One Year of SailGP

History has been made.

In a year’s time, SailGP has blossomed from fledgling start-up to a global sports league celebrating the crowning of its first-ever champion.

The organization’s first year of operation included the inaugural season of SailGP, which visited three continents across five events, 29 races and a spectacular championship finale between the year’s top-two national teams.

Just 11 days ago, sailing’s largest cash prize of US$1 million was bestowed upon Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team after it crossed the finish line ahead of season-long rival Nathan Outteridge and his Japan team. That followed 10 minutes of heart-pumping action, which included a near-collision between the two F50 catamarans doing speeds never before seen in sail racing.

It was a year of historic firsts; the launching of what was to become the world’s fastest sail racing boat in New Zealand in December. SailGP’s debut in Sydney in February that saw fleet racing in such high speed boats for the first time. The breaking of the sport’s elusive 50-knot speed barrier in Cowes in August; and of course the awarding of US$1 million in prize money for a single, 10-minute championship final race in Marseille in September.

The global league made its mark on all five of its iconic first-time host cities – Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Cowes (UK) and Marseille (France) – with dramatic moments in each venue.

SailGP
Great Britain SailGP Team skippered by Dylan Fletcher capsizes during the warm up prior to racing. Great Britain are later declared out of the first day of racing due to damage. Race Day 1 Event 3 Season 1 SailGP event in New York City, New York, United States. 21 June 2019. Photo: Lloyd Images for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

The China SailGP Team was first to experience significant damage to its multi-million-dollar racing machine with a 40-to-0 knot nosedive in San Francisco. That snapped one of its wing elements in half, while the British were first to capsize when a strong gust of wind threaded through the Manhattan skyline to thrust the boat on its side in the Hudson River.

Sustainable International Sport Event

The year also saw SailGP sign global partners Rolex, Oracle and Land Rover, setting the foundation for long-term financial success and commercial viability. Meanwhile, the organization was one of the first signatories of the World Sailing Special Event Sustainability Charter and is the first league to commit to the UN’s Sport for Climate Action Framework with all of its teams. SailGP’s commitment to sustainable development was also highlighted by the August launch of its youth and community outreach program – SailGP Inspire.

I am very proud of everyone involved in the launch and successful delivery of our first year of operation at SailGP,” said SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts. “Looking back to this time last year, it is hard to believe we were just pulling together the six teams, the boats were still being constructed and going through rigorous testing in New Zealand, and we were discussing commercial deals and starting conversations with the host cities.”

“Fast forward one year and we have come such a long way. There is no doubt we have learned a lot, which has further fueled our desire for SailGP Season 2 and continuing to build on the success of the first year as we shape SailGP into a sustainable, international sports property. We continue to believe having a consistent, professionally marketed and televised annual nation-versus-nation championship is a game-changer for sailing, and puts us on the global map alongside other professional sports.”

SailGP Season 2
China SailGP Team sails past as the United States SailGP Team’s F50 capsizes slowly after a turn during race one. Race Day. Event 4 Season 1 SailGP event in Cowes, Isle of Wight, England, United Kingdom. 11 August 2019: Photo Ian Roman for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

While the curtain closes on SailGP’s historic first season, fans have just under 150 days to wait until the world-class athletes step back into their F50s for Season 2. After a few months of modifications and testing in New Zealand, the F50s will be back better and faster than ever. A new modular wingsail will enable the boats to sail in a wider range of conditions, and new teams are expected to be announced to join the fleet during Season 2 as SailGP embarks on an expanded schedule.

If Season 1 is anything to go by, one thing is guaranteed – there will be more high speed, high tech and high drama as the teams do battle in Season 2, starting February 28 in Sydney. Tickets go on sale November 1 at SailGP.com.