Sailing redefined – The Sail GP Series

Marseille in September is the place to be for the final of the inaugural grand-prix America’s Cup-style series says Sue Pelling

Sir Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison’s new, high-profile, grand-prix league known as SailGP looks set to challenge the America’s Cup (ACC).

By extracting all the positive elements learned from their experiences from the ACC, Coutts (three-time America’s Cup-winning skipper), and Ellison (businessman and two-time America’s Cup winner) have come up with a simple, easy to

follow global professional racing format. Crucially, this World Sailing-sanctioned event has given the ACC boys the opportunity to start afresh, exploit their passion for commercial development of competitive sailing, and produce what they expect to be a thrilling, new, fan-centric grand prix racing circuit that “redefines” sailing.

The original idea of this five-event, grand prix series, launched last October at a glitzy affair in London, was to feature six national teams on identical super-fast, wingsailed F50s foiling catamarans and wow the crowds with intensely competitive, high-speed inshore racing. In short, Coutts and Co hoped to bring the sport of sailing closer to fans and spectators than ever before.

With two events having already taken place this year – Sydney, and San Francisco – and the fan base building on a daily basis, it is a case of ‘so far, so good’ for SailGP. Momentum is also building for the remaining three acts – New York, Cowes, UK, and the grand final in Marseille, France where a $1 million is up for grabs in the single match-race final between top two teams.

After two full days of intense racing at the most recent event in San Francisco, the Australia SailGP Team helmed by Olympic gold medalist Tom Slingsby, took the top honour by just one point from the Japanese SailGP Team. Austrailia now lead the series by two points overall going into the third event.

San Francisco Bay certainly lived up its reputation for this event by delivering spectacular conditions to allow fans a ‘courtside’ seat to witness all the thrills and spills of this sort of racing with speeds of over 45 knots recorded just off the shore.

Commenting on the progress of SailGP in the run-up to the third act in New York, Coutts (SailGP CEO) told Onboard: “San Francisco was everything we hoped it would be. It provided a spectacular backdrop for our US debut, a fantastic challenge for our world-class athletes and an exciting spectacle for the fans. All the teams have really stepped up a gear and it shows what effect the open access to data is having on the teams’ performance. It’s certainly going to make the next event in New York even more exciting.”

Who’s who
Many of the world-class crews signed up for this event include a huge ACC and Olympic contingent who sees SailGP as an attractive ACC alternative. It not only offers spectators plenty of opportunity to see these superfast flying machines in action on a regular basis, but it also allows international teams, those passionate about representing their country in sailing, a chance to really embrace the sort of high-profile sailing they enjoy.

Interestingly although the majority of SailGP teams will comprise athletes native to the country they are representing, select countries without the experience necessary to safely and competitively power the F50s are given an opportunity to use the event as a pathway for the future. For example this year China and Japan are the designated developing teams and will start with a 40 percent nationality requirement, which will increase by 20 percent annually. On the individual side, the nationality rules are narrow, and sailors are not be eligible to compete for more than one country, with a variety of criteria required to satisfy nationality requirements.

At the helm
• Austraila – Tom Slingsby – helmsman and CEO (Olympic gold medallist, America’s Cup winner and World Sailor of the Year)

• China – Phil Robertson – helmsman (World Match Racing Tour winner and world champion)

• France – Billy Beeson – helmsman (four-time Nacra 17 world champion)

• Great Britain – Dylan Fletcher – helmsman (Olympian and world champion)

• Japan – Nathan Outteridge – CEO and helmsman (Olympic gold and silver medallist)

• USA – Rome Kirby – CEO and helmsman (America’s Cup winner)

The boat
The F50 is a redesigned, supercharged incarnation of the AC50, which was used for the 35th America’s Cup in 2017. Developed by pioneering technicians and engineers at Core Builders Composites in New Zealand, these super-fast wing-sail cats are, given ideal conditions, expected to break the 50-knot (60mph/100kph) barrier.

Coutts added: “We are aiming to be pioneers of new technologies and boat design and, 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”
• Loa: 15m (49.2ft)
• Beam: 8.8m (29ft)
• Wing height: 24m (78.7ft)
• Sailing weight: 2,400kg (2.4tons)

The final in Marseille – 18-22 September
The final in Marseille will feature a winner-takes-all, $1 million championship match race between the season’s top two teams to conclude three days of racing.

The plan is for practice racing on 18-19 September, followed by three fleet races on 20 September, three fleet races on 21 September, then a further two fleet races capped off with a feature match-race finale between the season’s top-two teams on 22 September.

Racing in Marseille will take place in the Rade Nord, in front of the seawall outside the famous Old Port of Marseille and the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille with daily racing from 1400-1600.

Team bases in Marseille
The six competing teams will set up their technical team bases in Port Corbière.

Remaining 2019 event schedule
• Cowes, UK (10-11 August)
• Marseille, France (20-22 September)

Superyacht programme
SailGP has partnered with BWA Yachting, a leading marine agency services company, to manage and deliver SailGP Adrenaline Yachts – a premium superyacht experience for the new global sports championship final in Marseille.

For those who want to witness the intense, high-speed races from the comfort of their own superyacht, SailGP Adrenaline Yachts membership grants a premium position on the racecourse perimeter in a designated superyacht viewing area.

Membership will also include access to an exclusive tour of the team bases and an opportunity to meet some of the world’s top sailors, complimentary merchandise, and closing party tickets.

For SailGP Adrenaline Yachts membership details contact Laura Esteve at [email protected]