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US SailGP Team: The commercial race

Published on February 26th, 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:

Let’s talk about the league structure. There’s private funding right now, but the goal of SailGP is to be a commercially sustainable circuit within five years. That’s going to take the teams to step up with their own funding. How’s that work?

Last year and this year, each team has been given an equal budget. I won’t say how much or how it has changed, but the mission now is to begin reimbursing the league. The money our team brings in decreases the league’s commitment to us, and if we bring in an amount in excess to the budget number, then we can leverage that advantage over the other teams.

For now, we have our funding target, and while that target does not surpass our operating budget, it remains a possibility, sitting here at the beginning of the season. It’s going to be tough, but I have no doubt we can achieve it. There’s definitely pressure on us to sell, which is good. I think with a bit of pressure, you’ll see our team succeed, and I’m excited for the season on the water and off the water.

I want us to be self-sufficient, and we’re pushing pretty hard to be self-sufficient. Once we get there, that allows us to potentially get more training time. This would give us an advantage, so we need to take the business side as serious as we do the competitive side, but I believe in our team, and I have no doubt that we can get there.

Editor’s note: Rome wasn’t willing to disclose the budget amount by CEO Russell Coutts said it was US$7 million for the 2020 season.

Has the league mandated a point at which all the teams need to be self-supported?

As you stated, there’s the five-year plan, and each year there’s targets. If teams are under-performing from a commercial side, my guess would be SailGP would definitely reevaluate because I know there’s teams waiting in the wings with funding. So if a team is not performing from a commercial standpoint, then they’ll probably make changes– not probably, most definitely. Not only do you have to perform on the water, you got to perform off the water.

So if your team doesn’t step up, you run the risk of losing this slot.

100%. Not only are we competing on the water, we’re competing off the water.

Okay Rome, enough with the serious questions. Let’s learn a bit more about you.

Oh boy. You might get some Belichick answers. You never know.

Let’s find out. If you are exercising, would it be running or riding?

Riding. Road bike.

Flying on an airplane, aisle or window?


Greatest food weakness?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Away from sailing, the scariest incident you’ve been involved in?

I’d say the dumbest thing I can share is when I got dared to do a gainer off a pretty high bridge in Maine, and I did it, but I over-rotated and belly flopped. That took a couple of weeks to recover from. I definitely cracked some ribs and gave myself a black eye because my arm hit my face.

Good one. Now you’re in a bar, what’s your go-to cocktail?


Vodka and…?

Depends. Depends on the night. Mostly vodka soda. I keep it simple.

I’m a vodka soda guy too, but that’s because age and weight-gain must be respected. Next question. You’re from Newport… where is your sporting alliance: Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, or Red Sox?

That’s tough. I would say Patriots and Bruins. They tie, those two. And then I love the Celtics, and I love the Red Sox, but the Red Sox are under a little bit of fire right now with what’s gone on with the cheating investigation, but I would definitely say Red Sox and Celtics are below the Bruins and Patriots.

Moving on… dogs or cats?

Dogs. I got a black Lab looking at me right now like, “Come on, man. Take me out.”

For breakfast, bacon or sausage?


In the snow, skis or snowboard?


And lastly, least favorite vegetable?

I used to hate broccoli but now I’ve come to not mind broccoli. If I put butter and some salt and pepper on anything, I can eat it because after you go round the world and you eat freeze-dried, you’re like, “Eh, vegetables aren’t actually that bad.” I would say least favorite meal is beef stroganoff freeze-dried. When you’re in the middle of the ocean and you’re eating some heinous freeze-dried meal, you’re like, “Ugh, yeah, I wish I had those vegetables right now.”

All that trouble you gave your parents eating vegetables, if they only knew.

Yeah. Exactly.

Hey, Rome, we’re good here. Thank you very much.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Now go and give us something to cheer for this season.

We will. Don’t worry.


SailGP detailsTeam rostersResultsHow to watchFacebook

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.

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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