Will the Extreme Sailing Series survive the America's Cup onslaught?

Several America’s Cup team compete in the Extreme 40’s Cowes, Isle of Wight, August 2011

Extreme Sailing Series is in its fifth season but fears overs its future grew when America's Cup rolled out plans for a similar circuit in a similar boat all funded by the world's fifth richest man. Can the Extremes survive?

Mark Turner is almost certain that had he taken the job with the America's Cup, his five year old Extreme Sailing Series would now be defunct.

Last year, he was offered the position as Regatta Director of the 34th America's Cup. He was tempted but with a young family and some timely and interesting challenges with the development of Extreme 40 racing, he turned it down.

'It was flattering and it would have been nice to do things without worrying about where the money was coming from but I have no regrets. I would not have lasted long.

'The Extreme Sailing Series event would have died I'm sure. The America's Cup World Series would be the only circuit to exist and I would be running that.'

As it is, Turner is growing the Extremes and despite a sluggish and complicated sponsorship market, insists the business is sound with income streams from tourist boards bidding up to a million euros a time to host a regatta, hospitality and merchandising earners and increased entry fees from a loyal band of competitors.

From five venues in 2010, it extended to nine this year from Boston to Istanbul, Cowes to Muscat, Qingdao in China to Trapani in Italy with Almeria and Singapore next on the list. This will reduce to eight in 2012 with Boston dropping off the list due to the US slump.

All venues were chosen for delivering Turner?s unique concept of sailing, a form of 'stadium sailing' that falls into the category of 'sportainment'.

IMG 0533-3 - - Extreme 40's Cowes, Isle of Wight, August 2011

It features bang on performance catamarans that are almost impossible to sail well by novices but in the hands of the world's best sailors are capable of breathtaking speeds and electrifying competition. Given a bit of wind and some inexperience among a crew, the action can quickly become spectacular with capsizes, crashes and some unholy messes.

It was this potential for sporting drama that turned the America's Cup on its head as defenders BMW Oracle seized the opportunity of dipping into owner Larry Ellison's unbounded pockets to upgrade the image of the Cup from 'Flintstone' to 'Facebook'.

Out went the monohulls and in came bang on performance catamarans capable of breathtaking speeds and electrifying competition. At first, Turner was worried especially when he heard a new America's Cup World Series would be introduced along the same lines as his ESS circuit and a smaller 45 foot version of the Cup boat the AC72, would be rolled out as a taster for the big bash in San Francisco in 2013.

These developments were seen by some as wanton ambush but Turner took a long hard look at both to assess whether he was in danger of being rolled by the AC juggernaut.

'I think the two quite genuinely are complementary,' he concluded.

'The two events operate on very different financial levels, both team and event wise. Teams pay between 600,000 to 800,000 eus for a complete season in Extreme 40s but in ACWS, they pay 400,000 eus for one event.

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