SAN FRANCISCO (#1248) — No surprise here; we long ago broke the news that 2020 would bring a Danish Sail GP team led by Finn Gold Cup winner (2009) and Olympic medalist (Silver 2012, Finn) Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN). Sail GP CEO Russell Coutts (NZL) confirmed that in a formal announcement in Copenhagen on 11 December. At the time RC was coy about whether or not there would be also be a Sail GP regatta in Denmark. We told you then there almost certainly would be — to take place after the Sail GP regatta at Cowes, Isle of Wight (GBR) 14-15 August, and before the final Sail GP regatta presumed again to be (though not yet announced) in Marseille. MRS hosted the final Sail GP event in 2019.
Sail GP says the balance of their 2020 schedule will be announced 3 February (SYD, SFO, NYC and Cowes have already been announced).
Today we have learned that in the past 48 hours a majority in the Copenhagen City Finance Committee approved a grant from their "Mega-Event pool" to help host the regatta in CPH 11-12 September. Reportedly the grant is only 2.7 million Danish krone, slightly more than US$400,000. "Only" because the ask by Sail GP for a "host venue fee" is, one hears, millions of dollars, given that the per event cost to Sail GP is said to be $4 million. Presumably the balance is being made up by contributions from the Danish Sail GP team's sponsors and other local support, unless Sail GP is settling for less?
Today, Denmark's TV2 is reporting (via Google translation from the original Danish):
Jonas Høgh Christensen, the team manager for the Danish team and part of the Danish bid for a host, is very excited. "It's great, it's something we've been fighting for a long time. It plays into the strategy and development we want with the team. That SailGP at home is fantastic, says Jonas Høgh Christensen, who previously won the Olympic silver for Denmark. We hope that a lot of fans and interested people will come to see it. We expect at least 10,000 spectators a day. We hope that they will see the sport from its best." Jonas Høgh Christensen will now work on making Copenhagen a permanent host city for SailGP.
Last week the crew of the Danish Sail GP team was announced. Helming the team will be Nicolai Sehested (30, DEN), along with crew Tom Johnson (28, AUS), Rasmus Køstner (41, DEN), Martin Kirketerp (37, DEN), Hans-Christian Rosendahl (23, DEN) and Lars-Peter Rosendahl (23, DEN).
Interesting to note that Sail GP is promoting 100% national teams but giving exceptions to "developing" countries like China and Japan. However, in this case Sail GP are allowing an Aussie to sail with the Danish team notwithstanding that there is an Australian Sail GP team (defending champions from 2019), and one would hardly think of Denmark as a "developing" country.
The position of "wing trimmer" is crucial to a team's viability, let alone success, and Sail GP will allow Mr Johnson to fill that role for the Danes. He has the background to do it, and will help the Danes be competitive from the get go. Moreover, he is a former VOR teammate of helmsman Nicolai Sehested. According to the Sail GP website:
Tom Johnson grew up sailing in Perth competing on the Olympic class 49er and foiling Moth circuits. His commitment to the sport and continued development led to him getting called up to take part in the 2014-2015 The Ocean Race with Team Vestas Wind alongside teammate Nicolai Sehested. He is well-versed in the mechanics of foiling high-speed technical boats having competed as wing trimmer for ORACLE TEAM USA in the 2017 America’s Cup, before returning to offshore racing for his second lap of the globe in the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race with Vestas 11th Hour Racing. Johnson is a SailGP veteran having served as wing trimmer for the United States SailGP Team in the inaugural season. He will be an invaluable member of the Denmark SailGP Team in Season 2 having experience navigating the supercharged F50 catamaran – easing the learning curve for his teammates and making them competitive from the start.
Meanwhile, in early December we broke the news on TFE LIVE that Sail GP's China Team would not continue in 2020, with that F50 being taken over by a Spanish Team. That was confirmed by Sail GP the week before Christmas, with the Spanish team lineup to be announced in late January "after team training in New Zealand." One hears that the Spanish team will be an outgrowth of Team Impulse led by Diego Botín (ESP). However, Sr Botín is campaigning for the 2020 Olympics in the 49er Class. Will he have time to compete in Sail GP as well? Or will Phil Robertson (NZL), who skippered Sail GP CHN in 2019, become "a Spaniard" for the early part of the 2020 season?
Today an article showed up on the front page of Sailing Anarchy headlined, "Sail GP RIP?" It led with the old news (long since reported on TFE LIVE) that the Sail GP teams, including the defending champion Australians led by Tom Slingsby, are being told by Russell Coutts that beginning in 2021 that they need to cover their own costs — said to be $5 million per team per year. Slingsby is quoted in the SA article after a lead-in:
It was Tom Slingsby, Australia’s winning skipper from 2019, who let the cat out of the sail bag. Speaking to a local website he revealed his team is already working against a dollar deadline. “We have been told that unless we get some partners on board and some sponsorship dollars in, that we are going to be vulnerable,” Slingsby said. “By the end of this season we need to have made some inroads into this crucial area in order to secure our future.”
As we said, this is not new news. Moreover, how do you expect Mr Slingsby to line up sponsors if he doesn't go public?
But it's a big leap from that Slingers quote to predicting the imminent demise of Sail GP, as the article did in the final paragraph:
It is difficult to see how Larry’s folly can survive beyond this year in the face of those numbers. He has impressively deep pockets, but nobody’s fortune, generosity or ego is infinite. In any case, the eyes of the sailing world may soon be elsewhere – on the foiling America’s Cup monomarans.
IMHO, the author, whose byline was only the first name "David," seriously underestimates the depths of Mr Ellison's pockets, and his passion for promoting pro sailing, and the tenacity and commitment of Mr Coutts.
Finally, we've long-since reported that, sadly, Jody Shiels (AUS) and Shirley Robertson (GBR) will not be returning in 2020 as Sail GP TV commentators. Instead, we're hearing that the commentators will be some combination of the BBC's Clare Balding (GBR) and British Olympic medalists Saskia Clark and Stevie Morrison. Why all the Brits? Perhaps to cut down on travel costs, as one hears the commentary team will once again be ensconced in a sound booth at London's Whisper Films talking to the scenes of the racing on their TV monitors, except in the case of the Cowes regatta, taking place thousands of miles away.