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Ovington 2021 - ILCA 2 - LEADERBOARD

Embracing the MarineVerse

by Mark Jardine 14 Dec 2021 12:00 GMT
Racing in the MarineVerse © MarineVerse

One of the more interesting articles which crossed from my inbox to Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com was from Marc Ablett about MarineVerse. For those who don't know him, he's the man behind KA Sails and distribution of the WASZP worldwide, and a side interest of his is Virtual Reality.

I don't exactly know why, but I tend to find everything about Mark Zuckerberg a bit cringeworthy, but the Facebook boss is betting so heavily on Virtual Reality (VR) that he's changed the name of Facebook's parent company to Meta, all to usher in the MetaVerse, which is his vision of what VR will look like.

There is no doubt that VR is coming of age and big tech is backing it strongly, but many will question the net benefit to sailing. What's the point of it if everyone sticks on a VR headset, gives up getting wet on their real boat, and ends up doing all their sailing online? Not exactly good for boat builders, sail makers, technical clothing manufacturers and so on.

For me though, this is looking at the technology as a problem rather than an opportunity. I've often talked about the barriers into sailing participation, and Marc Ablett is clearly in agreement that VR provides another opportunity, a new route in to sailing, without even hitting the water.

One of the reasons I've been advocating sailing and yacht clubs embracing Stand-Up Paddleboarding is that it can be a gentle introduction to many of the elements of sailing. On a paddleboard you can get to know a sailing area without a flogging sail above your head, often in a wetsuit, and get to understand how the wind affects you on the water, such as blowing you towards a lee shore.

If paddleboards are part of a yacht club community, then they get to see the sailors on the water and meet them, and it's not long before they realise paddleboarding in over 10 knots of wind isn't the greatest, and sailing really is. Paddleboarders then get converted into being sailors, and participation increases.

I believe VR has the potential to provide another route in to sailing, through Virtual Reality sailing, and the MarineVerse is the pioneering platform for it.

The concept of not being able to sail in every direction is a tricky one to grasp for non-sailors. On land I can walk in any direction, regardless of the wind direction, so why should I be limited to approximately 270 degrees of a 360 circle when I'm out on the water? Virtual sailing can introduce this concept in a gentle environment, without the boom rattling above your head. Introduce a bit of virtual racing, in a similar way to the immensely popular Virtual Regatta, and it won't be long before the virtual world isn't enough and the sea will beckon, as it has done to us all.

I know for a fact that many sailors, and sailing clubs, will struggle to embrace this - just as they have with paddleboarding - but change happens; those clubs which have evolved are currently thriving. Yes, of course the virtual world brings up images of scenes from The Matrix, dystopian society, and Aldous Huxley, but the Brave New World doesn't have to be filled with killer robots and conditioned society, it can instead be a way of letting more people enjoy the freedom and thrill of sailing which we know and love.

Youth Worlds in Oman

In this strange age of restricted travel and lockdowns, it's fantastic to see 433 sailors from 56 nations converge and start racing in Oman for the 50th Youth Sailing World Championships.

This event is important on so many levels, giving us a glimpse of the Olympic stars of the future and being aspirational for those in our sport who are starting out on the competitive ladder.

World Sailing's CEO, David Graham, is no stranger to the venue having run the Oman Sail programme for over a decade, and he was clearly joyful to see the overwhelming support for the event:

"It's great to see such a strong entry for the Youth Sailing World Championships, thanks to the efforts that sailors and their national teams have made to travel to Oman under such challenging circumstances. At World Sailing, more than ever, we are placing a strong focus on promoting youth development, particularly among emerging nations. Anyone who has earned their place at the Youth Worlds is a shining inspiration to other young sailors around the world. I wish them all the very best for the coming week of friendly competition."

Just before the pandemic I had the pleasure of travelling to Oman for Sailing Arabia - The Tour, and the Omani people are incredibly welcoming. The coast around Muscat can provide ideal sailing and we wish fair winds for all those sailors who have made the journey.

Christmas wishes

After another strange year it's hard to believe that we're under a fortnight away from celebrating Christmas, and whatever restrictions and situations we find ourselves in around the world.

I would though like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read the articles we put out on Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com (and the editorials we write) and most of all for the feedback that you constantly give us. I am very aware that a news source is meaningless without its readers and contributors and am thankful every day for your interaction. We don't always get things right, our views may not always be your views, but we always strive to learn from everyone's input.

Sailing is above all a community of people bonded by a common interest. The oceans are impossible to master, and a continuous learning experience. However you've been introduced to the water, be that by family, friends, the virtual world or any other path, please always give us your feedback, positive or negative, and we promise to listen.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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