TELEVISING THE SPORT
The Monsoon Cup, the final event of the World Match Racing Tour held last week in Malaysia, offers the highest prize purse on the Tour (approx. $454,000), attracts only the elite teams, and is when the ISAF Match Racing World Champion is crowned. The event is also setting the bar quite high for its television coverage.
Said 2009 runner-up Ben Ainslie (GBR), “I was amazed at the television - it's fantastic. There is the bow cam and the mast cam and Andy Green cam; it's really good and I'm really impressed. It's far better than the coverage of the last America's Cup and something which should be incorporated in the Cup in the future.”
Andy Green, whose professional sailing career has included America's Cup campaigns, provides the following account about the television coverage from the 2009 Monsoon Cup:
"From the inaugural Monsoon Cup in 2005, the goal of the organisers led by Peter Gilmour was to continually innovate the coverage of the sailing taking place. The first and most important was to have a Live TV show between 3pm and 5pm that was available for any broadcasters to take, with a 5 minute gun fired straight after the opening credits and the deciding race that finishes at 4.45, in time for a post race interview and prize-giving all completed for a 5pm finish with a World Champion and event winner crowned!
"This year’s event had 18 cameras around the course - high, wide, on board, mast cam, bow cam and my special favourite, Helmet cam! I was able to get on board a boat before racing with a backpack transmitter microphone and camera built into a climbing helmet (and yes, I did look ridiculous). Not only was I able to commentate on the race from on board (keeping my voice down in light wind - whispering into the mic as if in a bunker behind on the 18th), but I was also able to give a helmsman's eye view from on board: looking back at the opposition, forward to the windshifts, current and marks.
"Having won and lost plenty of match races myself, it was fascinating, exciting and very interesting for me to see how the crews sailed together and then be able to explain in simple terms to the viewer what was going on, live and direct from the middle of the racecourse. The on board cameras on each boat also pick up the detailed tactical conversations, elation and downright frustration from the skippers and crew when things don't go their way. A true insight for regular viewers and a simple, sporting insight for first time watchers. At the end of the race I was able to shove the camera in and ask the questions, five seconds after the finish. I hope in the future we may be able to talk to the teams during racing!
"In my view there are too many sailing shows around the world that do not aim to attract new fans; they are either formulaic or 24 minute beauty pieces flaunting wealth. I am sure it is possible to be more creative with these shows even when budgets are tight. There is not enough focus on the sport. Promoting the personalities, the sport, and the controversy that might bring in new fans to sailing. Most sailing fans have always been so, thus the sport really needs to attract new ones to help grow in a competitive market.
"There are many upsides to sailing in this commercial world but we must innovate; take a leaf from cricket, who, only five years ago were in serious trouble attracting new fans. A big sport going down the tubes, they started 20:20 with much opposition and it has revolutionised the sport with new fans, new money, and a lot more TV time.
"Sailing needs innovators like the Monsoon Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race coverage, their game, and Virtual Eye, all are pushing the boundaries…but we need more! A million dollar match race, much better Olympic fleet racing coverage (which is the weakest of our sport's TV offerings), and AC coverage with on board TV written into the rules, more crash and bang speed like the V40s and it should all aim to be on Free to air TV channels."
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