Comanche – Blood Moon Rising or Media Madness?
Brian Hancock is the author of the definitive book on sailmaking – Maximum Sail Power – and the author of the All About Sails blog.
Here is his latest piece on entry of Comanche and the possible participation of one of her owners Kristy Hinze-Clark in the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart. Seeing as Brian asks for comment Sail-World’s Richard Gladwell has tacked his thoughts on the end of Brian’s piece.
There has been a story circulating around the Internet lately that has really got my goat. I thought that I might just let it pass but then it popped up again on my Facebook page and I took that as a sign to say something. The story was published in Australia’s Daily Telegraph. I am not sure if it was only online or in a print version, but it doesn’t matter. The headline, in 75pt font, read: Sydney to Hobart: Former model Kristy Hinze-Clarke out to create race history with Comanche.
OK let me start again by saying I have nothing against the aforementioned model or her husband or the boat or the crew. It’s not my intention to get people riled up. I have already stated before that I think Comanche is a slab-sided, unoriginal boat and the money could be better spend on something more innovative. My point is this. There have been, and there will be many more history making moments in the Hobart Race, but the fact that the trophy wife of a rich American dude who may or may not be onboard for the Hobart race becomes headline news just gets to me.
I am a major supporter of women in sailing but this kind of journalism is plain and simple nonsense. The first paragraph reads: “Seventy years after the first female sailed in a Sydney to Hobart, former model Kristy Hinze-Clarke is ready to become the first female owner to win the line honours race with Comanche now confirmed as an unexpected starter in this year’s event.” Give me a break. In the third paragraph it states the Comanche skipper Ken Read has yet to speak to Jim Clark or his wife about whether or not Kristy will be on board and to be honest isn’t it a bit presumptuous to have a headline that presumes that Comanche will win the race. No win no history. If memory serves me in the 2014 race Wild Oats XI finished a full hour ahead of Comanche to take line honors.
OK there you have it. Anyone else out there bothered by that news headline or is it just the almost full blood moon that is getting to me?
For more from Brian Hancock click here
Sail-World’s NZ Editor Richard Gladwell: In defence of the Beautiful People
We have an alternative view to Brian.
Firstly Comanche’s participation in the Sydney Hobart was revealed several weeks ago in Sail-World and other online publications during an interview with skipper Ken Read and Nic (Adventures of a Sailor Girl) Douglass. It’s taken the general media a few weeks to latch on – but better late than never.
Tied up at the dock, Comanche might not be the most beautiful supermaxi. But none of the recently designed top supermaxis is particularly good looking. They are ugly fast and very impressive at any speed. When the spray is flying at 30kts plus, no-one is really too interested in the elegance of her sheerline or sweetness of stern section.
As a sport, sailing is overly represented with a male following. A typical fan is male, over 40, a good level of education and income in excess of $100k – according to the demographics that we see of Sail-World and other sailing website readership.
Males represent about 50% of the population, so to pull a greater audience the sport has to have a broader appeal to a female fan base who are looking for more than to just ogle some of the male beefcake that happens to crew on the supermaxis and the like.
The sport also has to reach over into the mainstream media, if it is to lift itself out of the rut of being portrayed and perceived as the domain of rich middle-aged and sometimes elderly men.
Coming from a country where an America’s Cup team is mainstream news, it is very frustrating at times to see the coverage that is received and just what does make the headlines. It will be a long time before we see another open media conference at Team New Zealand.
America’s Cup lead-up race results don’t seem to make it, but billionaires taking to each other with handbags at forty paces certainly do. As does a team dust-up.
Through these events the main players become house-hold names. They need no introduction at the start of a top of the hour news story – and that is part of the territory when your sport becomes mainstream news. Like it or not, your sport has to live in that space.
Back to Ms Hinze-Clark and the upcoming Sydney Hobart. As with an America’s Cup shenanigans, she offers an angle that the general media can pick up and run with as a story angle – one that they use often and understand.
She plays well into the realm of fascination the general media have with the rich. The journalism of veiled envy.
She is Australian – which gives a strong local angle.
She is a former model – which again is another point of reference for the journalism of veiled envy. What would be their reaction if Kristy Hinze-Clark was not quite so good looking but was an outstanding brain-surgeon? Of course, we all know that there would be a more adulatory spin.
Those of us who are blessed with a Radio-face, know that there is little that can be done to rectify the matter. You quickly rationalise it on the basis that it is what you are like on the inside that really counts.
Ms Hinze-Clark is also type-cast – whether she likes it or not. No-one can change how they were born. In a society that worships wealth, she may also have made more money as a super-model than had she been a brain-surgeon. But that too, is a commentary on our society.
So the ingredients are all there for a good general media story, and it is not surprising that Ms Hinze-Clark made the front-page news in the Sydney papers.
Fast rewind nine months to the last Rolex Sydney Hobart race and the question of whether Kristy would be on the crew for the classic was a story line that featured strongly. Most pundits were pretty sure that she would not sail. Maybe this time maybe there is not the same family pressure. So it is no real surprise that the same question has returned.
As we all know it is part of the great Australian dream to sail in the Sydney Hobart and win in your own boat (and ideally one you have also designed and built). So one can understand Kristy Hinze-Clark’s motivation for wanting to do the race, or at least think and talk about it.
Hell, there is even a trophy for the first female skipper to complete the race.
Feeling nervous, Kenny?
The other point is that sailing – particularly supermaxi sailing – needs new owners and new boats and new builds.
Typically new owners at this level come to the sport later in life, when they have made their fortune and are wanting to have some fun with a challenging new project, of which most can only dream.
The model (unintentional pun) is exactly that of Jim and Kristy Clark, where they get talked/led into a project – see the possibilities, the fun and the challenge – feel they can add value through their business and management ability – and put a team and project together.
Owners have different motivations, and many at this level are fortunate enough financially to be able to be able to play out those dreams, without too much regard to price.
Staggeringly, the cost of doing these projects is often just rounding error on their personal fortunes. That is a world that most of us struggle to comprehend, and that is why there is the general media fascination with the Beautiful People, the Grand Prix and classic race set.
Finally sailing needs more Kristy Hinze-Clarks, not less. Over the years, there has been just a handful of women who have been at the front-line of challenging sailing projects – as funders and backers – rather than through their racing achievements.
One of the saddest comments I have heard in sailing came in an interview came from an Olympic Gold-Medalist when asked if she wanted to step up to be part of an America’s Cup team.
Her reply was that as a girl she knew would never get that chance.
Nothing to do with her ability – which is positively scary. Just her gender.
And that is why we need more Kristy Hinze-Clark’s in the sport, and the media they bring. They might not be able to make an America’s Cup team either – but at least they can have a crack at sailing at the top level.
The Kristy Hinze-Clark’s more than pull their weight in terms of attracting mainstream media attention – which ultimately gets more people into the sport, and brings in the sponsors for the less well-heeled.
Maybe media coverage will inspire some kids to believe in themselves and take the first steps up the same ladder that Kristy has climbed.
Once your sport makes it into mainsteam media, you learn to take the good with the bad. It goes with the territory. It’s when they stop talking about your sport that you should get really concerned.
There’s also mid-week and weekend sports stories. This one is definitely in the former category.