SailGP Event 5 Season 1 Marseille France

SailGP enjoyed a successful first season of competition

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Sir Russell Coutts has predicted a bright future for SailGP after the global sailing series completed a successful first campaign.

The brand new series featured five events across the world in Sydney, New York, California, Cowes and the finale in Marseille.

Coutts was delighted with the action on the water, while each of the six teams and the five venues ran under budget.

Coutts says: “This season, we’ve gone from being a small start-up with a big vision, to a maturing global sports property.

“We’ve proven what we’re capable of – which is running world-class events with the ability to significantly expand the audience for a redefined version of sailing.

“There is of course a lot more we can do to further develop SailGP, and we will continue building on what’s been established this year. We will add new spectacular venues, increase the number of teams and continue to make innovative improvements to the F50 catamarans that will not only make them faster, but sailable in a wider range of conditions.”

Coutts adds: “In year one, everything is new; everything requires a fresh path to be paved, and that doesn’t come without challenges. Logistically, creating a mobile operation that could be efficiently and effectively moved around the world is at the top of that list.

“And once we solved that puzzle, we had to market the product globally to widely varying audiences – creating awareness while simultaneously gaining viewers, both within the existing sailing community and outside of it. “

Chris Draper served as CEO and wing trimmer for Team Great Britain during the inaugural series, with his organization finishing fourth of six teams.

Although overall victory and the $1 million prize money was claimed by Australia and their helm Tom Slingsby after winning in Sydney San Francisco, Cowes and Marseille and amassing 229 points, Draper is confident his team can improve going forwards.

He says: “This is not just a little bit above the rest, it is a significant step forward in making our sport mainstream.

“There have been a number of circuits over the years but the level of delivery and the television of broadcast, the professionalism, the venues and the boats has redefined what we can do.

“To take the boats to places like New York and have racing right on the Hudson River and broadcast legitimate high-level sport is quite a challenge but it is definitely something the sport can deliver consistently going forward.”

Season two is set to begin in Sydney on February 28-29 2020 and will visit the same venues.

Each event consisted of five races plus a final match race between the two leading teams, except in Cowes where weather meant only three were held and season finale Marseille which had eight.

Each team race aboard one-design F50 catamarans, meaning that minimal modification or adaptation is allowed so placing the onus on sailing ability and speed.

Draper and his team started the season encouragingly with third places in Sydney, and San Francisco, but capsized in New York and damaged the boat in Cowes leading to two last places.

There were high points, such as becoming the first boat to break the 50 knot barrier while training in Cowes.

Next season SailGP will be forced to contend with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while the Vendee Globe and America’s Cup also vie for attention in a crowded elite sailing market.

That competition has already seen the end of the Extreme Sailing Series, which did not return in 2019 after 12 series, having seen entries dwindle from 11 in 2014 to just six in its final campaign.

Draper, who participated in that series, believes that SailGP is ‘on a different level’ and is a completely different commercial animal to its predecessor.

Draper says: “ESS was a very limited audience in a very limited fashion.

“The whole product is just a whole different level now, but ESS did create the pathway for these sort of events and has in many ways molded what comes next.

“The courses have got smaller, the venues have got tighter and it is about taking it to iconic venues. The ESS certainly paved the way, but to think about how much higher the delivery and the quality is now is almost chalk and cheese.

“The Extreme 40s were advanced in their time but they are nothing like what we are sailing this time.”

Draper has balanced off-water duties as CEO with his role on-board, but admitted that may change in the coming season.

“In many ways being a player-manager is quite tricky and switching from one hat to the other has been the hardest challenge.

“When we are coming last in the last race of the day you’re thinking well it’s going to be harder to see the advertising!

“That is part of the role and we will look at whether to get someone else to sail instead of me but at the moment we have a very tight team and we are sailing well.”

He also praised the work of his team, comprising Olympic 49er sailors Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell as helm and tactician respectively, plus grinders Matt Gottrell, Richard Mason and Neil Hunter – along with the 20-strong shore team of analysts, engineers and strategists that accompany them to events.

The team advertised for a new crew member and had 95 applicants which was trimmed to 12 with four spending time on the boat before a final decision is made.

Fletcher and Bithell have split their time between SailGP and training for Tokyo 2020, demands which will increase next year but Draper feels their experience is an advantage for the team.

Draper adds: “We have such a young and hungry team and next year could be great.

“I think it is great, people who are interested in the sport can see an obvious pathway when they see Dylan and Stuart doing what they do.

“It helps Dylan and Stu keeps very race sharp. We are fortunate that the race planner has worked out so well.”

“>

SailGP Event 5 Season 1 Marseille France

SailGP enjoyed a successful first season of competition

Getty Images

Sir Russell Coutts has predicted a bright future for SailGP after the global sailing series completed a successful first campaign.

The brand new series featured five events across the world in Sydney, New York, California, Cowes and the finale in Marseille.

