SailGP: In pursuit of the Holy Grail
Published on September 6th, 2023
Beginning with its first season in 2019, American billionaire business magnate Larry Ellison agreed to fund SailGP for five years, after which it was to be a commercially sustainable sports league. But when the pandemic cancelled the second season, five years became five seasons in which the league administration, and all teams, needed to support themselves.
No previous effort at creating an entertainment product has been so well funded and conceived, making SailGP the best opportunity, and possibly the last, to seek the Holy Grail of professional sailing. With the fourth season ending in July 2024, the finish line is some time in 2025…two years away.
In partnership with the teams, League CEO Russell Coutts, as much salesman and organizer, provides only positive messaging about the future.
Speaking on the latest episode of the league’s documentary series, Racing on the Edge, Coutts said there had been ‘a lot of movement and interest’ in private team ownership, and referenced the ‘transition of ownership’ of the Canadian team. “We have similar discussions going on in other parts of the world,” he said.
Of the ten teams competing in season four, Coutts predicts that ‘very soon’ just ‘three teams will still be owned by the league’.
Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark are all teams that are, either in part or in full, privately owned, which means that France, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain remain under league ownership.
After entering the league under private ownership, Canada’s previous owner stepped away from the team at the end of Season 3. However, the team had recently accepted a new ownership bid, but no other updates have been given.
Also speaking on Racing on the Edge, United States driver Jimmy Spithill predicted his team’s profitability would probably happen this season.
Aside from the five season mandate for each team to be sustainble, SailGP presenter Lisa Darmanin added that it allows teams to run their own program and buy more training days, which are limited without additional funding. “Essentially, money can make you more competitive,” she said.
Season Standings (after two of 12 events; results and total points)
1. Australia (Tom Slingsby), 2-3; 17 points
2. Spain (Diego Botin), 5-1; 16
3. Denmark (Nicolai Sehested), 4-2; 16
4. Canada (Phil Robertson), 3-4; 15
5. New Zealand (Peter Burling), 1-7; 14
6. Great Britain (Ben Ainslie), 7-6; 9
7. United States (Jimmy Spithill), 9-5; 8
8. France (Quintin Delapierre), 6-8; 8
9. Switzerland (Sebastien Schneiter), 8-9; 5
10. Germany (Erik Heil), 10-10; 0
Season 4 – 2023
June 16-17 – Rolex United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
July 22-23 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Los Angeles
September 9-10 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 23-24 – Italy Sail Grand Prix | Taranto
October 14-15 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía- Cádiz
Season 4 – 2024
January 13-14 – UAE Sail Grand Prix | Venue to be announced
February 24-25 – KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney
March 23-24 – ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Auckland
May 4-5 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix
June 1-2 – Canada Sail Grand Prix | Venue to be announced
June 22-23 – United States Sail Grand Prix | New York
July 13-14 – SailGP Season 4 Grand Final | San Francisco
Format for Season 4:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• Up to seven qualifying fleet races of approximately 15 minutes may be scheduled for each regatta.
• The top three teams from qualifying advance to a final race to be crowned event champion and earn the largest share of the $300,000.00 USD event prize money purse that’s divided among the top three teams.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race for the top three teams in the season standing with the winner claiming the $1m USD prize.
For competition documents, click here.
Beginning with its first season in 2019, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing among national teams in some of the iconic harbors around the globe.