Last Wednesday the Amaury Sport Organization announced its decision to give up organising the 2021 Tour Voile in view of the “current context”. What will be the consequences for the event itself, for the Diam 24 one design class for which the Tour was the flagship event? At Tip & Shaft we got on the case……
After having had to give up the organisation of this year’s Tour Voile because of Covid-19, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), who have been the owners of the event since its acquisition from Larivière editions in 2012, announced on Wednesday that the 2021 edition would not take place. “Despite the efforts made by Amaury Sport Organization over eight years to bring to life one of the most beautiful sailing events in France, the current context does not allow us to meet the conditions necessary to commence the organization of the Tour Voile 2021,s aid the statement from ASO.
Contacted by Tip & Shaft, race director Victor Mathevet specifies the reasons for this decision: “It’s no secret that for a few years we have been looking for a major partner to help ensure the financial stability of the event. Now in view the way 2021 was shaping up to be, including changes in sponsorship in sailing which are none too encouraging, like the loss Macif, withdrawal of AG2R, the cancellation of the Paris Boat Show – very clearly, the conditions were not at all good to finally find this major partner. The reality of the economy right now explains the decision that we have preferred to take sufficiently early so that the people involved, communities, teams, partners don’t spend money or budgets early and so they can look at other projects.”
Clearly, after having invested to sort out and reinvigorate a Tour which in 2011 was moribund, due to the ongoing lack of a title partner ASO has not succeeded in making a sustainable event. And the annus horribilis that the group is going through at the moment – only around ten events organized, including the Tour de France cycling which was shifted to September – out of a hundred planned events, convinced the Amaury family not to incur additional costs in 2021.
However, is the Tour Voile for sale? “It’s not on the agenda ”, replies its director. When asked about a possible return for the event in 2022 he adds: “Today, it is complicated to position ourselves for 2022 and to say anything with certainty. We are already struggling to see through the next six months clearly, so we prefer to remain cautious, but we hope that the conditions will improve so that this beautiful event can get back on course soon.”
The Tour director Mathevet aims to ensure that ASO, which also organized the Nice UltiMed in 2018, is not done with sailing: “Today we are talking about 2021, but generally we hope to be able to reposition to continue in sailing whether that means the Tour or the other events.” Also Mathevet confirms that the crewed race around the world in Ultim, scheduled for the end of 2021 from Nice, is not on the agenda: “We never officially communicated on this project, but it is true that we had a discussion with the class. It is clear today that it is relatively difficult to deliver an event of this size to the timing that was indicated, especially with these economic times.”
The announcement there would be no Tour in 2021 did not surprise partners and teams – “They had the decency to warn us this a few weeks ago”, comments Claire Leroy, team manager of the team La Boulangère. The FFVoile reacted quickly issuing a press release insisting the Tour is “a heritage to be preserved”. Joined by Tip & Shaft, its president Nicolas Hénard explains: “We understand the position of ASO and I do not see it as the end or the sale of the asset, but it is a a business decision. The Tour will not take place in 2021 in its current formula, so meantime we have to look at what we can do to continue to support the dynamics of the Diam 24 class.”
The FFVoile is working with teams and the class on a substitute programme: “We are not going to replace ASO and do the Tour Voile by other means, but we are considering an event or a program of events to allow teams to race and for partners to deliver what they require to do by maintaining a summer programme”, continues Hénard.
At this stage, in addition to the usual Diam 24 od class program – which includes Sailing Arabia The Tour and events such as the Ecole Navale Grand Prix, the Normandie Cup, Spi Ouest-France and others -, several projects seem on the table to replace the Tour Voile, between a single event or several different events along the coast of France in July.
“There are lots of different opinions, including those on the race formats some wanting less “stadiums” and more coastal raids. ASO’s difficulties don’t affect our own motivation to participate in a great competition along the French coasts during the month of July”, says Cédric Chateau from Le Havre who is head of the Normandy Elite Team. Matthieu Souben, one of the best Diam 24 specialists, is on the same page: “ASO’s announcement is not good news, because the class is driven by Tour, it is the highlight of the season, but quite a few teams find it hard to participate in because it is still expensive (*). Therefore today, the reaction of the teams is to say: ‘let’s try to make this an opportunity to create another type of event or events which is more accessible‘.”
According Daniel Soubien three-time winner of the Tour Voile and member of board of directors of the the Diam 24 od class: “The partners come to the Tour, for its history, for its media coverage, because it is already a well known property. Today, the economic context makes it difficult to maintain sponsorship programs, So if we want to retain sponsors we must be able to offer an attractive alternative. The risk is that the racers, teams and sponsors simply go elsewhere. What is annoying is that the ASO’s announcement is actually quite late because partners who want to continue sponsoring in 2021 they have already been thinking about how to use their 2021 budget. “
Asked about a possible replacement program for the Tour Voile which is a pinnacle event for the class, Claire Leroy, team manager of La Boulangère, observes: “A new event is not built overnight it is a shame they did not seek to up a simplified, cheaper Tour, but always with ASO, which nevertheless has level of operation which is difficult to replace. It has now been two blank years, it’s not easy to keep the momentum going.“
As a result, the sponsor of the 100% female team, led by Mathilde Géron, is seriously thinking about other alternatives: “What is certain is that La Boulangère don’t want to stop like this so we are studying to see if it is possible to do work with our crew on a reasonable budget to see what we can deliver for the company, internally and externally. We are in full brainstorming mode.”
If the Diam 24 od class wants to retain the maximum of partners for the 2021 season, it will therefore have to act quickly.
(*) A small amateur budget just for the Tour Voile is around 50 000 euros ex VAT, a large pro team budget for the entire season about 300,000 euros.
Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / A.S.O.