Mexico expands Extreme Sailing Series role as OC Sport targets Americas
By Simon Ward
This year’s Extreme Sailing Series, the international ‘stadium racing’ circuit, will feature a full-time team from Mexico, as the country has embraced a new sport to promote itself, while organiser and events company OC Sport is looking to expand its activity in the Americas.
It was announced today that Team México, which competed as a wildcard entry, on home waters, in the final act of the 2017 series, will be one of at least five mainstays in the 2018 events.
The eight-act season gets under way in Muscat in Oman on 14 to 17 March, and will culminate, for the second year running, in San Diego in USA in October and Los Cabos in Mexico at the end of November and start of December.
The other confirmed participants, all returning from 2017, are defending champions SAP Extreme Sailing Series of Denmark, Oman Air, Alinghi of Switzerland and Land Rover BAR Academy of Great Britain.
Two further teams competing in the Oman act will be announced in the next week.
Scott Over, the commercial director of UK-based OC Sport, has been in Mexico and USA in the past week for talks with potential sponsors and broadcasters of the Extreme Sailing Series, which returned to the Americas, after an absence of several years, in 2017.
His trip included a visit to golf’s WGC-Mexico Championship held at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Naucalpan near Mexico City.
Over told Sportcal: “With regard to sponsorship in general, USA and Mexico are big growth markets. We’ve got a Mexican team dedicated for this year, which will be promoting Mexico and Los Cabos. They [Mexico] have tended to use other sports like Formula 1 and golf.”
He added: “In those markets we typically haven’t been for a while there’s fresh interest. And OC Sport wants more of a presence in USA. We’ve recently opened an office in Colorado for the Haute Route [the cyclosportive series held in mountainous areas].”
OC Sport’s other sailing activity includes managing the Chinese Dongfeng team competing in the ongoing 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, and organising the Route de Rhum, the quadrennial transatlantic single-handed event, the next edition of which takes place this November.
There is a high degree of continuity for the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series, with SAP, the German software developer, having recently extended its sponsorship of the circuit, for a further four years, until 2022, and the UK’s Red Handed TV, which came on board last year, retained as the production partner.
Distribution and production However, in a significant change, OC Sport has returned to Sunset+Vine, another UK-based company, to distribute media coverage, after handing this responsibility to IMG, the international sports agency, in 2017.
There was no open pitch process, with Over saying: “We were approached by Sunset+Vine with an offer that was very attractive.”
Explaining the about-turn, he said: “We considered various options, and we’ve worked with Sunset+Vine across various projects, not just the Extreme Sailing Series, so our confidence in them was strong.
“They have specialist knowledge of sailing, and an international distribution network.”
OC Sport worked with Sunset+Vine on the production and media distribution of the Extreme Sailing Series for the first 10 years of the circuit, before switching to IMG and Red Handed for the 2017 season.
On the tie-up with IMG, Over said: “It’s not that it hadn’t worked. We had an opportunity for a change [last year], and we took it, but we stayed in touch with Sunset+Vine on various projects.”
Asked whether OC Sport considered going back to Sunset+Vine for both production and distribution, Over said: “I think it’s a good compromise [also having Red Handed involved]. We wanted to continue relations with both. Is packaging it together the best thing to do? There’s not a right or wrong answer.”
Sunset+Vine’s remit will include distribution to broadcasters worldwide of the official television series, comprising seven programmes of 26 minutes in length, 90 minutes of live coverage from the final day of each act and daily news coverage. Online players can acquire a digital live-stream of the final two days of each act.
Sunset+Vine’s other sailing experience comprises the Volvo Ocean Race (including the current event), the Olympic Games and the America's Cup.
In addition, through its relationship with World Sailing, the company will be the host broadcaster and distribution partner for the Sailing World Championships in Aarhus in Denmark in 2018, reprising its role from the 2011 and 2014 events, and distributes news and digital and broadcast coverage of the Sailing World Cup Series.
Outside its relationship with OC Sport, Red Handed has worked on sailing’s World Match Racing Tour and events in other sports, including equestrianism.
Over stated: “From our side what they give is a lot of attention, and they want to provide us with some fantastic content.”
Asked about the likely changes to the presentation of the Extreme Sailing Series in 2018, he said: “I think more lifestyle stories, providing closer connections with the sailors. It’s an extreme sport, and it’s about how you show that, whether that’s more cameras on board, or more insight.
“There will be augmented reality that we hope to bring out shortly, integrating live statistics with footage that appeals not just to sailing fans, but to a wider audience. Red Handed added a lot of value to the broadcast last year, and we’ve benefited from that insight.”