Are press reports from the solo races killing the golden goose?
Are you wondering what I’m wondering: that there are so many solo races now it’s hard to care?
If you are, I don’t blame you. Something’s faded. I’m starting to wonder if the reason for this is an explosion of English-language PR that doesn’t ‘get’ solo racing and is casually discarding the ingredients that have made these events so special.
The majority of releases that come my way from the Barcelona World Race and the Transat Ecover BtoB make me despondent. Why are they nearly all about leaderboard changes? Where is all the human drama and emotion that we were promised, the stuff that sells? So far, it’s been one long, dull maths lesson.
Today (and this is only one typical, recent example) we learned that Mike Golding’has gained a matter of 3 or 4 miles on 5th placed Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux) over the last 4 hours but still has a deficit of 37 miles to make up on the 2007 Transat Jacques Vabre winner. Gitana 80 (Loick Peyron) continues to lead but Safran (Marc Guillemot) gained over 20 miles through the night and is now 13 miles behind Gitana.’
I had one from Estrella Damm last week that went so far as to state in the opening sentence:’Another monotonous day in the Barcelona World Race…’
I had to give away some feature pages in our January issue because we agreed at an editorial conference that there was ‘not much story’. We journalists loathe losing space but what do you do? It’s a business.
What the teams don’t seem to get is that competition isn’t necessarily interesting in and of itself. It might appease the never-sated appetites of a handful of specialist websites, but it ain’t going to sell magazines or newspapers.
Yacht racing has never been much of a seller anyway. Solo races (and the Southern Ocean legs of the Volvo/Whitbread) are among the few exceptions by virtue of being fundamentally different: they illuminate the capabilities of the human spirit to prevail in a dangerous, hostile and indifferent environment. Readers want heroes more than they want winners.
The only report that has in any way struck an editorial chord with me in the last month was one today from Dee Caffari , in which she confessed a degree of despair that made me appreciate once again what it is that makes single-handed racing so mind-bogglingly hard and engrossing.
We can all see the race viewers for ourselves. Tell us what’s really happening and make uscareabout it. Give us some on board action, a bit of drama and human interest (you promised!) and park the maths.