We're Going the Distance
We're Going the Distance
Distance racing is enjoying a revival. Find out why in the September 2011 Jobson Report.
One excellent trend is race tracking, which allows competitors, as well as family and fans onshore, to watch as boats sail the course. Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race chair Charlie Elmer says, “The tracking system draws spectators that don’t normally follow races, and we think some of them will want to take part some day.”
“Folks at home and in my office are following us,” adds Miarecki. “They feel part of the team and are more supportive of us going on the race.”
Years ago, there was resistance to trackers because some sailors thought they were revealing their positions and strategy to the competition, says Barnett, but now the tracking is standard. According to Annapolis’ Chuck Thayer, his website statics confirm that tracking helps sell the race, and those that stay at home are more supportive.
One of the most legendary long-distance races is the biennial Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. The Transpac is a bucket-list item, says Transpac YC commodore Bill Lee, and participation is always healthy.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment. It’s like climbing Mount Everest. And it’s a way to commune with nature,” says Lee.
Sailing a boat to Hawaii and returning to California is a massive commitment, so Lee and his committee invest substantial funds to build interest. “We hire a top press officer and a race photographer to get high-quality shots of the boats from helicopters,” he says. “It’s expensive to do these things, but they’re very helpful. We’re always thinking about long term promotion of the event.”
The Vineyard Race [a 238-mile race starting and finishing in Stamford, Conn.] advertizes in several magazines [including SW]. “We also put the word out to the other races and share entry lists,” says race chair Ray Redniss.
A distance race doesn’t have to cross an ocean, though. Krueter points out that some races on Long Island Sound have trimmed the length of their courses from 120 miles to 50 or 60 miles, and consequently, watched participation grow. Another trend at several events is to include a shorthanded division and a cruising class for non-spinnaker boats. A club might experiment with modest length races that last four to eight hours to see how sailors react. Perhaps a retired trophy could be brought back to life for a new event.
Time on the water is valuable, and during a long-distance race more people get to steer, there’s always work for everyone, and friendships made at sea are special. You can never guarantee a podium finish, but as the saying goes, “if you’re competing, you’re already winning.”