A better mountain to climb

Published on January 6th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I was no fan of how the World Match Racing Tour had gone off the rails, leaving its DNA in the crapper to be used as a marketing tool to sell the M32, a 32-foot carbon-fiber catamaran. Yes, this new tour owner in 2015 also wanted to build a circuit that would attract good paydays for the sailors, but the plan annoyed me.

Of course, you could argue that the tour needed to do something, and this was the best option. The previous administration struggled to offer prize money that could compete with other avenues of professional sailing, so the tour was no longer pulling the top sailors. How else could it continue as the ultimate training ground for the America’s Cup?

But the America’s Cup, now sailed in Top Fuel dragsters, was less about match racing and more about exceeding human limits. The tour was no longer a pathway to the Cup, and with it being in catamarans, it was no longer attached to the other 99% of match racing in monohulls. It had, by design, become a gimmick.

Worse to me, it had the endorsement of World Sailing to award the Match Racing World Champion title. We had a tour operating as a marketing scheme, using a format unrelated to nearly all match racing downstream, to award its grandest title. What could go wrong?

After tour owner Aston Harald AB began using its M32 for the 2016 season, I ranted about this in my column for Sailing World, and ultimately they too realized there were better ways to sell a boat. Now under new ownership (again), the tour has a renewed vision for 2020 that better connects the top of the pyramid with the base.

Will its return to monohull match racing attract the “stars of sailing”? I suspect it will struggle, as top sailors are now chasing paydays, and there are more lucrative options elsewhere. But I also believe the World Match Racing Tour must represent its genre, as by doing so gives enthusiasts of this sector of the sport a better mountain to climb.

Comments? Submit them to editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com

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