While India is definitely on the stopover destination list of the Volvo Ocean Race, in one of the firsts for the country, it will participate independently in the sport of yacht racing with IMOCA Formula1 Ocean Racing, scheduled to take place next year.IMOCA is the International 60 feet Monohull Open Class Association. It was established in 1991 and was recognised by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) in 1998. IMOCA is the governing body for the Ocean Racing World Championship, which includes events such as the Vendée Globe, the Route du Rhum, the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Transat. F1 yacht racing is carried out in Open60 Monohull yachts.
India competing on a private party basis is considered an achievement. Till now, India has never participated on a private party basis. The Indian Navy has participated in various international yacht races with the official support of the Government of India. The turning point comes at a time when India is on the brink of being tagged as a cricket crazy nation, even though other sports exist and survive with due credit to the endeavours of the respective players. The business of yacht racing is a multi-billion dollar industry and according to a report, is the third highest recipient of European sports sponsorship spending.
Bhavik GandhiTo focus on the prospects of sailing as a sport, the Elite Sports Management Group has stepped into India. It has appointed Bhavik Gandhi, an experienced yachtsman, as the spokesperson for its Indian counterpart as well as the Indian team which will participate in the F1 yacht race. The senior management team will be put into place in some time.Established in 1999, Elite Sports Management represents professional yachtsmen in world class sports. In India, Elite Sports Management is aims to provide brands with solutions to leverage yachting to achieve their brand communication and exposure goals through associating with the Indian team.The cost for the Indian team is US$ 10-15 million and the allotment could go up to US$ 20 million, which will take care of the team's expenses on designing the yacht and the cost of equipment, reveals Gandhi. The Volvo Ocean Race, too, allots US$ 15-17 million to each of the teams, he adds.Gandhi says that the sport has a broad appeal. Across the world, brands such as Audi, BMW, Rolex, Omega, IBM, Oracle, Intel, Virgin, Puma, Arcelor, UBS, ABN Amro, Motorola and Ericsson leverage the sport in the best possible manner to display their brands. For India, Gandhi says that with an all pervasive appeal, B2B and B2C companies would see it as a good medium, both to connect with their target audience as well as getting themselves placed globally. B2B companies such as Infosys and Wipro; conglomerates such as the Tata and the Aditya Birla Group; the FMCG, energy and the luxury goods (high end fashion and accessories) sectors could leverage the sport as a medium to garner visibility for their brands. Gandhi thinks of yacht racing as a 360 degree platform – it gets coverage on television channels, print media as well as radio. Brands, too, reap the benefits of the coverage. He says, “It's a very aspirational sport and the curiosity factor is what counts most. It is a sport which most brands could relate their advertising intentions with. If brands do not see it as a good medium to advertise, I could only say that they haven't been able to understand the sport and its potential well enough.”With the Indian subcontinent being surrounded by water, one sees no reason why the sport cannot pick up on popularity. But, just as we realise it hasn't, only time will tell if yacht racing will match the frenzy of cricket in India.