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CUP ROYALE – F1-themed racing on water and how it could change the future of marine navigation


A water race broken into 20 ocean races and 20 harbour races- Cup Royale promises a new concept of boat racing. In a conversation with Poulomi Kundu, Editor of Spotsavour, Ralph Brown – the Initiator- speaks about the volume of this event and its potential to change the marine industry as a whole.

How likely is it for you to get struck by a whale in the middle of the sea? Mess with a sperm whale and you will get an 80-ton torpedo – more than enough to sink your vessel and crew, before the surviving lot is stalked by an entourage of mammalian jaws. Though aggression amongst whales is very rare, with most wreckages occurring out of anxiety and panic caused to our water-flipping friends by human interference, Ralph Brown has a request for you. If you do get sunk by a whale, be courteous enough to record it.

Ralph Brown- A boat builder, a seasoned sailor and an adventure enthusiast

Ralph Brown has a dream and quite a fascinating one – Boat Racing around the world. Although not unheard of as a concept – the Volvo Ocean Race for example, an around-the-world multi-legged Yacht Racing tournament which takes place every three years but Ralph’s vision of a water race around the world is much different.

Ralph and his brother Robert hold world records, one for their trip from Carolina to Bermuda to New York in a 21-ft fishing boat built by Ralph’s company, Dream Boats Inc.

The other one is for their transatlantic voyage –from Tampa, Florida to Wiesbaden, Germany on a 21-ft powerboat.

Cup Royale – Ralph’s new brainchild

Cup Royale will be an around-the-world race on water that is expected to comprise 20 races; each leg spanning between 2,500 and 3,500 miles. It is going to comprise two formats – one across the oceans, which is to be condensed into an hour long country specific programmes for respective teams, followed by a live harbour race at the respective city for the leg in a Formula 1-like format.

The race is expected to last four and a half months – 20 ocean races and as many harbour races.

However, for a vessel to travel that long it would burn fuel like a draconian fire-breathing dragon out for vengeance. That’s insane juice for a very small output. On retrospection, it does feel strange. Almost like picturing a steam engine from 1860 arriving at a bullet train platform. With such boundless innovation and advances over the years in about any industry you name – aviation, computers, railways, so why does marine navigation and transport feel so left out?

90% of world trade takes place on ships, yet ship propulsion systems have not changed since 1957. That is staggering.

Cup Royale calls for serious innovation in water navigation

Fuel efficiency is one of the primary areas for improvement to make an F1-style water race economically viable. The technology and research available feels dated, and something needs to change.

A substantial reason seems to be the lack of conversation. At a grassroots level, we do not see a career in marine navigation being encouraged, or with anything related to oceans basically. Such indifference has not changed over the years and in 2020, we are left with ocean automation from the 60s. 100 billion gallons of oil are burnt by ships every year.

“We believe we’re going to produce a whole line of boats, not just us but I think different competitors around the world. The engineers, the naval architects and what the coolest part is that the young kids who haven’t been told how to do it yet. The young kids come to the world with new ideas, they come to the world with pool of knowledge and will take the knowledge that’s already out there and they’ll pull it. That causes massive research”, believes Ralph.

Using an event like the Cup Royale to build a foundation for such exchange is one of the driving ideas behind the venture. New ideas, knowledge, massive competition and mass research – these are the by-products of said process and with eyes on a global scale, the Cup Royale seems like a slam dunk for potential investors and sponsors.

The investor who would be a team owner

Cup Royale calls for investors who want to own a team. Only one team will be allowed per country and each team will be a franchise.

The TV audience for boat racing is huge on the global market. However, it is not structured to make money like NASCAR or Formula One. Cup Royale has been created to structure and capture a portion of that very large global boat racing market.

According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Volvo Ocean Race had a 1.7 billion cumulative global TV audience in 2014 and 2.2 billion in 2017, with 457 million direct viewers. [Source: Silicon Palms]. That is not individual viewer, it is cumulative. It is still huge, much bigger than NASCAR. For comparison sake, if you combined all 92 NASCAR races, not just the stock car races, but all of the races including the Sprint Series and the Truck Series, too, the Volvo Ocean Race is still much bigger because it is global. NASCAR’s combined total TV audience is about 300 million. NASCAR is worth $5 billion and sells its TV and media rights for $800 million a year.

The Volvo Ocean Race is a nine month sail boat race around the world that takes place every three years. It stops in eleven ports while racing around the world. Two million four hundred thousand people come out in person to the race villages to watch the local races with an average of more than 200,000 per location. That is more than twice the attendance at American football games. People like speed. If they made it power boats, instead of sail boats and raced around the world every year instead of every three years, it would be even more popular. If they had territorial rivalries such as city against city like we have with in every professional league, or country against country like the Olympics, it would make it even more popular.

A deliberate tussle in F1 would lead to a straight disqualification. In Cup Royale however, there will be a signed-off-and-agreed-upon-by-everyone limit on some plank to plank action between boats. “Of course you can’t hold your opponent’s head under water or use weapons but we will allow a bit of rustling”, Ralph said.

Adventure supersede

There’s obvious concern for risk but for many like Ralph, their love for the ocean and adventure supersede fear.

“There’s nothing quite like sailing through a storm”, he did mention. For Ralph, whose love for water stretches back to his memories of growing up in the midst of a Californian beach, is perhaps the right person to dream big as a Cup Royale. To infer, there is nothing quite like Cup Royale yet and when it does become a live event, the media watch and advertising revenues would go absolute bonkers given the stretch of the route – literally around the world.

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