SailGP Takes the Stage

Racing to the future: now in its second season, the SailGP pro series may be the sport’s best bet to finally appeal to the non-sailing publicPhoto courtesy of Bob martin/SailGP

Many have tried, but virtually all have failed and none have sustained. Now, finally, there is one circuit that might just have hit on a formula to make sailboat racing a mainstream sport. This means not just a one-hit wonder held every few years, but a series with mass appeal that can maintain and build an audience via an annual circuit of repeated events, just like motor racing’s Formula 1 or sports like golf and tennis.

Well on its way to achieving this is SailGP (sailgp.com). Unquestionably, it helps that it is bankrolled by one of America’s richest men, Larry Ellison, and masterminded and executed by one of the world’s most accomplished sailors/pioneers, Russell Coutts. But there’s no denying the thing itself has serious legs.

SailGP has been in Coutts’ mind for years. In 2007 he and Paul Cayard announced the World Sailing Series—a prize-money driven circuit for 70ft catamarans that never came to fruition. Since joining forces with Ellison, he also delivered in the 34th and 35th America’s Cups, held in AC72 catamarans on San Francisco Bay and four years later in AC50s in Bermuda. With these events, though, Coutts and Ellison were shackled by the constraints of the America’s Cup Deed of Gift and intervention by third parties such as the Challenger of Record. With SailGP, they could design a circuit all their own from the bottom up…

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