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SailGP 2020: New and improved

Published on February 24th, 2020

Rome Kirby

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with United States SailGP Team skipper Rome Kirby for an update prior to the opening event of SailGP Season 2 on February 28-29 in Sydney, Australia:

There’s seven teams this season, which is one more than 2019. How far can this grow? Is there a limit as to how many teams can be on the course?

Ideally, the more the merrier. We’d love to see 12 to 14 teams. I don’t think the racecourse is necessarily the issue but rather limitations within the infrastructure. With the size of the boats, wings, and all the equipment, I suspect there’d be limits on the footprint of the event sites before you run out of space.

However, I do think there will be more teams involved next year, which is a very positive sign for SailGP to be growing. I know there’s more teams in the wings right now, but the league has done a great job of managing the growth so as to not get ahead of itself. There’s a process and a method to the madness; they’ve stuck to their guns, and it shows.

Speaking of wings, any changes for 2020?

To get the first season underway last year, every team used wings from the previous America’s Cup which all had different control systems and were built differently as each design team had different philosophies.

For example, we had Artemis’ wing 1 which had a stiffer upper top flap. They also design their wing with an adjustable CA2. So last season, we were unable to adjust the CA2 on the fly. So each wing for each team was a bit different.

The good news is that the wings will be one design this season, but not initially. The Danish team will have the new wing in Sydney, and then all the teams will have identical wings by San Francisco, which will be nice.

Sounds like it. What about different wing sizes?

The ultimate plan is for there to be three sizes, but we won’t have the big extension for the wing this season, but we will have a smaller version, so this season we will have the same size wing as last season plus a smaller option for big wind.

How is the size adjusted?

It’s still one wing, but you have the ability to remove the middle section and reconnect the top, so to shift to the smaller size it’s like putting a reef in a mainsail. For Sydney there’s still one wing size, but when we get to San Francisco we’ll have the option to shrink the wing size if needed.

Any other notable updates?

There was some evolution last season for the flight control systems, but not too much has changed in terms of that stuff this year. There’s definitely some software updates and some little things, and while we’re always developing for the boats to be the fastest in the world, but we also recognize that we need to be cautious with change. We want to insure the racing is close, and while there is a plan in place for upgrades to the foils and systems, we also want to be fiscally responsible within the league.

Gotcha. The league owns the equipment… do you see this ever changing?

Hard to say how it will evolve, but at this point, in terms of keeping it one design and in order for the league to keep tabs on the gear and make sure everything is looked after appropriately and within the rules, it is best for the league to own the equipment.

But at the same time, that comes with flaws and issues. For instance, if you’re trying to sell a team, the buyer needs to figure out what they’ll own, and if it’s just advertising rights, then that does not appeal to everyone. If a team doesn’t own any assets, it’s a tougher sell to some sponsors, but it’s a better sell for others.


2020 Teams
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
Spain, Jordi Xammar/ Phil Robertson*
United States, Rome Kirby
* Xammar will helm with Season 1 skipper Phil Robertson (NZL) serving in an interim capacity. Details.

2020 Schedule**
Sydney, AUS (February 28-29)
San Francisco, USA (May 2-3)
New York, USA (June 12-13)
Cowes, GBR (August 14-15)
Copenhagen, DEN (September 11-12)
** A sixth event may be added to the calendar at a later date.

SailGP detailsTeam rostersResultsWhere to watchFacebook

Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans with the season culminating with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.

Season 1 – 2019 Schedule
Sydney, Australia (February 15-16)
San Francisco, USA (May 4-5)
New York, USA (June 21-22)
Cowes, UK (August 10-11)
Marseille, France (September 20-22)

SailGP Season 1 Overall Leaderboard
1. Australia, Tom Slingsby, 229
2. Japan, Nathan Outteridge, 223
3. China, Phil Robertson, 171
4. Great Britain, Dylan Fletcher, 169
5. France, Billy Besson, 164
6. United States, Rome Kirby, 163

Note: Total points based on SailGP scoring.

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