Besides Ellison’s own very deep pockets, Sailgp has already attracted some commercial funding. Louis Vuitton is a founding partner, as is Land Rover, Ben Ainslie’s former America’s Cup backer.
“[Land Rover] were very disappointed, I know, when Ineos took over the America’s Cup team and they made it clear to me that they do still want to support sailing,” comments Sir Keith Mills, whose sports management company CSM is delivering the UK stage of Sailgp.
The ambition is for teams to bring in their own backers. With running costs of just US$5 million per year, teams should be able to turn a profit with a relatively small investment. Costs are capped by a team personnel limit of 18 for the first year, and shared boatyard services. The goal is for teams to build a sufficient fan base and be profitable enough to have real longevity – of at least a decade.
Part of the appeal of the event to sponsors, Coutts says, is there is almost zero risk. “If, for example, a sponsor is interested in media return, we can agree on what that media return should be. We can say ‘OK, if we don’t deliver you don’t pay’. And because we’re producing the television and controlling all of the marketing, we can have the confidence to do that.”
Currently the teams are simply named after their home nation. The nationality rule is not applied evenly across the fleet – for this cycle France, Britain, USA and Australia must have a 100% national sailing team, while China and
Japan must have 40% of sailors from their home nation.