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Sail GP: Ellison and Coutts launch new world sailing series in Foiling 50's

by Tom Cary, The Daily Telegraph, UK 4 Oct 2018 01:49 PDT 4 October 2018
Chris Draper now of the UK Sail GP team was previously on Softbank Team Japan in Bermuda © Richard Gladwell

A new world sailing series called SailGP, set up by former America’s Cup holders Larry Ellison and Sir Russell Coutts and using the foiling 50ft catamarans from the last America’s Cup in Bermuda, was launched in London on Wednesday night.

The series, which will feature six teams including a British entry skippered by former Olympian Dylan Fletcher, is sure to attract comparisons with the America’s Cup, not least because of the presence of Coutts, Ellison and Tom Slingsby, who will skipper the Australian boat. Sir Ben Ainslie’s former backer Sir Keith Mills is also involved in organising the British round.

Coutts, however, was keen to stress that SailGP was not trying to set itself up as a rival. “Absolutely not,” the five-time America’s Cup winner told Telegraph Sport. “When you look at the differences they are significant. SailGP will be a one-design series. We want to have consistent rules. We want it to be nation vs nation with a 100 per cent nationality rule – that’s very important. Nation vs Nation is such a strong selling point. We saw that at the Ryder Cup last weekend. We want it to be a globalised racing circuit with repeat venues. We want it to be commercially sustainable.”

At first glance, the concept for SailGP would appear to closely mirror the framework agreement which was championed by five of the six teams from the last America’s Cup cycle.

Had anyone but New Zealand won in Bermuda, the America’s Cup was going to become a biennial affair with a world series in between each. In the end, New Zealand won and as defenders decided to switch from multihulls back to monohulls and largely abandon the concept of a commercially sustainable competition, meaning teams needed to raise upwards of £100 million to compete in 2021, pretty much ruling out anyone who did not have a wealthy benefactor.

Coutts acknowledged that SailGP had taken “some points” from the framework agreement, but insisted that much of it was distinct.

SailGP, he said, would use use the “guts” of AC50s used in the last Cup. But they will be rebuilt and called ‘F50s’. They will be one-design and all teams will be supplied with one by Ellison, the billionaire founder of ORACLE who is effectively bankrolling the series for the first year or two.

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