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SailGP faces COVID-19 crisis in Bermuda

Published on April 13th, 2021

After SailGP was forced to halt operation in May 2020, caught in uncertainty due to the global pandemic, the fledging sports league featuring identical F50 catamarans suffered a blow to the momentum from its first season in 2019.

The organization used the break to upgrade the boats and teams, and selected Bermuda as a safe haven to launch its second season on April 24-25. Just over 640 miles off the East Coast of the U.S., Bermuda had been largely shielded from the pandemic, and due to its successful health and safety measures, offered a high degree of confidence to host pre-season training and begin the season.

So much for that plan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now deemed Bermuda as having a very high level of COVID-19, issuing a travel bulletin that states:

• Travelers should avoid all travel to Bermuda.
• Because of the current situation in Bermuda even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Bermuda.
• If you must travel to Bermuda, get fully vaccinated before travel. All travelers should wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, and wash their hands.

The Bermuda government has issued a Stay at Home order at 5am on April 13 for at least seven days which closes all nonessential businesses with people only permitted to leave their residences for essential purposes. As reported in The Royal Gazette, this has SailGP in lockdown too.

All operations have been suspended while Sir Russell Coutts, the SailGP chief executive, is in discussions between his organization and the Government in the hope of being granted clearance to resume work in preparation for the competition.

A pressing issue for SailGP was that after making significant system changes to the F50s, the pre-event plan was for the teams to get on the water and make sure the boats are reliable and working as they were designed to be.

“This situation is potentially really problematic for us,” Coutts said.

Additionally, Coutts raised concerns surrounding the ongoing construction of Team New Zealand’s boat. “The problem is if we lock our staff down for a week or even a few days, we’re almost certainly not going to get that boat finished in time for racing in the event.”

Coutts also raised concerns about the unsuitable weather that has also hindered preparations.

“Worst-case scenario, if we lost too many days we would not be able to safely hold the event and we’d have to cancel, which of course none of us want to do.”

SailGP detailsTeam rostersResultsHow to watchFacebook

April 24-25, 2021 – Bermuda Grand Prix
June 5-6, 2021 – Italy Grand Prix – Taranto
July 17-18, 2021 – Great Britain Grand Prix – Plymouth
August 20-21, 2021 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Grand Prix – Aarhus
September 11-12, 2021 – France Grand Prix – Saint-Tropez
October 9-10, 2021 – Spain Grand Prix – Andalusia
January 29-30, 2022 – New Zealand Grand Prix – Christchurch
March 26-27, 2022 – United States Grand Prix – San Francisco (Season 2 Grand Final)
*Subject to change

2021-22 Teams
Australia, Tom Slingsby
Denmark, Nicolai Sehested
France, Billy Besson
Great Britain, Ben Ainslie
Japan, Nathan Outteridge
New Zealand, Peter Burling
Spain, Jordi Xammar/ Phil Robertson*
United States, Jimmy Spithill
* Xammar will helm with Season 1 skipper Phil Robertson (NZL) serving in an interim capacity. Details.

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.

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