By Pietro Fantoni – SCIRA Vice Commodore
(Photo courtesy of Luigi Gangitano)
109 boats is a great number! This is the number of boats that attended the 2016 Open European Championship in Santiago de la Ribera, Spain, last September. It is a record and we can be proud!
But, as many of you know, the topic “Open or Closed Europeans” is an ongoing one. We had a lot of discussion about it on SnipeToday and some Snipe sailors are in favor of an open event. Others (I think now a minority) are for a closed event.
In August, the Promotion Committee shared a lot of ideas and, just before the Europeans, I posted an article about the Open Europeans (and Open events in general): http://www.snipetoday.org/articles/exchange-of-views/item/2979-promotion-committee-about-open-europeans-and-major-open-events-in-general
In that article I wrote: “We should again consider the same topic after the “hundred boat” Open European Championship in Santiago de la Ribera in late September 2016. It will be a good test of this open concept, and an indicator for the Snipe Class for future important decisions”.
So now we can analyze the regatta we had in Spain and talk again about Open Europeans and open events in general.
As asailor, I can say that the Europeans in Spain were a great success.
Here are some details:
In Santiago 109 boats sailed the regatta, divided into 2 fleets (qualifying series and gold/silver finals) with 2 different race areas and 2 separate race committees, juries, support boats etc.
In my opinion the critical number is 70 boats. With more than 70 boats we need to split the fleet (at the 2015 Worlds in Talamone, 85 boats was a mess … many general recalls; a lot of time wasted waiting for the right start; a very long starting line; crowded and unfair mark roundings … – read more).
The meaurement process was complex, but they solved the problems quite well.
Launching 109 boats at the same time was easy with 3 ramps on a beach and one at the club.
I am sure it was a great effort for the club. During the Open sailors forum, Martin Bermudez de la Puente (who always has been against the Open Europeans, along with most Spanish sailors, apart from Cesar Travado) complained about the costs of organizing this event and said that it is better the “closed formula” with “quotas” as we have for the World Championship. We don’t know the budget, but it is a fact that the Real Club de Santiago de la Ribera is a big club with a lot of experience and if the organizers said that, it is certain they had some problems with the budget.
It is easier to find sponsors with 100 boats than with 60. And I am sure that the Real Club de Regatas de Santiago de la Ribera covered most regatta costs with entry fees and its own money (and with some help from the local Municipality). In Kamien Pomorski (2014 Open Europeans), the cost of the event was covered mostly by the sponsors.
To organize an international regatta there are very high fixed costs. It is easier to cover the fixed cost of a regatta with 100 boats than with 40 (the numbers we had for example in Cervia 2012 – the last “closed” European Championship).
My personal impression is that, after 2 Open Europeans, the Open event has been a great opportunity for class promotion (especially outside the class, in the sailing community). We had an article on Sailing Scuttlebutt and other articles on many national sailing websites. But I am sure we can do more for the future, more about communications (more photos, more professional videos, daily news in English to send to websites). For sure it is expensive to have a professional media team (in Talamone we had 2 journalists, a very good photographer, and a videographer), but we need to exploit to the utmost these mega-events.
I would like to know the opinions from sailors who were in Santiago (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Below are the comments from other Promotion Committee members:
Zibi Rackocy (SCIRA General Secretary for Europe):
As you know the issues of marketing, communication and sponsorship are within my sincere interest and capacities as I dealt with them professionally in the past.
I don’t think that 250 Euros is to high a fee for the Open Europeans. It is paid both by the top sailors and sailors who probably would not have qualified if there were any requirements.
Organizing such an event by a club with small financial resources and small sponsors will never be successful.
When I organized the European in Kamien Pomorski it took me two years to find big sponsors and the means to make the event successful . If there are no activists who will do it for free you need to hire a manager to take care of it. In this way we organized the Optimist Worlds with more than 350 boats. The money obtained from fees covers the expenses of Race Committee, Jury and on water services. It doesn’t really matter whether we sail in one or two groups.
We were aided by ISAF with organizing Jury (free of charge). We need open minded people who think for the short and the long distance future.
Even though I did not sail in Spain, I think that the logistics and launching were excellent . I think that organizing launching for smaller number of boats would require the same effort .
We must take into consideration that the number of boats, if the Open Europeans are organized in big countries, will be above 100. In smaller countries it will be around 60-80 and this is enough for organizing sponsors, media and money for the event.
I think is a good idea to have a contract with a good photographer or hire him or her for the major event, because such photos are used by the world media. The photos of Matias from ARG or Robert Hajduk are professional.
For publicizing big events we should also consider using new generation GPS tracking. You place the logos of the sponsors on the screen and the cost is covered by the sponsor.
In Kamien Pomorski we reached up to 20.000 users.
Let’s do our best to keep European and European Masters open.
I think finances and organization are the only things that matter. This event enables young and experienced sailors to meet champions. In Santiago I saw young people who observed champions on shore and off shore. It was really fantastic.
Reino Sounsilta, Promotion Committee – Finland
Based on the feedback from the Finnish participants, I have the following comments:
– Open championship is great. If the fleet is as large as in Santiago de la Ribeira, splitting the boats in two fleets worked fine.
– Open regatta with many participants puts more pressure on organizers (e.g. availability of rental boats), but it is hard to think of a better promotion for the Snipe class.
– This time the practicalities went well, even with the high number of boats, both on shore and out in the sea.
