A compelling tale depends on a cast of people you really care about
I raised the subject of elitism in yacht racing because excluding women and amateur adventurers from the ranks does not seem to me to be a good form of progress. Some big races are now effectively a closed shop, and audiences are turned off by that.
The responses have been many and varied. I post this one from Jonathan Minor not because I have it in for the Volvo Race in particular but because it sums up a lot of the reactions I’ve had.
‘Two brilliant articles. Couldn’t agree more.
‘I loved racing, raced on Drum years ago, did some big events including
the old Maxi Worlds (when boats were proper boats, really heavy and
slow, with steel hawsers for sheets, where men were men, and strangely
enough, more women competed in the Volvo/Whitbread than they do now,
etc), oh and I sailed some oceans. And my interest in most racing
reports in the press now is absolutely zero.
‘The Volvo is particularly bad this time round. OK, I do follow it, but
it’s lost its soul, the competitors mean nothing to me. The race isn’t
‘alive’, its just a bunch of elite blokey sailors, racing in a league
that’s way out of reach for me, there’s no human passion there, or
that’s how it feels. And all the stopovers, having your boat shipped
to the next port when its damaged. That’s not round the world racing!
‘Years ago, a friend of mine (early 20s, female, about 8 stone) raced
on Creighton’s Naturally when the Whitbread used to have a Corinthian
class. Then it was interesting because normal human beings were
challenging themselves. And with separate pro and amateur fleets you
injected the event with some extra soul and added some much needed
‘But the Vendee is completely different. I found myself logging in 3
times a day or more (I still am!) to see how people were getting on. I
never worked out who I wanted to win the most. The invincible
Frenchmen, the underdogs, the girls, the family guys, those who
suffered bad luck, the older American dreamer at the back, Golding
our best chance of line honours, etc.
‘All of them had personalities, positions, which made me care about who they were, what they were doing, the challenges they faced.
‘In what competition can someone come in 8th and still be a total hero?
An amazing and inspiring winner.
‘Well Steve White did that in the Vendee and I doubt I will ever forget his name. I don’t even know the names of all the boats in the Volvo, let alone the people.
‘The Internet gives us far more opportunity to follow racers and events, and to experience the race through gribs, positions, multimedia. In the old days you’d have to wait for a monthly magazine to come out to see how your race was progressing.
‘Maybe what we need are more Corinthian classes in these races. The
Vendee has managed to achieve that without actually having a separate class.’
(Incidentally, a propos Jonathan’s comment on our new hero Steve White, pictured above, I’m told some 50,000 people came to Les Sables d’Olonne to cheer Steve in last week, the biggest crowd to gather since the arrival of winner Michel Desjoyeaux.)