Knox-Johnston accuses BBC over yachting coverage
Westcountry yachting legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has accused the BBC of promoting an “elitist” view of his sport and being obsessed with football and cricket.
Sir Robin, formerly of Torbryan in South Devon, was the first man to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe in 1968.
Seven years ago, at the age of 67, he became the oldest yachtsman to complete a round the world solo voyage.
But he said the BBC had forgotten the Britain was a maritime nation and he argued the country had developed “sea blindness”.
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His comments, supported by Olympic gold medalist Sir Ben Ainslie who learned to sail at Restronguet in Cornwall, came after the BBC failed to give any national coverage to the start of the Fastnet – world’s biggest offshore race.
In a letter to Yachting World , Sir Robin said: “The start of the Fastnet could not have been more spectacular or received more publicity all over the world.
“However, there was one major exception – the national BBC news and sports news. It was full of football, athletics and cricket, but unbelievably ignored the start completely.
“This is a sad contrast with the smaller but similar lengths Sydney to Hobart race, which dominates the Australian media each time it takes place.
“It’s a sad reflection on the attitudes of our publicly owned national broadcaster that it can consistently refuse to provide coverage for one of the largest and most successful sports in the country.
“Without the oxygen of publicity our young sailors battle to find the sponsorship they need to compete at an international level.
“Come on BBC get that ridiculous elitist smear out of your thinking and support our young athletes in the maritime field.
“We were, at one time, a maritime nation but it’s impossible to engender interest in marine matters when our public broadcaster is so uninterested.”
Four-time Olympic gold medallist, Sir Ben Ainslie, backed the call for more TV coverage of the sport.
“I agree totally with your stance,” the 36-year-old said in an e-mail. “My only comment would be that as a sport, we need to make substantial improvements in both the format of racing and presentation.”
The BBC said it aimed to “offer coverage on a wide range of sports, including maritime sports”.
A spokesman said: “Whilst we may not be able to provide in depth coverage of some events, these are covered on a multi-platform level with regular updates and features via the BBC Sport website.”