Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Extreme 40 Racing
Pete Cumming and his team - winners iShares Cup 2009
The Offshore Challenges Group consists of four companies united in their purpose to promote, sponsor, support and manage world class sailing events, such as the 2009 iShares Cup races for Extreme 40 catamarans. One of the aims behind this project is to make yacht racing a spectator sport, and to do this, these monster catamarans need to come close to thousands of cheering fans who can watch tactical combat between the world’s top sailors bringing thrills and excitement. Of necessity the courses chosen are at places where spectators can overlook a series of short races at locations not too far from one another within Europe, namely: Venice, Hyeres, Cowes, Kiel, Amsterdam and Almira. A similar series, ‘The Extreme Series Asia, is scheduled to take place between November 2009 and March 2010, but iShares, the financial investment firm, will no longer be the main sponsor, owing to new ownership.
Be under no illusions, the OC Group promote these races for their own financial gain. With events behind them such as The Transat, and the Barcelona World Race, you can be sure that less costly and more easily managed events such as Extreme 40 racing where spectators can exceed 200,000 over a series of races will be more lucrative, along with income from TV, film rights, the sale of books and magazines. Another aspect of the business is their VIP promotions where executives and owners of major companies, along with rich speculators can be given preferential treatment. Ellen MacArthur’s own team, including Nick Moloney and Sebastian Josse, stand to gain, along with Mark Turner, the CEO of the Events Company, and others involved. Sailors like Pete Cumming, the winner of the 2009 series, Yann Guichard, Loick Peyron, Shirley Robertson and Mike Golding will all benefit, not just in terms of publicity, but with money in their pockets. Without a doubt, initiatives such as the iShares series generates businesses, provides incomes, and brings jobs to those involved in the manufacture of yachts and associated paraphernalia.
Spectators are treated to excitement galore, as the 40 foot long, and 26 foot wide cats skim the water, often with one hull flying, while the crew hang on. Action, fitness, nerves of steel, split second judgments, tactics, brute strength, all of these, play their part in successful outcomes. When the wind blows strongly and boat speeds exceed 20 knots, it is not uncommon to see vessels colliding, taking to the air, pitchpolling or capsizing. This action-packed sport has been likened to Formula One car racing, both highly sponsored events with their champions who celebrate victories on the podium by dowsing one another with Champagne and triumphantly holding their trophies high for all to see.