James Boyd Photography / www.thedailysail.com

Small, but wicked

Simon Payne and his backing from Italian car manufacturer Abarth

Thursday June 9th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

The last season or so Simon Payne has been sailing around with the word ‘Abarth’ written on the side of his Mach 2 Moth. Last week we discovered that this doesn’t refer to some obscure Hampshire-based software company but is indeed promotion of the Italian sportscar brand, once popular back in the swinging 1960s.

At a function at dealership Meridian Milano, based just outside of Portsmouth, Ivan Gibson, responsible for the Abarth car brand within the Fiat group in the UK, confirmed their support of the double Moth World Champion.

Of course car manufacturers play a big part in yachting, Audi with the MedCup, Volvo with their round the world race, BMW in the past with Oracle Racing, Jaguar, briefly, with TeamOrigin, etc. In the UK once upon a time Audi supported the Laser skiffs when they were ‘the thing’ and today Volvo, VW and Citroen support a number of top Olympic sailors. But for a sailor outside of this arena, such sponsorship is rare.

“It is really a by-product of the success of the class and how good we have been at making it aesthetically pleasing and marketable,” says Payne. “At the Worlds other sponsors came on board like Color 7...”

Abarth as a brand was well known through the 1950s and 1960s for its compact sports car, but after it was acquired by Fiat in 1971 it essentially became the specialist racing arm within the Fiat group, responsible for development work, not just for Fiat, but also for its other subsidiaries such as the Alfa Romeos in the British Touring Car Championship, the Lancia Deltas and Integrals in World Rally Championship, etc. The brand was mothballed (!) in the early 1990s but relaunched in Italy in 2007.

“One of the old adages from the 1950-60s and the heyday of Abarth was ‘small but wicked,’ explains Ivan Gibson. “So we were looking around and trying to find something that encapsulated that and some of the core values of Abarth - the performance, the design and also now the modern day technologies - and one of the things we came across was Simon and the Moth and it fitted perfectly with all the things we were looking for. It is unique. It offers real thrills and great performance on the water and I certainly hadn’t seen anything like it before.”

Gibson adds that they were looking to develop a sports marketing program that broadened their reach out beyond just motor sport. “The awareness and reach within the main public is fairly limited, so it is a way for us to reach out in a cost effective way to what we’d term ‘like-minded customers’. We are very passionate about our cars and the performance and the motor sport side of it, so it is finding like-minded people who appreciate performance, thrills, style, technology, but may be in a different field. So with the Moth and the sailing we think that fits perfectly. At the end of the day if the guys who are sailing in a Moth feel the desire to buy an Abarth, then everyone’s happy.”

The deal with Payne came about via a business acquaintance, inevitably over dinner, says Gibson. In return for branding on his boat – the new paintjob on Payne's Mach 2 was revealed last week – the ex-World Champ gets the use of a car, an Abarth Punto Evo, and ‘help with his expenses’. With his Moth’s new two tone colour scheme, so Payne has a new Punto Evo on its way to him so that the two match.

The sponsorship of sailing is only from Abarth in the UK and forms part of what Gibson describes as their ‘land, sea and air program’. With Payne out on the water, they also support Mark Jefferies, an extreme aerobatic display pilot, who was previously with the Red Bull Air Race.

Jefferies was out over Hayling Island Sailing Club last week for the benefit of the Moth sailors competing there. On land they have the Abarth racing circuits (we await our invitation...) such as the Trofeo Abarth 500, plus championships in Italy and Scandinavia and a pan-Europeans, but they also back the Abarth UCI World Cup Downhill and Halo UK Downhill Series mountain bike team.

Payne admits he remembers Abarth from their heyday and says there is a great synergy between the Moth and the Italian car manufacturer. Aboard his new Mach 2, he will be looking to defend his title at the UK Nationals, but also has the Europeans this year in Travemeunde and the Worlds next year appropriately in Italy, on Lake Garda, soon after the Olympic Games.



Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in

Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top