Described by Oracle co-founder Ellison as “the evolution of sailing”, SailGP will begin its inaugural season in February next year – a little over four months from now – with teams from six countries racing identical 50ft foiling catamarans, designed for high-speed racing in harbour environments that will bring spectators closer to the action on the water.
The F50 catamaran is adapted from the AC50 that raced the most recent America’s Cup in Bermuda, with the specialists at Core Builders Composites in New Zealand spending the last year tweaking the design with the aim of reaching speeds in excess of 50 knots.
Sydney Harbour will hold the debut event from 15-16 February, before SailGP moves on to San Francisco (4-5 May), New York (21-22 June), Cowes on the Isle of Wight (10-11 August), and Marseille in the south of France (20-22 September) for the finale.
The World Sailing-sanctioned SailGP is the brainchild of Ellison and Sir Russell, respectively owner and CEO of Oracle Team USA — winners of the 2013 America’s Cup in dramatic fashion.
They have devised a competition that will see five fleet races each round, their results determining the two best teams who will race a head-to-head final in each host harbour.
In the final round, a winner-takes-all match race between the season’s top two teams will be held with $1 million up for grabs.
However, SailGP co-founder Sir Russell has played down suggestions that the concept is a rival to the America's Cup, saying that the two competitions were "absolutely not" at odds.
Sir Russell was speaking at the launch event for SailGP in London this week, which also unveiled the British team that will be taking part.
“The concept of SailGP immediately excited me,” said Dylan Fletcher, Rio 2016 Olympian and helmsman of the Great Britain SailGP team.
“This league allows us to compete with and against the best, and to challenge ourselves in every way possible while sailing the world’s fastest catamarans.”