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Interview: Matt Sheahan

Matt Sheahan, one of sailing’s most widely respected journalists, recently left his role as Racing and Technical Editor at Yachting World magazine after 24 years, to join British sports TV production house Sunset+Vine as their Head of Performance Sailing.

Topping the list of responsibilities in his new job is the production of a new monthly magazine show aimed squarely at the global sailboat racing community. The 30-minute programme takes its name from yacht racing’s recently rebranded governing body, World Sailing (formerly the International Sailing Federation or ISAF), who are funding the project.

Just a week into the role and almost before he could properly get his deck shoes under the desk, we collared Sheahan to quiz him about the move from print to TV and ask what fans can expect from sailing’s new flagship show under his tutelage.

Sail Racing Magazine: This must have been a big move for you after nearly a quarter of a century at Yachting World. What made you make the leap to TV?

Matt Sheahan: I suppose it is a big move because I’m going from a print magazine to producing a TV show. But, in fact, the two roles are very similar. At the end of the day, my job is telling stories about sailboat racing; that’s what I have always done with Yachting World and I’m excited to be doing it in this new role.

The language of TV is rather different, as I am discovering already, but it doesn’t take too much to translate it all into magazine-speak in my head as I try to understand how it all works. 

SRM: Talk us through the scope of the new show and how it came to fruition?

MS: Well, it’s a monthly magazine show, it’s called World Sailing, and it goes out to 36 broadcasters in 177 territories around the world. It covers all aspects of racing and it’s sponsored by what was the International Sailing Federation, or ISAF, and is now World Sailing.

The initiative was set up between World Sailing and the TV production company Sunset+Vine. They have employed me as the Head of Performance Sailing and in that role one of my main responsibilities is to produce the new World Sailing show. 

You may remember the show Seamaster Sailing that has been aired around the world for many years. That show was produced by Sunset+ Vine up until the end of 2015 and now we are using the same distribution channels that Seamaster Sailing had to launch this new programme. 

Sunset+Vine have worked with World Sailing for many years. They have delivered their live TV output and a huge amount of broadcast work for them on a contract basis. So the relationship between the two organisations is very well established.

World Sailing are doing a lot of new things this year in the wake of their rebranding from ISAF. They are doing live TV coverage at the Olympic classes Sailing World Cup events, they have a brand new website, they have some key new people on board and generally they have a new focus. Part of that new vision was the production of a new monthly TV show and Sunset+Vine were the obvious choice to deliver it for them.

SRM: Who is the show aimed at?

MS: The show is aimed at a broad sailing audience where, in time we aim to cover the complete spectrum of racing from dinghy racing to super maxis, amateur to professional. With World Sailing as backers there is huge potential for the show going forward. Clearly, the world governing body is closely associated with Olympic sailing, especially this year, but the reality is that there are few areas of the sport that World Sailing is not involved in which will give the show superb access and help to reflect the broad nature of the sport rather than focusing on niche areas.

But I think it's also very important that we produce a programme that appeals to people who don't know about sailing. We have a superb, visually stimulating sport that encompasses the widest range of ages and abilities and therefore have plenty to shout about. personally I love telling stories about our sport and have always liked trying to explain it to friends who don't necessarily follow sailing.

A good story told well can travel well beyond the enthusiasts, just look at what happened in the UK alone after the America's Cup in 2013.

SRM: What do you think you bring to the role?

MS: I have come into it as someone who brings a lot of knowledge of the racing scene from a journalistic point of view. My role is to look at the season ahead, decide what events we should be... READ THE FULL ARTICLE


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