The nuts and bolts of the Monsoon Cup

America's Cup legend and businessman Peter Gilmour on how to set up a yachting event from scratch

Tuesday February 10th 2009, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
At the 2008 World Yacht Racing Forum, America's Cup legend, Peter Gilmour was fresh into Monaco from winning the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, the showcase event of the World Match Racing Tour, which he was also instrumental in setting up with local entrepreneur Patrick Lim.

Here are some extracts from the Gillie's speech - the full 100,000 transcript from the 2008 World Yacht Racing Forum including the whole of this speech and some of our man's PowerPoint present is now available for the measly sum of £75 from here:

The Monsoon Cup itself, was an event that was literally developed out of the idea from the Prime Minister of the nation. Malaysia was putting in an enormous amount of effort in promoting the country with its Malaysia - Truly Asia. In its 50th year of independence last year in 2007, advertising and promoting itself all over the world. And it wanted to connect itself somehow with a sporting event. The Monsoon Cup has become the second most prominent sporting event in the country behind the Formula 1 now, as a national treasure. It also has helped to stimulate real growth in Kuala Terengganu and in the state of Terengganu, which has just been slowly advancing and growing.

We came up with the entire master plan for this event site. In fact James Pleasance, your event organiser here at the World Yacht Racing Forum, in a former life he was the Marketing Director for the World Match Racing Tour, he came out with me to this island and we walked over it with Patrick Lim [mastermind of the project – and who also spoke at the World Yacht Racing Forum 2008] – and it was a rubbish dump. It was completely covered in rubbish and James laughed at me and said ‘Gillie, you’re not serious are you?’ And we went around and we have since developed and built this 5 star resort, which is now a fully operating resort and excavated 5 million cubic metre of sand out of this racing basin you can see below here – to put it into perspective, it is about 500,000 10 tonne trucks of sand that were removed to make it a viable sailing arena, where match racing could happen extremely close to the shore.

Our involvement is an important one and I think it is possibly one of the most important aspects that I believe in operating or running events. The great thing that Patrick Lim taught me and brought to all of this, is that Formula 1 was his passion. He is great friends with Jean Todt from the Ferrari team and he brought the motor racing aspect to this event. ….And the one thing that he said that motor racing does is distribution. But in terms of dealing with all of these stakeholders we find that particularly important to be constantly selling to them and constantly presenting our marketing concepts and ideas.

The single most important aspect I think that has made our event a success is the fact that we haven’t empowered a yacht club to be involved with this. That will probably offend a lot of you here, that represent substantial yacht clubs right around the world, but yacht clubs do not run events well. It has been proven, especially on the World Match Racing Tour – where if you think back in its former life as the Brut Faberge Tour or before that as the World Match Racing Conference, I think there are up to seven Royal yacht clubs running events. Now I believe there is only one Royal yacht club – the Royal Bermuda – left in the mix. Yacht clubs don’t run events well. I think it is particularly important to realise that it is difficult in a commercial environment to create organic growth, hence our approach which is a top-down one. So let’s work on our distribution first. Let’s work out what the model is for distribution.


From our perspective, as I mentioned, it is all about distribution. We have a tremendously powerful television platform and we work very hard on it. Not only do we do television, but we also do radio, we do print, billboard advertising, we do online clips for our own website, we do it through the ESPN website, through SailWorld, if you go on to YouTube there are small little clips, Facebook – any capability that we can get the message out there. I was particularly excited to hear Knut [Frostad] say yesterday that it is all about the intelligence of your audience. One of the things we try not to do is to be patronising. We try really hard to explain in its most technical level possible, try to get into the heads of the competitors, which is a special nuance of match racing, the talk, the strategy, the talk of tactics, the engagement of the competitors – we put a big effort into on board audio, which I must say this year improved quite considerably.


