In South Africa a Cinderella sport is one that has less than 10 000 registered active participants – SA Sailors are currently just below 9 000. If your sport has over 10 000 participants then you get access to the ‘big bucks’.
The Cape to Rio – a premier sailing regatta and the longest continent to continent yacht race in the Southern Hemisphere – attracts foreign sailors and brings international focus onto South African Sailing. The current record holder is Giovani Soldini who sailed his Volvo 70 design, Maserati in 2014 to a course shattering record for the 3 300 mile course in 10 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds. Maserati beat the previous 14 year long standing record by over two days.
Reading the 8 comments and reviews for 2017 on the Cape to Rio Facebook page one is struck that 4 of those call for more information.
I admit that I have a vested interest in following the race as we have sailors from Port Elizabeth taking part and maybe detailing my frustrations in following the race will help for the next edition.
In order to get as much information as possible this year one has to have the following sites open:
- The tracking site – for tracking
- Weather site – to help with estimating the next move of each yacht
- The Cape2Rio site – For info on yachts of interest
- The RCYC Site – for updated positioning reports that sometimes take forever to update
- The Cape to Rio Facebook Page – for the occasional update from a random yacht
- The individual Facebook pages for the yachts that one is interested in – also for that occasional update
As the owner of an online publication – MyPE.co.za and an avid sailor I promote and report on my sport of sailing as often as possible and find great frustration when the information coming out of the Cape to Rio is sketchy and non-existent.
A simple example – when Runaway finished first over the line on Saturday morning early all that was posted was the finish time and some blurry photos on the Cape to Rio site.
I then proceeded to try and get some more information on the owner of the first finishing boat – Hector Velarde who may as well be a ghost as the online info only lists names of his boats and regattas he has taken part in. I chased one thread – that he could be THE ‘Hector Velarde’ known for his surfing prowess and son of a wealthy Fishmeal producing family for ages before eventually giving up and itemising his regatta successes. What a shame as we need to personalise our sport as far as possible.
Then it was on to getting a race positioning update so I proceeded to Ctrl F5 the RCYC page desperate for the next 08h00 position update – as I write this it is 13h50 on Saturday 14 January and NO position update for today is available.
Checking my mail for a press release is NOT an option as there is no option on the Cape to Rio site to register to receive media releases.
The Cape to Rio Facebook page has 81 posts referencing reports from yachts, essential newsflashes, links to photo albums of the start as well as daily updates with links to the daily positioning reports. An average of 6 ‘useful’ posts a day. Not enough when you consider that the original fleet was 28 in number and many of them do not appear in the updates. When the Longhair and I sailed the Cape to Rio we had to do a daily radio report for positions – surely a quick situation report from each yacht could form part of the Sailing Instructions? This, in turn could be used to great effect in keeping the families of all the sailors engaged with the race and progress.
Relying on the hashtag #cape2rio on Twitter – everyone’s source of immediate short form news sadly reveals a lack of interest.
I am lucky in that the Longhair and I have both sailed in the Cape to Rio so I can write about it with some authority and fill in the gaps but the publisher/journalist in me cries at the lack of information coming out of the race. Consider that the ‘shoestring budget’ yachts probably spent around R600K just to take part and prepare with the better funded campaigns around R2 Million and we have to ask the question; “Do we as a sport not OWE our participants and sponsors the best coverage available?”
If I may make some suggestions:
- Hire someone like this guy – http://alan.straton.org.za – who has some experience in writing, photographing, web site development, social media and sailing to give advice or run your campaign.
- Start at least a year before the start of the race.
- Get personal info from entrants and make your entrants the heroes – the Vasco Da Gamma organisers did a good job at this.
- Bring all the info onto ONE site.
- Post updates and snippets of news from ALL yachts in the lead up to, during and after the race.
- Don’t fragment your social media – choose TWO main vehicles and reference your MAIN site in all posts to them.
- Make sure that your entrants and employees ALL know the hash tags and use them appropriately.
- Gather images and biographies of all participants.
- Setup a schedule of press releases taking you though the preparation, racing and after.
- Enlist the help of all yacht clubs in South Africa AND include them and the yacht clubs of foreign entrants in your press releases – many have newsletters.
- Set up a mailing list for spectators to subscribe to to get daily updates.
- Hire writers who KNOW sailing.
- Have experts available to answer questions.
- Get press statements from the major role players months in advance.
- The administration list is extensive and needs to be managed.
- Find someone to sit in front of a computer 24 hours a day to immediately update any information that comes in.
I can guarantee you that if you do the above your sponsors will thank you and we will get more participants to sailing.
Sailing is a growing sport in South Africa and surprisingly one of the more affordable sports – you DON’T need to own a boat to sail. All large yachts need crew and that is where one can start. Clubs like the Algoa Bay Yacht Club have many affordable options to those wanting to join and take part and have recently introduced Transformational Membership which is affordable and geared to get the novice involved in the sport and skilled in a unique and quick manner.