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Salmon looking to hook more Kiwis into eSailing

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Chris Salmon stumbled on eSailing when searching for the rules of sailing and he's now ranked 34th in the world.

That was 12 months ago as Salmon was looking at buying a boat. He had done a limited amount of sailing previously - his father had a trailer sailor when he was a child and some friends had taken him out on occasion - and thought it was something he wanted to do again.

Google directed Salmon to the Virtual Regatta website as he searched for the rules of sailing and, after downloading the app, was taken through the basics of eSailing. 

"Before I knew it, I was involved in fleet racing," Salmon said. "It really has grabbed me. The races are short, you can play anywhere on your phone or tablet and there are races for different classes of boats.

"I've since found out a lot of the guys ranked in the top 50 are real sailors who are among the best in the world."

The inaugural eSailing World Championships were held in the United States in May 2018. This was the culmination of a series of qualification regattas and playoff rounds involving 169,000 eSailors from 74 countries before the top eight competitors travelled to Florida for the final.

New Zealand's Matt Blakey, who is a handy sailor and won the masters division at this year's Laser national championships at Manly, qualified for the final and finished seventh.

This year's final will be in Bermuda, with US$10,000 up for grabs, and up to 10 national eSailing championships will also be held around the world.

Salmon is ranked second behind Blakey in New Zealand, and 34th in the world, and is keen to see the pool of eSailors in this country increase to the point a national championships is held here.

He thinks there might be about 100 regular players in New Zealand but thinks this is too small for a country with a strong background in traditional sailing.

"It's just not right that New Zealand is doing so poorly," Salmon said. "There should be at least 5000 users in this country.

"I love the competition. I get an adrenaline buzz out of it. When I chat to guys who are real sailors, they say the buzz is the same as when they are out on the water. They can't believe how realistic it is."

World Sailing have thrown their support behind eSailing and the eSailing world championships closely matches the real-world rules and formats that govern the sport.

“The 2018 eSailing World Championship was a brave new venture for World Sailing," said Andy Hunt, World Sailing chief executive. "We have a duty to promote the sport in all its forms and reaching 169,000 people shows that the first year was a great success.

“It is important that we now build on that success and continue to appeal to the expert sailors and non-sailors alike. The aim is to try and inspire more people to take up the sport and through this game we will look to provide opportunities through our members to increase participation of our sport."

Salmon will continue to race most days from the comfort of his living room. It's the closest he's getting to the real thing right now because he still hasn't bought that boat.