Each year in the lead up to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race numerous people can be overheard denigrating yachting as not being a sport.
In order to dispel such myths and to increase interest in the race from non-sailors, it is essential to bring full-race on board video coverage from participating yachts.
Traditionally the main attraction of the race has been the start and the drag race out of the Sydney heads.
This glamorous Boxing Day event unfortunately does not do the race justice.
Some of the race’s most exciting moments are missed as they occur in Bass Strait, far from the Sydney metropolitan media who cover the start.
The adoption of on board communications technologies – primarily Internet capabilities – have, to some extent, allowed the full coverage of the race to improve.
Ragamuffin-Loyal and Brindabella were two yachts who provided excellent sailor-generated media as the 2012 race progressed.
As the ability of the sailors to report from on board the boats has improved, so too has the public’s understanding of the complexities and physical challenges that are associated with ocean racing.
Channel Seven’s use of cameras on Wild Oats XI during the pre-start and the race out of the harbour also gave viewers a glimpse of the tactical difficulty of manoeuvring yachts on a start line.
However shortly after the start, Channel Seven’s camera men ‘exited’ Wild Oats XI (at some speed); on board television coverage was thus abandoned.
What is required to generate better coverage of the race is a comprehensive on board video and social media presentation. Other sailing competitions have adopted such an approach.
An example can be found in the Volvo Ocean Race, where one crew member on each yacht is responsible for filming every action of the crew, bringing timely coverage to an online audience.
Social media can also play a role.
Twitter and Facebook are enthusiastically used by Volvo Ocean Race teams to communicate with their supporters.
Similarly, sailing’s iconic competition, The America’s Cup, has shown that improved digital content and social media can be used to transform the ancient sport of sailing into an engaging modern spectacle.
Logistically, media crew members are unlikely in the Sydney-Hobart given the race maintains its amateur sailing origins.
However, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the bigger professional boats be required to carry such personnel. Nor is it a stretch that they adopt a greater social media presence.
The benefits of such improvements to race coverage will not only provide those who follow the race with additional media, but will also further the public’s knowledge of the challenges of the sport.