Sir Keith Mills prepares to invest 'millions' in sailing

But having invested millions in hiring a team of sailors, including Ben
Ainslie and Iain Percy, and building a new TP52 for training, he pulled the
plug when it became clear there was no chance of their campaign being
competitive against defenders Oracle.

Mills thinks he has spotted a ‘hard nosed’ business opportunity in sailing and
is now formulating two 18 month cycles for the IMOCA 60 boats with one
focussing on two handed racing culminating in the Barcelona World Race and
the other on solo racing with the Vendee Globe the climax of the cycle.

“The object of the new programme is to take IMOCA racing to parts of the world
that have not seen it,” said Mills, a Tottenham Hotspur director.

“The teams and sponsors and media will have a calendar of events they can work
with over next four years and take the sport to different parts of the world
and attract teams we need to make it succeed.

“I have invested very little money to date but it will take some millions of
euros for us to expand the sport. How many millions is still to be
determined but it will be several. It will require investment in technology,
events and teams and the scale is all dependent on the plan we are putting
in over the next few months.”

Key to OSM’s plans is the need to bring the heroic but often heart rending
stories from the skippers to a much wider global audience which will take
considerable investment.

“We have to bring the stories to life,” said Mills.

“One of the challenges is capturing the stories as they happen. We have had
some early talks about systems on boats that capture the drama when it
happens.

“If a boat broaches at the moment, the report might come in some hours later
when a skipper has time but we would like to capture the story as it
happens. The technology exists to make that possible but it requires
investment. It would change the dynamics pretty dramatically.”

Mills has already set up offices in Lausanne and now plans to build the
circuit and make money, a move that has inevitably been welcomed by the
British sailing community which has struggled to raise sponsorship funds for
an event seen largely as a French preserve.

“It is very positive for the class and exactly the direction we have always
wanted it to move in,” said Mike Golding who completed his third Vendee
earlier this year after 88 days at sea in his boat Gamesa.


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