Ellison and Coutts unveil SailGP circuit for 50ft foiling catamarans

The new SailGP circuit will see six teams compete at five events around the world in one-design 50ft catamarans for a $1million prize purse.

Funded by Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and former America’s Cup holder, and run by Russell Coutts, the new Sail GP circuit will see last year’s America’s Cup catamarans, the AC50s, re-engineered and reworked to create a one-design class.

They will be raced by six teams, sailing under national flags – Britain, France, Australia, the United States, China and Japan – on a global circuit. The 2019 circuit will begin in Sydney in February 2019 before moving on to San Francisco in May, New York in June, Cowes, UK, for the first weekend of Lendy Cowes Week, and then onto Marseille, France in September.

Racing will be over two days, with evening races planned for some city venues, such as New York. Each grand prix will begin with five fleet races, before culminating in a final match race between the two leaders. The exception will be the season finale in Marseille, which will have three days of racing culminating in one, 20-minute match race for the two overall season leaders, racing for a prize of €1million.

The wing-sailed Foiling 50s are developed at Core Composites in New Zealand, which is owned by Ellison. Coutts said a staff of 110 has been working for a year on the catamarans, which are being stripped of their America’s Cup team development components and converted into a one-design.

According to Coutts, rather than having grinders (or cyclors) working constantly to provide hydraulic power, the F50s will instead have battery powered foil and rudder controls. Each cat will be sailed by a crew of five (one fewer than on the AC50s), with one dedicated to ‘joystick’ control of the foils, a helmsman and wing trimmer, and two grinders.