Extreme approach will not revive sailing
Published on August 22nd, 2022
At Scuttlebutt HQ, we consistently cringe at the claim that ‘foiling is the future’ as we know the expense, complexity, and skill required is not how to sustain a sport. Australian Chris Thompson dives further into the topic:
We cannot keep on hoping that a hyper-performance elite approach will revive sailing.
That has been the party line of World Sailing since they started squeezing popular types out of the Olympics in favor of tiny niche types like foiling cats; the approach taken up by the America’s Cup since it went from monohulls and into classes that create far smaller fleets; and the approach taken by much of the industry and sailing media over the past 25 years.
During that time, there has been enormous promotion of high-performance sailing as the future of the sport. High speed sailing is great (I’ve done it for many years) but excessive promotion of the inaccessible and expensive side of the sport clearly is NOT working.
It’s time to check the numbers that prove that “extreme” sailing is not popular (look at the tiny number of extreme boats racing or selling) and return to promoting the types that can actually become popular enough to sustain the sport.
The “extreme” approach has been promoted for about 25 years. That’s about as long as the entire IOR era lasted. It’s longer than it took for sailing to become a major sport after WW2. It’s much longer than it took for windsurfing to become enormously popular (and then collapse when it went “extreme”).
The “extreme” America’s Cup era has gone longer than the J Class era, and almost as long as the IACC era – how much longer do we have to wait for it to live up to the claims that it will revive sailing?
If the “extreme” approach was going to work, it would have worked long ago. It’s only those who are actually conservative (or who fall for hype over reality) who can cling to the belief that if we keep on promoting the extreme end of the sport we will someday revive it.
It’s interesting to look at the top selling classes and sectors. With one exception, they are all accessible types that the hype-ridden administration and media largely ignored while they were talking nonsense about classes that (while often great) are – and will always be – nothing but niche interests.