A new international sailing league, established by former America’s Cup champion Sir Russell Coutts and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, was officially launched in London on Wednesday evening (3rd October).
The SailGP league, worth $1 million (approx. £890,000), will see crews from Australia, China, France, Japan, the UK and the US go head-to-head in five races across the world.
The five-person teams will compete in the 15.2-metre (50-foot) catamarans used in last year’s America’s Cup, with each yacht modified to ensure they are identical. Capable of exceeding 50 knots, they are reportedly “the world’s fastest, most technologically advanced catamarans”.
The first season of the SailGP will get underway in 2019, with the first grand prix due to take place in Sydney before the competition moves on to San Francisco, New York, Cowes and Marseille.
Each grand prix will consist of two racing days with five fleet races, before the two leading teams are pitted together in a final match race. The final event in Marseille will see the competition’s top two teams face off in a championship race to win the $1 million cash prize.
Coutts, chief executive of the new league, said, “SailGP distils 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.”
The UK team will be led by sailing Olympian Dylan Fletcher, who believes the “unique” event will present fans with “the fastest fleet racing in the world”.
“The teams will be racing on boats that will be completely one design and all of these boats will have a shore crew that do all the work and maintenance,” he noted. “This means it will literally be the best sailors in the fastest boats.”
The 30-year-old revealed the catamarans are currently undergoing modification in New Zealand, with the team to begin training on a simulator before travelling to New Zealand to train on the water.
SailGP is intended to be an annual event that will, in future, see the participation of 10 nations competing in 10 countries.