Real Club de Regatas de Santiago de la Ribera is a big club with experienced crews, good facilities and resources. For future events it is important to gather the experience and knowledge, so that the next organizers know what to expect and how to prepare, how to budget, how to maximize the media coverage, etc. Perhaps in a form of a closing report.
All in all, lets continue to develop the Europeans as an open regatta.
Ivo Gattulli – Promotion Committee, Italy – Sailor at the Europeans in Spain
I’d like to follow Pietro’s same bullet-point list, so..
In Santiago they did a terrific job, overall.
Logistics on-shore were quite perfect, same thing off-shore, helped from a location with shallow waters for sure.
In 2004 I took part (as crew) at Snipe World Master Championship in Bracciano, we were 94 crews on a single race-course, was amazing but I guess it was also the physical limit for a Snipe race.
Two fleets with qualification on-site I think is the best possible solution for fleets over 100 boats.
I’m quite sure that managing the event in a single fleet, the winners would be the same, but it’s quite clear that Santiago’s way gives the best guarantee of fair racing.
Budget + Sponsor + Media (in my opinion these are three pillars of the some subject: how to steer the Snipe Class into the Modern Age ASAP)
In Santiago I heard complaints about the general managing cost of SCIRA (management and Bulletin), I didn’t hear complaints about the cost of the specific event.
Let me say in my opinion complaints about SCIRA management are unfounded, SCIRA management do a great job and are worth its costs, and I love the Bulletin, but I guess we’d need something different from the Bulletin for the future.
To be honest I’ve no budget details about the European in Santiago obviously, but as I said attending the meeting: SCIRA have to structure its activity in “financially sustainable events”, for instance merging some events, and open everything.
As Pietro said there are fixed and variable costs, and “open” events give the opportunity to share fixed costs across a larger base of participants, while variable costs are not an issue, because you get them for each extra boat coming. In other words: variable costs are self-hedging, while in 2016 (and for the future) no one will be able to cover fix costs for a Major Regatta with only 40/60 boats.
My Club, not big or rich as the one in Santiago, has a great tradition of international major regattas, that’s why we applied to host the 2016 Snipe World Master Championship, and we did it because we know that with a proper entry-fee and preparation we can sustain that sort of event, but for the same reasons we won’t apply for a “closed” regatta, like the World Championship, because we don’t want kill our balance-sheet to host a regatta.
And that’s an answer about another current issue: the lack of Clubs interested to host our Major Regattas. I guess everyone noted that we’ll have two World Champs in a row on the same Continent, and rest in peace the major regattas rotation grid!!
I agree 250€ for the European in Santiago is fine, I also think that 500€ for a World Champ is far too much, we’re talking about Snipe, not Melges24.
In my opinion there are only two tools to avoid 500€/boat fees (or higher in the future) without killing hosting-Club’s balance-sheets:
– Open all the major regattas to have proper number of boats
– find sponsors.
Second point it’s the tough one, because it’s necessary but it’s not sufficient to have a great photographer (like Capizzano) or a great media-office at the Event. We can’t promote the Class to the International-media only once a year, and then every two years for the World Champ, which has to be the most visible Event of the Class.
The job has to be constant and continuous, the Major regattas have to be only the peak event of the season: prepared, promoted on media, and followed by proper media coverage, using modern tools to collect and show numbers to our potential sponsor.
I sent a media-project to Pietro, based on social-media technology, really cheap and effective, it’s just a sample about how today is possible to save money and use them to tell the Snipe OUTSIDE the Snipe environment, with two targets:
– raise the interest for the Snipe through the racing community, and growing snipers numbers.
– make the Snipe visible on media, generating “numbers” about our visibility (as mentioned by Zbi about tracking system), something measured and trustable, interesting for sponsorships, which could be not only related to a single Major event, but to the whole activity of the Class.
I’m not talking about sending a man on Mars, I guess everyone can take a look out of the window and find out how that’s the current strategy of any other Class not affected by politics (World Sailing) or munificent donors (like Stars with Star Sailor League).
I guess in 2016 the only way is to re-structure our media strategy:
– move resources from the current snipe bulletin to a contemporary strategy on social-media platform to:
– increase the number of Snipe sailors
– attract the interest of sponsors
And to do that we have to use Open regattas, which are attractive events for both Snipers and sponsors.
I know many people in the Class would love closed Events, from National Championships to Major Regattas, maybe to keep low costs for charter boats (having less demand for charter boats at Major Regattas), or to keep out high-end racers from Olympic Classes, but times are changed and keeping on that way could be the fastest way to make some massive damage to the Class.. as the sinking of the rotation grid shows up clearly.
I know many people, mainly top-tier Snipers, would like to lock the Class to a full-closed model, safeguarding their personal (understandable) interests, but I think it’ll be dangerous for all the others, also called as “The Class”.
In the current scenario we need to increase number of Snipe sailors and find sponsors, otherwise we could facing huge difficulties to sustain our activity (we already do actually).
To do that we need a modern media strategy, like anyone else in this business, and Major Regattas are our only assets to leverage that, so we have to modernise them: through communication and media-coverage, through opening, through merging secondary Events (to have economies of scale and to get back “World Championship” Status), also accelerating the rotation of these events on yearly basis.. probably having a World Champ each year won’t generate always the same podium.. but I guess the Class (I mean “all the others”) has to be ready to manage such a painful issue.