The sport of sailing is far too complicated

Brad Butterworth
Ivo Rovira /Alinghi
While the America’s Cup community awaits it’s next chapter, we caught up with America’s Cup veteran and Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth on his views about the current state of the sport of sailing.

* Brad, what do you consider as the key issues the sport of sailing faces at the moment?

BB: There are too many conflicts with the race calendar. Many yachtsmen would like to compete more, but they can’t because the regattas take place at the same time.

The sport of sailing is also far too complicated and it just can’t be properly televised and understood. It definitely needs a good shake up in order to become more user-friendly.

* WYRF: Where do you think the complications are specifically?

BB: Well, there are many reasons but to start with, the rules are far too complex. The problem behind this is that sailing’s governing body, ISAF, has a long history of making rules. Every time we want to change something, it ends up in a Committee. The sport is not run by the sportsmen, but by Committees.

* WYRF: What about other issues?

BB: Sailing is not a TV friendly sport and a good example is the last Olympic Games, where it was just impossible to properly follow a regatta. There are also far too many classes and this is diluting the sport.

Finally, there is a serious problem with the racing calendar. In order to avoid overlaps, there should be an independent governing body. The ISAF could do this, but it is very difficult to find a body of truly independent people.

* WYRF: Do you think junior and Olympic sailing programs prepare young sailors well for a professional career?

BB: There are a lot of very good yacht clubs that help young people to get into the sport. However the problems arise when they reach their late teens and loose the parental support they had until then. They usually go from single handed dinghies such as Optimists or Lasers to double-handed or crewed boats. The transition is not easy and it is hard to keep people into the sport.

* WYRF: What advice would you give to young sailors?

BB: They should not be shy; they should dare to ask the good teams in their clubs for a ride, and they should be available to jump on the opportunities. Because the opportunities are there.

* WYRF: What's your feeling towards the current Olympic classes?

BB: It is disappointing to see the Olympic classes evolving towards slower boats. The races are boring to watch, whereas they should be fun & exciting and more athletic for the competitors.

* WYRF: The World Yacht Racing Forum will obviously be a good opportunity to debate these issues?

BB: It certainly won't hurt. Monaco is a great venue, and it is also great that the Yacht Club Monaco is encouraging this initiative. Meeting and talking will certainly be a good start.


Brad Butterworth will be a speaker at the World Yacht Racing Forum in December. He will debate the future of the America’s Cup alongside Bruno Troublé, Sir Keith Mills, Salvatore Sarno, Alessandra Pandarese and Paul Cayard.

World Yacht Racing Forum 2008 - http://worldyachtracingforum.com