By now we have all heard that the Fastnet “sold out” in 24 hours with 300 entries to this years race and a waiting list that is growing by the day. So why has the Fastnet and the Newport Bermuda races got such a big following, but the other great ocean race, The Sydney to Hobart with just 76 entries, struggles to get an entry list anywhere near the size.
The GFC has certainly taken its toll, how many new boats have been built since 2008 compared to 2000 to 2007. With an aging fleet and simply no money to spend on them, they must stay at home. This may be where the Northern Hemisphere has an advantage, the majority of the fleet heading to Fastnet Rock and back are production cruiser racers. These are largely built by government subsidized yards that can in turn sell a very competitive prices and keep the fleet modern and up to date.
Or is it something else? Has Australia put so much emphasis on convincing kids the Olympics is the target that people no longer want to do ocean races. Don’t get me wrong, its great to see the reaction and interest generated by the Aussie Olympic guys and girls being so successful.
Growing up in Sydney, and doing lots of offshore racing, harbor racing and one design racing, The Hobart was the holy grail. But not so much any more, as kids turn to the Olympics for inspiration and then onto the Americas Cup, are we going to see a further decline in Australian sailors filling the key roles on the winning boats at these great ocean races and even the Volvo Ocean Race? Already more kiwi’s do the Volvo than Aussies which is impressive considering they have a smaller population base and also do not like to do hard offshore races like the organisers of the new Auckland to Bluff Ocean Race race are finding out.
Where is the next Chris Nicholson, Andrew Cape, Will Oxley or Wade Morgan going to come from if the youth sailors of today aren’t getting out the and doing these races?