When you have a blank sheet of paper

Published on October 7th, 2018

The big reveal finally came from New Zealand yachtsman Sir Russell Coutts regarding his SailGP, a professional sailing league using 50-foot catamarans. With six teams and five events scheduled for 2019, it is hoped to expand soon to 10 teams and 10 events each year in future seasons. Here’s an excerpt from a report by Justin Chisholm:

To pull all this together Coutts enlisted the help of his long-time collaborator, billionaire businessman Larry Ellison, with whom he won two America’s Cup with Oracle Racing – the team named for the global technology company Ellison founded and still runs.

Coutts says Ellison was keen to get involved with the SailGP concept after losing the America’s Cup to Emirates Team New Zealand in Bermuda in 2017.

“Larry called me and asked me if I wanted to do the America’s Cup again,” Coutts said. “When I told him I didn’t, he said he didn’t want to either and suggested we should do something new.

“He loves sailing as much as I do and so we talked about the possibility of creating a proper professional sailing series. He agreed to underwrite it so that we could do it properly.

“Larry’s belief was that we have learned so many lessons together over the last ten years that we have a really good chance of creating something successful.”

Coutts has made no secret over the years of his desire to create such a sustainable professional sailing league, but now believes that the experience gained in the three America’s Cup cycles will prove vital to bringing SailGP to fruition.

“I think that if I had been doing this 10 years ago, I don’t think we would have been making as many of the right decisions,” he said. “Now we have realized what works: in a broadcast sense, in an events and hospitality sense, on the branding and how we market an event like this.

“All of these things have evolved over time and it is hard when you are first getting into a new business to make all the right decisions, so I really think we stand a better chance at this today than we would have ten years ago.” – Full report

Editor’s note: It is not clear how SailGP will become a commercially sustainable series, but Coutts says that with an annual budget of five million US dollars per team, there will be two or three teams that are profitable by the end of season one and possibly one team from the get-go.

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