Please select your home edition
Edition
Leaderboard FD July August September 2023

The greatest event that almost never was

by Mark Jardine 15 Nov 2023 20:00 GMT
SSL Gold Cup 1/32 Finals Day 4 - Fleet 2 Race 3 © Martina Orsini / SSL Gold Cup

It's been a very hard week for personal reasons, but I am very glad I made it to Gran Canaria to cover the SSL Gold Cup.

For those that don't know about the event, it's the World Championship of Sailing Nations, where countries compete in identical SSL 47 yachts, and it could well be the most important event in the history of sailing.

The first round finished on Monday and was hugely successful. To get this event off to a good start was no mean feat, and it almost never happened. The scope of the SSL Gold Cup is huge and the logistics daunting. It lasts nearly a full month, requires over ten thousand hotel room nights, has a small army of people behind the scenes, and is reaching every corner of the world.

So why is the event so important? Sailing is dominated by a few countries, but as a sport we need to become bigger globally, and understood by a far wider audience. What World Sailing call 'emerging nations' have the potential to be the largest sailing viewership, and if they start watching sailing, they'll soon aspire to take part, and then compete.

The SSL Gold Cup very much styles itself as the 'Football World Cup in Sailing'. National teams wear national jerseys, each team has a nickname and an identity. This enables fans to really get behind their sailors, and the atmosphere within the teams is simply incredible.

We're only a few days into the event, but already I'm totally immersed in it and sold on the concept. While I'm naturally hoping the British team will win, in the first round Tahiti have become a favourite, my 'second team' if you will. They are the most chilled bunch ashore, but lightning quick on the water, winning all four of their races. Their team nickname is 'The Black Pearls', and I'm happy to go seek them out for an interview in the event village.

What will I do if they progress to the round where Great Britain enters the competition and they go head to head? May the best team win, as they say...

Talking of nationalities, the SSL Gold Cup teams are really made up of sailors from that nation. The America's Cup nationality rules have been watered down and tightened up on various occasions, but we've got Australian and British Olympic gold medalist helms for American Magic, just for an example. In SailGP the teams carry a national flag, but again the sailors are from various countries.

The other thing that is really working well is the livestream. We may be living in the foiling world, but the displacement SSL 47 yachts are spectacular to watch. With foilers it has become hard to see what the crew are actually doing, as they're cocooned in pods, wearing helmets and visors, and generally hidden from view. In the SSL Gold Cup we're getting to see the emotions, the actions, the elation and the disappointment close up from the on-board cameras. This event is all about the sailors, not the technology.

This doesn't mean the yachts aren't spectacular. As you can see in the photos, they're wrapped in gold, which makes for quite incredible photography. It helps that we've got the likes of Martina Orsini taking the photos, but seeing the hiking crew reflected in the gold wrap really works.

Talking with national media around the world in the past week, it is quite clear that they're buying in to the SSL Gold Cup. The event is getting front page photos and serious column inches, in traditional print media, online, and on the television networks in countries such as Malaysia and Lithuania.

In Malaysia the Royal Family is taking a keen interest, with His Highness Tengku Amir Shah coming to Gran Canaria for the first round. With Malaysia progressing in the competition it was obvious that he was reviewing his travel plans to see if he could stay on...

Getting this kind of high profile interest of course increased the profile of the event in the country, and plans are already being formed to hold an SSL event in the region in 2025.

So why did it almost not happen? The event was scheduled to be this time last year, but things weren't ready in time on a number of fronts. It would have been easy to give up at that point, but perseverance won and it's happening, albeit a year later.

After a quick trip to The Netherlands for the METSTRADE marine business show I'll be back in Gran Canaria to cover next stage of the SSL Gold Cup. I highly recommend watching the livestream, reading the reports, and taking a look at the stunning photos. It won't take long before you're hooked.

This is why I think the event could well be the most important in sailing. The vision is bold, it's exciting, it's groundbreaking and it could change the scale of the sport globally, which has to be a good thing for us all.

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

Related Articles

From Hvar to Paris 2024
The Olympic Games are unique The Olympic Games are unique. Coming once every four years, it can be a once in a lifetime sporting opportunity. For the small Croatian island of Hvar, Paris 2024 is a first, as the island's first-ever Olympian will be competing, and he's a sailor. Posted on 23 Jul
Never again! (Except for next time…)
What's it like to take a Cruiser/Racer racing? And not just any old race What's it like to take a Cruiser/Racer racing? Not just any racing, mind you, but two of the world's most famous courses. The Transpac and the Hobart. This was the premise presented to Charles Ettienne-Devanneaux ahead of our most recent chat. Posted on 17 Jul
Whisper it quietly..
Don't say it too loudly, but the Youth Sailing Worlds are taking place next week Don't say it too loudly, but the Youth Sailing World Championships are taking place at Lake Garda in under a week's time. Posted on 9 Jul
It's upon us
Paris 2024 happens this month. Little wonder it seems like it has come back around quickly Paris 2024 happens this month. Little wonder it seems like it has come back around quickly, when this current quadrennial actually started in 2021. Still. Is what it is… 12 sailors comprise the Australian Olympic Sailing Team. Posted on 2 Jul
Make mine a Magnum
50 year old International Moth design gets a 21st century make-over In almost every respect, 'Magnum' was a 1970s classic, but 50 years on the Magnum Moth is about to get a 21st century make-over. Sailors wanting to join the growing Lowrider Moth fleet just have to ask themselves, "Do you feel lucky?" Posted on 27 Jun
Performance vs. Participation
Or Correlation vs. Causation? I've heard many a time that one of the reasons for a fall in participation in sailing is the increased performance of boats. Effectively, the skill level and athleticism required in high performance boats excludes a range of people from participating. Posted on 25 Jun
The latest kit for summer boating, rain or shine
Our pick of the latest kit Summer's finally here and the season is in full swing. Here's our pick of the latest kit for racing, cruising and enjoying the water, rain or shine. Posted on 19 Jun
It's just a stick
It was just like watching an enthusiastic kid It was just like watching an enthusiastic kid. Alinghi's Silvio Arrivabene was totally in the 'nothing to see here' mode, and moreover, was keener to get into the ‘maybe exceeding them' remarks about their targets. Did someone say, ‘Spinal Tap'? Posted on 17 Jun
Corinthian Spirit
The inaugural Corinthian J70 Worlds had a superb entry of 109 boats Sailing has gone through phases of being professional and Corinthian. Originally a pastime for the rich, then becoming a sport for everyone during the boom in the 1960s and 1970s. Posted on 11 Jun
Para, Inclusive and Open RS Venture Connect
We find out more ahead of the upcoming World Championship at Rutland, UK We speak to Dan Jaspers, who is responsible for International Sales and Business Development at the RS Marine Group, about the RS Venture Connect. Posted on 6 Jun