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Spanish team joins SailGP as China drops out

China warms up before the start of racing at the 2019 SailGP Championship's San Francisco event (by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SailGP has today (Tuesday) announced that Spain will replace China in the second season of the sailing series, stating that it was unable to secure the “permissions necessary” to continue operating the Chinese team within its existing structure.

Replacing China, Spain will join Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States as the league visits six venues across the globe in 2020.

China was one of SailGP’s six league-funded teams for its inaugural season, and finished third overall. The budget for each team was set at around $5m (€4.5m) per year and organisers harboured ambitions to add a Chinese race in the future.

The F50 catamaran used by China will transfer to Spain, which will begin competing at the start of the 2020 season in Sydney on February 28-29.

Commenting on the changes to season two, SailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts said: “Though the China SailGP Team had a successful first season, we were unfortunately not granted the permissions necessary to continue operating the team within our existing structure.

“With numerous active discussions around future teams, we were fortunate to be in the position to make an immediate substitution, allowing us to deliver on our promise of seven teams for Season 2 as our global championship continues to grow.

“SailGP remains interested in continuing to support both a Chinese team and the development of a sailing academy in China as planned if a future agreement can be reached.”

In the first season, China and Japan were designated as developing teams and therefore only had to fulfil a 40-per-cent nationality requirement for crew members native to the country they were representing.

China has been building its presence in sailing and it was last week announced that the country would play a key role in a revamp of the Youth America’s Cup. Racing in a brand new class of foiling mono-hull, the AC9F, in 2020 and 2021, the new-look competition will be run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), China Sports Industry Group (CSIG), and defending America’s Cup champion Emirates Team New Zealand.

The multi-leg event will begin with a fleet racing seeding event in China in November 2020 and then a match racing event in Auckland and the finals held between March 8-12, 2021 outside the RNZYS in the shadow of Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.

Today’s announcement from SailGP comes after mineral wool products manufacturer Rockwool Group was last week unveiled as the presenting sponsor of the new Danish team. Rockwool has signed a three-year partnership with SailGP, with the option to extend for a further three seasons.