American software tycoon Larry Ellison, who bankrolled Oracle Team USA twice to America’s Cup glory, and legendary former sailor Sir Russell Coutts have announced a new global racing league called SailGP.
Teams from the United States, Australia, Great Britain, France, Japan and China will compete starting in 2019 in identical foiling 50-foot catamarans.
The series will run from February to September, starting in Sydney followed by regattas in San Francisco, New York, Cowes and a finale in Marseille. Five-person crews will compete for a $1m prize in an event sanctioned by World Sailing.
SailGP is not intended to compete directly with the America’s Cup but its aim is to offer a more commercially viable alternative. It’s estimated that Ellison spent roughly $750m during five America’s Cup campaigns while a SailGP team is expected to cost $5m a year to run.
Boats will be supplied to teams with a “centralised design team” providing upgrades. “This ensures close racing, and that the costs are kept down,” Coutts told AP. “This isn’t a tech arms race, rather the ultimate test to establish the best sailing team in advanced foiling catamarans.”
Oracle, Land Rover and Louis Vuitton – all of whom have had significant involvement with the America’s Cup – are founding partners of SailGP.