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JapanSailGP put on "indefinite pause" in surprise move by SailGP

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 15 Jul 2022 14:24 PDT 16 July 2022
Japan SailGP Team helmed by Nathan Outterridge foiling on Race Day 1 of San Francisco SailGP, Season 2 © Jed Jacobsohn for SailGP

The Nathan Outteridge-led SailGP Japan team has been put on "indefinite pause" from the SailGP regatta circuit.

At the start of the season, and with the advent of the purchase of two new franchises, by Switzerland and Canada based teams, organisers found themselves in a situation where they had ten teams wanting to sail but only nine F50's. A tenth F50 was in construction at the SailGP Technology facility in Warkworth, but for a variety of Covid related reasons was not going to be ready for the start of Season 3.

Being one of the teams who received funding to participate in the now 11 regatta circuit, SailGP Japan was believed to be the one with the least sponsorship and for commercial reasons coupled with the need to provide teams who did hold full franchises with a boat - and means of meeting their commitments and expectations to sponsors.

Skipper Nathan Outteridge made an impassioned plea for funding at the opening media conference for Season 3, however evidently no offers from Japan were forthcoming, and it would seem that despite some outstanding sailing performances, the SailGP Japan team has gone the way of a couple of others who also could not raise the required level of financial self-sufficiency. The interim plan was for the tenth boat to be finished and available after SailGP Portsmouth at the end of July, and that JapanSailGP would receive average points for the first three regattas of Season 3, based on their average points in the remaining eight regattas in the circuit which concludes in the Grand Final in San Francisco in early May.

Several franchises were negotiated during and after Season 2 of SailGP, and the circuit has became a victim of its own success, with more teams than boats. The squeeze will now go on other teams, who are also currently financially dependent on SailGP, to become self-sufficient as other teams buy full franchises up-front.

Of course, more teams mean more territories for TV exposure, and the budget saved from team subsidies can be put into the expansion and development of the circuit for Season 4.

An arrangement was made that the Japanese F50 from Season 2 would be reallocated to SailGP Canada, who also "borrowed" wingsail trimmer Chris Draper (GBR). That arrangement may become permanent, or the Canadians may elect to continue with their squad development program. A development squad and a coach from the CanadaSailGP are currently competing on the GC32 World Championship in Lagos, Portugal and are then headed for what is usually an eight-day session in the Artemis Technologies F50 simulator in Belfast at the end of July.

As has happened before the displaced teams break up and the key players usually reconvene under a new team battle-flag, sailing with a mix of rockstar and national crews.

It is not know what will happen with the new F50, but it is expected to be used in an expanded SailGP circuit - in which Outteridge and Draper may yet be involved.

Nathan Outteridge is also expected to become more involved in Emirates Team New Zealand, which takes delivery of their first AC40 next month, and will start sailing in September. The team's Project Landspeed, an attempt on the world windpowered landspeed record, is on delay waiting for Lake Gardiner in South Australia to evaporate creating the salt pan required for the 8-10km course.

That project ties up Pilot Glenn Ashby for maybe longer than expected, a gap that NZ resident Outteridge can fill, as well as covering for the absence of ETNZ sailing squad who are involved in the Live Ocean team or NZ SailGP - co-skippered by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke and with several of the current America's Cup champion, involved.

Outteridge has no AC75 experience, and the AC40 will provide a vital catch-up opportunity.

The announcement from SailGP, published overnight is a probable indication that a new team/franchise has been signed, who will take the new F50 or another existing boat, but it seems that any new tenth team will not formally join until Season 4. With the tenth F50 allocated, there is no way back for a financially dependent Japanese team.

SailGP statement:

After much deliberation and taking into account logistical and commercial considerations, SailGP has made the difficult decision to pause the participation of Japan SailGP Team indefinitely.

The league would like to thank Nathan Outteridge and all of the athletes and staff involved in the Team for their outstanding performance in the first two seasons of SailGP and wish them all the very best for the future.

Season 3 will continue with nine teams racing for the remainder of the season.

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