Clubs, cliques, and class
September 2, 2007, 10:42 am
Filed under: Tosh

Nearly all sport is centred around clubs – yes, there are public golf courses and tennis courts, yes, running can be very individual – and those clubs offer opportunities for common advancement or separation from the common; social exclusivity is still important to the masses.

But most sports at least agree that the same game will be played to a global set of rules. Sailing is different. It encompasses both sport and recreation, mixes the two, and, because of weak leadership at the top of the bloody-minded beneath them , offers huge scope for anarchism and fragmentation.

Clubs decide which types of yacht will be used, however obscure, and, in the UK at least, top talent has to move away from the club network if it is to thrive at national and international level.

The game is also capable of producing clubs within clubs, with, over the years maxis playing their own game, 50-footers appearing in various guises, and hybrids of the kind which the Farr 40 represents, claiming world significance. They exist within the game, but also operate in a separate, parallel zone.

Currently, the TP52s probably offer the best test of first division professionalism. It would be better if they abandoned any distinction between full professional and owner-driver teams and it would be wonderful if they could broaden their use from just their own circuit to being the boat of choice for a revival of the Admiral’s Cup. But that might mean putting their boats up for charter and privately-owned kit is not easily put at the call of another event organiser. Still, it would mean a big boost in exposure for the dreaded sponsors.

A much bigger fleet exists of Farr 40s, but, if they were to be made available for other events than their own, they would have to resolve a class rule which demands owner drivers to allow professional crews to use them as well.

The present mixture of pros and so-called amateurs in the Farr 40s has, if nothing else, worked. To interfere in such a way that the class became destabilised would not be a good idea, but there are some clever enough minds to tackle a discussion which could lead to an area of international competition which has withered being given new life and which would be welcomed back warmly. Perhaps two Farr 40s and a TP52 would make a good three-boat team.

The recent Farr 40 world championship in Copenhagen saw Italy’s defending champion Vincenzo Onorato steer his Mascalzone Latino to an emphatic, back-to-back victory over second-placed Ernesto Bertarelli in Alinghi with another former champion, Jim Richardson, third in Barking Mad.

Not surprisingly, Onorato, a typically heart-on-sleeve passionate Italian, said it had been something of a dream to beat the more Swiss, grey and cold Italian, Bertarelli, a dream he would like to repeat at the America’s Cup.

Bertarelli and his crew duly congratulated the Rascals dockside but, when it came to the prize-giving, they gave it the cold shoulder, with no senior member of the team there to pick up the trophy for second. That is not good. If there is no time in sport for grace and courtesy, then sport is the loser. It is a matter of manners and the snub was not just to the winners and the organisers but to all their fellow-competitors.


3 Comments so far
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My recollection (and I may be mistaken) is that in previous times, the Admiral’s Cup teams were composed of owners who tended towards driving their own boats anyway, thus I don’t see the need to tinker with either TP52 or Farr40 rules to re-start Admiral’s Cup competition. I think it would be much harder to get 2 Farr40 teams from any given country to enter….. Maybe the Mumm 30 as the “small boat” class – there are enough in Europe, and they are more commonly chartered out that the larger boats, as well as being a boat that has been raced for distance, and a cheap boat compared to the others suggested. I think the hardest part to re-starting an Admiral’s Cup would be getting the MedCup to give a large enough break for the TP52s to get moved north for that event (& Fastnet), and then back…..

Comment by Ben Jarashow

Hi Stuart. Normally dont get involved with this stuff but have high regard of your opinion. Makes way to much sence to have a team comprised of a TP 52 F40 M30. The RORC would simply not allow that to happen as to heavily invested in IRC. F40 class has been down this track before and we will not change our rules to allow pros to drive the boats. My personal opinion is that current F40 owners drive better than half the pros out there any way and why sould they write the checks and go back to sitting in back of the bus and told to keep quite.

Comment by Geoff Stagg

I do not like your term “dreaded sponsors”

One of my highlights as an ex 18footer sailor is the “Corporate Types” on the Media & Sponsor Days where one can entertain & meet, a huge mix of personalities,imparting tales tall and true and trying to unite them in excitement and the satisfaction of many leaving an event with some understanding of our sport.

I had over a decade of Sponsors paying bills so i could actually live out my passion of performance sailing & without them would have been a spectator or reading about stuff ,rather than actually being a player !

Comment by paul notary

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