At the time of going to press, three of the six teams had been officially announced. Great Britain is skippered by Olympian Dylan Fletcher with Stuart Bithell as ‘flight controller’, the pair balancing the Sailgp with a 2020 49er Olympic campaign. Former Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper is manager, wing trimmer, and brings huge amounts of foiling cat experience.
The likely early favourites are Team Australia, skippered by Tom Slingsby, another ex-oracle Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist. The team has Kyle Langford wing trimming. Surprisingly, Nathan Outteridge wasn’t named as part of the Australian team but is widely expected to feature in another entry, possibly Team Japan.
The USA team is headed up by Rome Kirby, from the 2013 winning Oracle Cup team, with a young squad.
Organisers are hoping to expand the line-up to 10 teams. The US$5 million annual costs will surely make Sailgp particularly appealing to any team wavering about putting in a late America’s Cup challenge.
The America’s Cup protocol could be interpreted as forbidding Cup teams from taking part in Sailgp. But while the current Cup takes place in monohulls is there a temptation for teams to run a separate squad in the GP to keep up multihull development? Keith Mills thinks not:
“The current America’s Cup cycle is the most expensive ever, as far as I can tell, and I can’t see an America’s Cup team having the appetite to invest even more in another circuit.”
There are synergies however. Nick Holroyd, chief designer for Ineos UK, was involved in the modifications