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Has UK Sailing hit the buffers?

Rumours abound that sailing has hit the buffers. The sport that has regularly announced itself as the next big thing seems to have taken a wrong turning.

Click image for a larger image

And dinghy sailing, the branch of the multi-headed sport most accessable to the average "man in the street" is leading the downturn.

While sailing may never challenge the regular spectator sports of Football, Rugby, Cricket and Tennis, it fails even to get media coverage against the esoteric British pastimes of Darts and Snooker.

World Sailing's failure to produce a viable top level competition circuit has crippled the advance of the sport generally. Without a regular international series to produce real, identifiable Champions, it is difficult to build media or public interest and thus sponsor interest.

By clinging on in the Olympics, dinghy sailing gets a four yearly window of media opportunity, and for Britain that has been an expensive, slowly decaying return - two golds, down from four golds in 2008.

Britain will not have an Olympic classes event on home waters in 2017 or 2018 and unless they get lucky, maybe until the next Games in 2020. With the one regular event at Weymouth now canned, Britain's Olympic hopefuls will spend much of their time visiting foreign climes, at events that raise not a flicker of interest in the UK.

The RYA relied on the Weymouth based, Sailing World Cup regatta as their one tilt at an International event that attracted overseas competitors and media - although outside of an Olympic year it did feel a bit thin on the ground recently.

Sailing World Cup Weymouth 2016 - Click image for a larger image

And for the RYA run Olympic squad that is the rub. With no other headline events in between it seems that they exist just to provide the government of the day with its regular feel-good Olympic medal count.

Sailing just does not have the regular killer events and now no UK event to focus on. No Wimbledon, no Cup Final to agonise over and thus no heroes, no personalities.

£25 million poured into the few to compete at an event each four years. While the basic structure that does the groundwork, the local sailing clubs, watch their club racing turnouts wither.

Even a small part of that £25 million could kick-start a pretty good international regatta that benefited UK dinghy sailing in general, which got club sailors out on the water alongside the Olympic names.

One event won’t save a sport, but it might just provide a beacon in the wilderness. A sign that the national authority cares - and we have seen recently what happens when the 'great and the good' stop listening!

America's Cup World Series Portsmouth 2016 - Click image for a larger image

The efforts of Ben Ainslie and his America's Cup team to finally win back the Old Mug has raised some tentative interest, but we have been here before and ended with egg on our face.

Alex Thomson worried the French as he provided a real challenge to their Vendee Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h, but it has yet to catch the imagination of the general public here.

But one victory, however well deserved, will not save the sport. That is down to the powers that be, and they have ignored that basic sailing rule, get your head out of the boat and look for the advantage.

The Royal Yachting Association is looking for a new Olympic team boss. Can we hope that they are also looking at the bigger picture and how to come up with the fabled London 2012 legacy or was that just WPNSA?

The two America's Cup events at Portsmouth hinted at what can be achieved when somebody dares to dream, but Ben is a bit busy at the moment, so we will have to hope that over at RYA House they are burning the midnight oil.

Recent related posts:

Mark Turner and how to sort out the dinghy/Olympic sailing world
Sailing Crisis - Messing about in boats in decline
Team GBR head to Miami for 1st Sailing World Cup
GBR Sailing gets increased funding for Tokyo 2020
Sailing World Cup Finals go to Spain and Germany

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Gerald New - Sailweb
22 January 2017 14:29 GMT


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