World Sailing has unveiled plans to enter into the esports market by forming the first virtual World Sailing Championships.
In partnership with digital sailing platform, Virtual Regatta, the eSailing World Championships will be held every year starting from 2018.
The Championships will see a new set of World Sailing regulations used to allow the Racing Rules of Sailing to be adapted to the virtual world. Inshore regattas will be held through the year with players accumulating points that will establish their standings in the eSailing World Rankings.
Players in the rankings will have the opportunity to qualify for global play offs, and ultimately participation in the live final scheduled to be held in Sarasota, USA in November 2018.
Virtual Regatta currently has more than one million active players on its platform and has acquired in excess of 100 million views on video-sharing platform Dailymotion. It is the official and exclusive game of major sailing events including the Volvo Ocean Race, Vendée Globe, Extreme Sailing Series and the Star Sailors League.
“Sailing is well suited to digital presentation,” World Sailing president Kim Andersen said. “The sport requires constant inputs and an acquired skillset to manage the relationship between the boat and the forces of nature. The variety in boats, from dinghies, windsurfers to 100 foot boats make it especially rich as a gaming platform.”
Philippe Guigné, founder and chief executive of Virtual Regatta, added: “The eSailing World Championship is probably one of the most ambitious and innovative projects in the world between a federation and a gaming company. Esports is opening a new audience to our sport as well as allowing sailors to practice their favourite sport everywhere at anytime.”
The announcement was made as World Sailing held its annual conference in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico over the weekend. World Sailing said it will hold an Offshore World Championship in the future following approval from the Council of the world governing body.
The Offshore Worlds will be held in One Design boats to help promote and raise the profile of offshore sailing. Selection of equipment, dates and venue as well as arrangements of the Worlds will be decided by World Sailing's Board of Directors in consultation with the Oceanic and Offshore Committee.
From 2022 onwards, it has been decided that the Para World Sailing Championships will be held alongside the Sailing World Championships. The sport is currently aiming to be reinstated to the programme of events for the Paralympic Games after having been removed from the Tokyo 2020 schedule.
Finally, World Sailing has granted Special Event status to the Star Sailors League. The Star Sailors League joins the Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup, Extreme Sailing Series, World Match Racing Tour, PWA World Tour and the Global Kitesports Association's freestyle world tours, as the seventh Special Event.
Special Event status ensures the world governing body formally recognises and sanctions the event. In addition, World Sailing will support the event with promotional and marketing activities as well as providing International Race Officials. As part of the agreement, the event will be held under World Sailing's Racing Rules of Sailing and Regulations and the Star Sailors League will be able to amend certain rules that do not impede the event.