LONDON – SailGP today set out to redefine sailing with the launch of its new global racing league: five grand prix events featuring six national teams on identical wingsailed F50s – claimed to be the world’s fastest, most technologically advanced catamarans. Spearheaded by Larry Ellison and Sir Russell Coutts, in season one, SailGP will bring intensely competitive, high-speed inshore racing to fans in Sydney; San Francisco; New York; Cowes, U.K.; and Marseille, France, as world-class crews compete for the championship trophy and a $1 million prize.
Kicking off in February 2019, SailGP’s inaugural season will feature teams representing six countries – Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States. Each five-person crew will race on identical 50-foot foiling catamarans. A new boat class, the F50 is a redesigned, supercharged incarnation of the exceptional AC50 used for the 35th America’s Cup last year. Twelve months in development at the hands of pioneering technicians and engineers at Core Builders Composites in New Zealand, the F50s are expected to break the 50-knot (60mph/100kph) barrier.
“SailGP is the evolution of sailing,” said Ellison, SailGP founder. “With equally incredible technology across our one-design fleet, we expect to see thrillingly close and competitive racing amongst national teams. And, with a modern, consistent format, SailGP will provide a new opportunity for talented sailors who want to race for their countries.”
“SailGP distills all of the most successful, exciting and relevant elements of high-performance, professional racing, while adding the extra edge that comes with nation-versus-nation competition,” said Coutts, SailGP CEO. “We are aiming to be pioneers of new technologies, boat design, commercial partnerships and global audience engagement. But with every crew on the same groundbreaking F50 catamaran, this isn’t a tech arms race, rather the ultimate test to establish the best sailing team in advanced foiling catamarans.”
Sanctioned by World Sailing, each grand prix will comprise two competition days with five fleet races, culminating in a final match race between the two leaders. After SailGP’s Sydney inauguration in February (15-16), the league moves on to San Francisco in May (4-5), New York in June (21-22), and Cowes in August (10-11), before the Marseille final in September (20-22), which features a winner-takes-all, $1 million championship match race between the season’s top two teams to conclude three days of racing.
“World Sailing is thrilled to be working with SailGP to bring a new, exciting and fan-friendly elite racing league to life,” said World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt. “SailGP is an ambitious project that is spearheaded by an incredible forward-thinking leadership team. We’re excited about SailGP’s commitment to innovate and advance the sport forward and by working in partnership, we will aim to inspire millions more people to fall in love with sailing.”
SailGP was created by Ellison and Coutts, who have been instrumental in the commercial development of competitive sailing. The innovative new professional sailing league – featuring an ongoing calendar of premium global racing among national teams in the world’s most advanced catamarans – will engage the next generation of fans and create a pathway for future sailors. SailGP will be a commercially driven sports property, eventually maturing to a franchise model.
Renowned luxury house Louis Vuitton, which partners with the world’s biggest sporting events and packs the most legendary trophies; Oracle, industry-leading global provider of enterprise cloud computing; and Land Rover, the world’s leading manufacturer of premium all-wheel-drive vehicles, join SailGP as founding partners. Additional details and sponsors will be announced at a future date.
With a primary goal of growing global viewership and broadening its fanbase, SailGP’s broadcast plans focus on comprehensive live coverage complemented by centrally produced highlight programs, and cutting-edge screen applications and services. Whisper Films has been retained as the league’s production partner and will play a key role in delivering a personality-driven broadcast utilizing patented and leading-edge immersive media technologies, while Talisman Sports and Media is handling global media rights distribution.
The Great Britain SailGP Team was also introduced to home fans during the London launch. Skippered by Rio 2016 Olympian and world champion Dylan Fletcher, Great Britain’s vastly experienced crew includes Olympic bronze medalist Chris Draper as team CEO and wing trimmer, Olympic silver medalist Stuart Bithell as flight controller, and Olympic champion rower Matt Gotrel and Extreme Sailing Series winner Richard Mason as grinders.
“The concept of SailGP immediately excited me,” said Great Britain helmsman Dylan Fletcher. “This league allows us to compete with and against the best, and to challenge ourselves in every way possible while sailing the world’s fastest catamarans. We have the opportunity to push the limits of our sport, and this is a very proud chapter in my career. What Larry and Russell have created is truly unique, and I am confident it will capture the attention of audiences around the world.”
The launch event took place at Tower Bridge in London. Following the formal program hosted by ITV’s Ben Shephard and featuring addresses by Ellison, Coutts, Hunt and members of the Great Britain SailGP Team, a visual and sensory display on the Thames’ South Bank provided a first look at what SailGP will bring to audiences around the world.
SailGP is sailing redefined. Established in 2018 and headquartered in London and San Francisco, SailGP is an annual, global sports league featuring bold, cutting-edge technology and awe-inspiring athleticism. The fan-centric, inshore racing takes place in some of the most iconic harbors around the globe and culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race. Rival national teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States battle it out in identical supercharged F50 catamarans, engineered for intense racing at electrifying speeds exceeding 50 knots (nearly 60 mph/100 kph). Visit SailGP.com for more information.