Coutts was delighted with the action on the water, while each of the six teams and the five venues ran under budget.

Coutts says: “This season, we’ve gone from being a small start-up with a big vision, to a maturing global sports property.

“We’ve proven what we’re capable of – which is running world-class events with the ability to significantly expand the audience for a redefined version of sailing.

“There is of course a lot more we can do to further develop SailGP, and we will continue building on what’s been established this year. We will add new spectacular venues, increase the number of teams and continue to make innovative improvements to the F50 catamarans that will not only make them faster, but sailable in a wider range of conditions.”

SailGP Launch Event

CEO Chris Draper and helmsman Dylan Fletcher of Great Britain SailGP

Getty Images for SailGP

Coutts adds: “In year one, everything is new; everything requires a fresh path to be paved, and that doesn’t come without challenges. Logistically, creating a mobile operation that could be efficiently and effectively moved around the world is at the top of that list.

“And once we solved that puzzle, we had to market the product globally to widely varying audiences – creating awareness while simultaneously gaining viewers, both within the existing sailing community and outside of it. “

SailGP Cowes - Previews

Sir Russell Coutts , CEO of SailGP, has predicted a bright future for the event

Getty Images

Chris Draper served as CEO and wing trimmer for Team Great Britain during the inaugural series, with his organization finishing fourth of six teams.

Although overall victory and the $1 million prize money was claimed by Australia and their helm Tom Slingsby after winning in Sydney San Francisco, Cowes and Marseille and amassing 229 points, Draper is confident his team can improve going forwards.

He says: “This is not just a little bit above the rest, it is a significant step forward in making our sport mainstream.

“There have been a number of circuits over the years but the level of delivery and the television of broadcast, the professionalism, the venues and the boats has redefined what we can do.

“To take the boats to places like New York and have racing right on the Hudson River and broadcast legitimate high-level sport is quite a challenge but it is definitely something the sport can deliver consistently going forward.”

Season two is set to begin in Sydney on February 28-29 2020 and will visit the same venues.

SailGP Cowes

The teams endured difficult conditions during the Cowes event

Getty Images

Each event consisted of five races plus a final match race between the two leading teams, except in Cowes where weather meant only three were held and season finale Marseille which had eight.

Each team race aboard one-design F50 catamarans, meaning that minimal modification or adaptation is allowed so placing the onus on sailing ability and speed.

Draper and his team started the season encouragingly with third places in Sydney, and San Francisco, but capsized in New York and damaged the boat in Cowes leading to two last places.

There were high points, such as becoming the first boat to break the 50 knot barrier while training in Cowes.

Next season SailGP will be forced to contend with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while the Vendee Globe and America’s Cup also vie for attention in a crowded elite sailing market.

That competition has already seen the end of the Extreme Sailing Series, which did not return in 2019 after 12 series, having seen entries dwindle from 11 in 2014 to just six in its final campaign.

Draper, who participated in that series, believes that SailGP is ‘on a different level’ and is a completely different commercial animal to its predecessor.

Draper says: “ESS was a very limited audience in a very limited fashion.

“The whole product is just a whole different level now, but ESS did create the pathway for these sort of events and has in many ways molded what comes next.

“The courses have got smaller, the venues have got tighter and it is about taking it to iconic venues. The ESS certainly paved the way, but to think about how much higher the delivery and the quality is now is almost chalk and cheese.

“The Extreme 40s were advanced in their time but they are nothing like what we are sailing this time.”

SailGP Cowes

The Australia SailGP team celebrate after three straight wins during Cowes SailGP

Getty Images

Draper has balanced off-water duties as CEO with his role on-board, but admitted that may change in the coming season.

“In many ways being a player-manager is quite tricky and switching from one hat to the other has been the hardest challenge.

“When we are coming last in the last race of the day you’re thinking well it’s going to be harder to see the advertising!

“That is part of the role and we will look at whether to get someone else to sail instead of me but at the moment we have a very tight team and we are sailing well.”

SailGP Launch Event

Team Great Britain (L-R) Stuart Bithell, Draper, Matt Gotrel, Fletcher, Richard Mason

Getty Images for SailGP

He also praised the work of his team, comprising Olympic 49er sailors Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell as helm and tactician respectively, plus grinders Matt Gottrell, Richard Mason and Neil Hunter – along with the 20-strong shore team of analysts, engineers and strategists that accompany them to events.

The team advertised for a new crew member and had 95 applicants which was trimmed to 12 with four spending time on the boat before a final decision is made.

Fletcher and Bithell have split their time between SailGP and training for Tokyo 2020, demands which will increase next year but Draper feels their experience is an advantage for the team.

Draper adds: “We have such a young and hungry team and next year could be great.

“I think it is great, people who are interested in the sport can see an obvious pathway when they see Dylan and Stuart doing what they do.

“It helps Dylan and Stu keeps very race sharp. We are fortunate that the race planner has worked out so well.”

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