SailGP, the global championship that has had a transformative effect on the sport of sailing, returns on the weekend of 14 15 May. Season 3 of this captivating competition, proudly supported by Rolex since its inauguration in 2019, promises to be the biggest and most exciting to date.
Uniting the world’s most talented sailors and advanced foiling technology, SailGP is considered both the present and future of sailing. The unrelenting pursuit of excellence, together with the marriage of human achievement and technical development, as well as the fierce team spirit required to succeed, make Rolex a natural partner.
Following the dramatic conclusion to Season 2 in San Francisco in March, the 10 participating countries have had little more than five weeks to prepare for the start of the new campaign in Bermuda. Crews will have used this period to improve fitness, analyse data and ready themselves for an expanded series. Teams from Canada and Switzerland join those representing Australia – impressive victors in the first two seasons – Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United States. The calendar of events has also been extended, from eight to 10, widening the reach of the championship and interest in the sport of sailing as a whole to a growing, appreciative audience.
Each event over the 12-month season has a simple format: two days of explosive action, with five hotly contested fleet races leading to a three-boat final. The competition will visit some of the world’s most renowned sailing locations. Following the opener in Bermuda, events are scheduled for Chicago (United States), Plymouth (England), Copenhagen (Denmark), Saint-Tropez (France), Cadiz (Spain), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Singapore and Christchurch (New Zealand) before the season culminates once again with the Grand Final in San Francisco in May 2023.
Sir Ben Ainslie, Rolex Testimonee and skipper of the Great Britain SailGP team, is relishing the season ahead:
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of this league. The SailGP circuit is a major milestone in the evolution of yachting. The boats use the most state-of-the-art technology while the competition continues to widen the appeal of sailing. As the teams get better and the circuit gets bigger, its appeal will continue to grow, extending the reach of the sport.”
Ainslie is one of several SailGP skippers rightly defined as sailing legends. Australian Tom Slingsby is helm of his all-conquering national team while compatriots Nathan Outteridge and Jimmy Spithill lead the Japan and United States outfits respectively, and Peter Burling is in charge for his native New Zealand. These characters, who collectively boast multiple Olympic and America’s Cup honours, account for a combined nine Rolex World Sailor of the Year titles and offer exemplary leadership to their immensely talented crews.
SailGP is making an impression not only through the blistering spectacle of speed and skill. Its legacy credentials are substantial, giving rise to the sobriquet, “Champions for Change”. Initiatives are in place to increase inclusivity and create clear routes for young sailors to develop their talent and careers in sailing. The Inspire Programme and Women’s Pathway Programme are unique and deliver on the commitment to offer groundbreaking opportunities that strengthen the future of the sport. The Race for the Future Impact League – defined by a set of social and environmental criteria – aims to ensure sustainability is at the heart of SailGP.
Promoting diversity, sustainability and inclusion are all facets of the championship that resonate with Rolex and with which Ainslie is particularly proud to be associated:
“I don’t think there’s any other sport that’s pushing as hard as SailGP on sustainability and environmental issues. The Impact League is a fantastic example of where we are, not only racing out in the water but racing throughout the whole season to try to find innovative ways of instigating change. Diversity and gender equity are two other huge factors. The opportunities are just growing and growing, both with the Women’s Pathway Programme and the Inspire Programme, and making that step up into professional sailing and ultimately into SailGP.”
Racing in SailGP is without equal. Handling physically demanding and at times unstable 15-metre (49.2 feet), 2,400 kg F50 catamarans that can travel at speeds exceeding 50 knots (100 kph/60 mph) requires courage, precision and exceptional talent. While the Grand Final at the end of Season 3 will crown one champion, sailing is already the winner. The quest to constantly improve and develop on multiple fronts means the impact of SailGP will be felt for many years to come.