a new supporter.

Making good television is a truly collaborative and special process, for everyone who worked on the show, for CNN, and for programme producers Sunset and Vine, it’s a big loss. But also for the sport we love. To have such global outreach, once a month, every month, for over a decade, has been a wonderful thing for sailing, so to lose this little slice of regular airtime on airwaves packed full of other sports is a big, big loss.

Personally, and on behalf of our production crew, I’d like to thank every event organiser, every press officer, every sailor and every race team that has ever been a part of the Mainsail world. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been told ‘no’ – so to every single one of you, thank you. This sport is full of passionate, gracious, fascinating people – you’ve made us so welcome and you’ve helped make this show, and our sport, extraordinary……. it’s been an absolute privilege.

As a former competitive sailor, myself, I could have never known I’d end up charging around a dried lake bed at the land yachting Worlds in Nevada, or looking for hope in the hurricane ravaged BVIs, telling their inspirational tale post Irma.

From a solely sporting perspective, witnessing some of the decade’s finest sailing showdowns has rarely been anything but compelling – from the inspirational stories of the Vendee Globe, all the way to that absolute nail biter in The Hague, as the last Volvo kept us all breathless, leaving it until the final miles to finally reveal a winner.

But it’s not just about the sport – and for me that’s always been the programme’s real goal – telling the human stories behind that rich diverse world we sail in.

I will never forget filming an edition with Emirates Team New Zealand just three months after their devastating loss in San Francisco – or every single journey we’ve been lucky enough to make down that stretch of canal in Les Sables D’Olonne – surely one of the most emotional moments in sport, whatever your passion.

So to every single one of you that let myself and the Mainsail cameras take a little glimpse into your world, thank you. Not only your endless help and enthusiasm, but more crucially, for your unwavering trust.

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