SAN FRANCISCO (#1263) — Sail GP released a statement and the accompanying YouTube video today calling off the balance on the 2020 season due, no surprise, to the uncertainties and safety concerns caused by COVID-19.
Sail GP CEO Sir Russell Coutts (NZL) also announced that the Sydney event, which took place eight weeks ago and was won by the British team led by Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR), had been declared "null and void."
The move to cancel the season had been foreshadowed when the yachts and related equipment were shipped from Sydney back to the Core Composites factory in New Zealand when it became clear the second 2020 event, scheduled to take place in San Francisco last weekend, had to be scrapped. SF, and much of the State of California, remain in coronavirus lockdown.
Sail GP is, of course, owned and largely financed (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars) by tech billionaire Larry Ellison (USA, San Francisco). Representing SF's Golden Gate Yacht Club, Mr. Ellison's Oracle Team USA won the 2010 and 2013 America's Cups with Sir Russell as his team CEO. After moving the 2017 Cup to Bermuda, and losing it there to Emirates Team New Zealand representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Larry and Russell turned away from the Auld Mug and created Sail GP as a stand-alone world professional sailing league. The inaugural 2019 season saw six teams (AUS, CHN, GBR, JPN, FRA and USA) competing in a five-event series that took place in Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Cowes (Isle of Wight), and Marseille.
Sir Russell said the virus has "forced us to pause and think about how we are going to react to this" and to take a "fresh look at all of our operations across the board." Notably, he said that next event would be in April 2021, and that the next season would run from then through May of 2022 with a couple of the event dates already tied down — presumably the popular, and successful 2019 venues of Sydney and San Francisco.
Some will find it a bit strange that the 2021 season was not simply truncated with just the one event, and awarded to Sir Ben Ainslie's British entry sponsored and staffed by his 2021 America's Cup team INEOS Team UK. Ainslie & Co., who did not compete in the inaugural 2019 Sail GP season, completely dominated the Sydney event winning all but one race — including a crushing defeat of the defending 2019 Sail GP champs, Team Australia led by Tom Slingsby (AUS), in the winner-take-all match race final.