Growing the sport through television

Published on August 31st, 2022

If anything has been learned from recent efforts to broadcast sailing competition, is that it is necessary to present something unique for it to work. Extreme boats, tight venues, short races.

The past decade of America’s Cup history hardly resembles the previous 140+ years. Beginning at the 2008 Olympic Games, four years of training now gets advanced to a nearly winner-take-all sprint race.

Chip Johns, who owned the very successful Vanguard Sailboats during its heyday (and then sold it to LaserPerformance), made the following comments in Scuttlebutt 457 (Dec. 9, 1999):


I am always curious why we think that sailing would make better TV when other sports and activities that are easier to watch and cheaper to televise are not there yet. If I were a TV entrepreneur I would be looking for the no brainer success story. I am not sure that I would pick a sport which was difficult to produce and was not very interesting to watch in general.

One of the reasons that other sports like golf and skiing have more participants is that anyone in the US can decide today to learn how to golf or ski, get in their car and find all that they need to learn the new sport. These include retail shops which will sell or rent them equipment and advice, facilities to do the sport (i.e. golf courses and ski areas), and instructional programs all set up for the new participant.

We do not have these facilities in sailing. We have a very limited retail shop base, public access facilities are very limited, and instructional programs for the public are even fewer.

We should work on the fundamentals of our infrastructure with our limited resources prior to trying to hit the long ball with TV. If we even get the TV exposure then we don’t really have the infrastructure to handle all of responses! And I do know about the community sailing programs around the country for all of you that will answer me! How many offer a 1-hr learn to sail course and then a half day ticket?


Now that sailing is getting televised, has much else changed? Send your comments to editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com.

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