A particularly important part of our event is not only promoting it, doing the television aspects, but we also work very closely with the government and they want to know what return they get on the event. They have very very stringent KPIs which is promoting Malaysia, which is promoting the state of Terengganu and promoting tourism. We measure all the media. We measure all our hospitality benefits that we give and try and put a value to what we call the ‘tangible benefits’. It is particularly important doing this and coming up with a total brand valuation. This is obviously different to economic impact analysis, which is a separate part of the report deal with that in itself. But it is important that you know your value against a measured benchmark and using that benchmark year on year.


I think we also have significant intangible benefits, such as ambush marketing, can any other marketer get in and market their products? Is there too much sponsor clutter? Or do we have a track record? For example a great intangible benefit is what value do you put on a King coming to an event? And the brand value of our people come in and put values on all of this for us until we arrive at a final total event valuation.

One of the unique and great things that Patrick Lim taught me about managing and operating events, is to realise that sailing is actually damned boring. It is something that hits all of us right here in the heart when we hear that. But once you realise that sailing is a great participatory sport – so it is exciting to be on board a boat sailing, but it is actually boring to watch because it is difficult to understand, hence we use things like Virtual Eye to bring a greater understanding, but what it is very good for – and a great platform for – is networking. And one of the things we’ve done – and this is George Benson entertaining at a concert. We’ve bought concert performers in – and we try and expand beyond the regular horizon.

There’s the Prime Minister, with the King in there in middle and Jean Todd and Michelle Yeo, there at the bottom. And it is really important that celebrities, different people come to the event – Jackie Chan came down and did a little bit of a promotion – Sharap Khan, who is a very famous Bollywood actor was there. Ellen MacArthur came in in 2006 with her Asian tour program.

And it particularly important to think outside the square. We all think that the racing is the most important – that’s the exciting part. It’s actually part of the sideshow. The important part is doing other things that are going to genuinely keep people interested. We organise a fishing competition for example, where I think we put about 50,000 Ringat prize money up. It is about 15-16,000 US$. We get 7,000 people coming down with their fishing rods, all trying to win this fishing competition. There’s a children’s colouring competition, we planned to have 500 kids there. We had to close it out at 900 - it was absolute chaos for this particular event! We do a local concert – 40,000 people come along to the local concert and to see local performers. A small marathon and exhibitions and so on. It is important to realise that there are other things outside of the sailing to entertain people, that brings into the event, that allows them to network, whether they network with family, whether they network in a business sense.

…at the end of the day, I mention to you, it is not about the race committee and all of that. One of the things we do take extremely seriously is the integrity of the racing. We never let the integrity of the racing be compromised. We make sure we have the absolute best race committee people, the ISAF umpires and so on. We really work hard on that part. So you can sort of, I think my message there is, is that you can ignore the racing to a large extent, because as a sport we do do it extremely well. We pull the flags up on time, we get them down. In fact one of the things that we’ve innovated – I heard someone mention yesterday mention about the Blue Peter. We’ve done away with all of the coloured numeral flags and we use just numbers, like a 7, a 5, a 4 and 1 for the starting procedure. It is easy to understand for television and for a spectator point of view. I think small little innovations like that are easy to make without changing too much within the sport.

Obviously one of our important aspects is how we see ourselves and where are we placed? As I mentioned we are a very important within Malaysia, but our key message is to get the event outside of Malaysia, to present it to the world, to the greater part of Asia and obviously to Europe and other markets, to tie in with that tremendous campaign that Tourism Malaysia had done across the world. And that is something that we tremendously enjoy. I think, as somebody mentioned yesterday, sailors by and large are terrific spokespeople. They are great ambassadors. They are articulate, intelligent and they present well and they present the sport particularly well and when you see them both presenting in front of camera or talking at press conferences, it is something to be genuinely proud of. The one thing that I do think that our sport can do better – and it is one thing that we within match racing are striving hard to do – is to present ourselves physically better. To look more impressive. To look more Formula 1-esque. And I think you see that at the America’s Cup level. You don’t see it at smaller events. You see people going around in thongs and round neck T-shirts and a sloppy sort of a look. Whereas it doesn’t take much for the crew to have a uniform to present and to project and I think that is an important thing we will be working on in the future.

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