SailGP 2020

It's good the SailGP technology is getting attention in addition to the great racing...

Going forward, Edwin Upson, Oracle’s vice president of enterprise cloud architects, says the goal is to layer additional analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning over the sensor data to better serve teams so they can improve performance and speeds.

Boosting fan engagement is a priority for upcoming seasons. Oracle and SailGP have been in talks about introducing a “ghost boat” that would digitally compete against actual crews by using artificial intelligence to analyze environmental and aquatic conditions. “It’d be traversing the race in a simulation,” says Upson. “Happening at the same time that the real boats are out there. We’d be able to see whether the AI can outperform real athletes.” 

Another potential add-on for next season will be augmented reality. Fans might be able to point the lens finder on their phones at a boat to receive live data, such as speed or direction of travel, or watch a boat’s live stream feed. “So you’re not head down in the app,” Upson says. “You’re really looking at the race.”
I really like the idea of the "ghost boat" - an AI driven virtual boat making decisions based on the data. Knowing what I know of the state of AI at this point, I think it's going to be less than impressive compared to these world-class sailors - but still interesting to watch for both sailors and techies. My hunch is that they've been testing this already.

And I was waiting to see when AR would come into the fray. It makes perfect sense in light of today's technology - and what they are already doing with the outstanding app. But I'm a bit skeptical as to how much fans onshore at the event would use it. We'll see. Not everyone loves Pokemon Go.

In any case, despite my skepticism that these things will catch on, it's a great article, and shows how the tech world is watching this series right along with the sailing world. That's expanding the market. All good.

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A good article making the rounds summing up the first season and talking about the upcomeing season - from people like Presti, Dubois, Di Biase, Nadine, etc. Lots of lessons learned - one of the most important being the pricing of the tickets. Right now, those prices have to be low to build the live audience, and as mentioned, is likely venue dependent. But this kind of graded pricing is typical in sporting events anyway.

The bottom line is that it looks to be a very good start. And Di Biase is right that the gap between these teams definitely narrowed over the season. So the key is keeping a strong, experienced team together to start winning.

But the pressure now obviously shifts to these teams performing off the water - and finding sponsorship. Again, at $5M/year - it's not a big ask relatively speaking, but it's definitely a DIFFERENT ask in the world of sailing. No funding, no racing. Since the series itself has Rolex, Land Rover, and Oracle - that overall event-cost pressure has been alleviated. But I think it will be very interesting to see what kind of sponsors we see with the teams themselves (mix of national vs corporate or both) - and how those play into the overall SailGP brand. Think about how the UFC handled sponsorships when Reebok came on board as an example.

So, it's still an uphill climb for SailGP as it is with any event that's just entering the market, but I'd say this was a hell of a start. And there are some VERY interesting times ahead. Play time is over and things are gettin' real up in here.



The first season of the SailGP finished last Sunday in Marseille with final victory going to the Australian team (Tom Slingsby) ahead of the Japanese led by Nathan Outteridge. Time for Tip & Shaft to carry out an appraisal of the F50 circuit launched by Larry Ellison/Russell Coutts.
Racing results: two divisions
This first season was clearly dominated by the Australian and Japanese teams with the advantage going to the Australians, who won four of the five legs and in particular the final event where there was a cheque of a million dollars for the winner. This was no big surprise as the majority of the sailors with the two teams had already raced on the AC50 in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda. "We have been racing on these boats for four or five years in Bermuda, so all the teams with a veteran in a key post, such as helmsman, trimmer or tactician are bound to have an advantage," confirmed Philippe Presti, coach for the Australian team. "We soon realised that there were two boats in the first division and four in the second division, but in the latter group, we were all fairly close to one another," added Bruno Dubois, manager of the Chinese team, who just managed to make it to the final podium of the season ahead of the English, French and American teams.
However, according to some observers, the gap tended to get smaller as the season went on: "Out on the water, the difference is not that big, and I think that the performance curve for the Australians and Japanese will gradually stabilise, while the others continue to improve, »  said Julien Di Biase, chief operating officer in the SailGP. That was confirmed by Philippe Presti: "The English sailors made a lot of progress, although did not manage to show that in the results, but they are quite close to us. In San Francisco, we got through to the final by just a point and in Cowes, they won the three training races. The Chinese have also made progress with changes to their crew. A wing trimmer with experience of the Cup joined them and you could immediately see the difference with their results." For Bruno Dubois, "The English and American teams made a lot of progress early on, while we reorganised our crew, and later in the season, we managed to have a set of dry laps and we were making fewer mistakes. So we won a race with six boats cleanly."
What can be done to narrow the gap between the two groups in 2020? "We are going to have to deal with that, as otherwise the competition will not last. We’ll be giving more time to train to the teams other than the Japanese and Australians," replied Julien Di Biase. That already happened this year, as Tiphaine Turluche, who is now team manager for the French team explains: "We had an extra day in New York, four in Cowes, two in Marseille, and we should be getting a few weeks of training in New Zealand in January."
Judging the organisation: events which attract the public, but partners need to be found
Julien Di Biase admits that as they tackled the first season of the SailGP, the organisers were going into the unknown, in particular concerning the reaction of the public for this circuit set up by Larry Ellison/Russell Coutts. How big were the crowds? "On average we had between 20,000 and 40,000 spectators, and in terms of ticket sales, between 500 and 2000 tickets a day. We didn’t want to get too ambitious, so we attempted to see the reaction from the market and adjust the offer to try to fill the sites. The goal for this first season wasn’t to achieve high volumes."
As for the final leg of the season in Marseille, Stéphanie Nadin, the event director, talks about "16,000 people over the three days and around 4500 places sold," with the offer being gradually adjusted. That was confirmed by Yannick Perrigot, head of the Disobey agency, who was in charge of promoting the event: "We talked a lot with the organisers and tried to make them understand that Marseille isn’t like Cannes or Saint-Tropez, and that we needed perhaps to cut the services to make it more popular and affordable. That’s why we ended up with tickets costing 25 euros."

How much did the SailGP event cost? "4 million dollars" (3.65 million euros), replied Julien Di Biase, funded entirely by SailGP.  With six teams to fund (5 million dollars per team) and events to organise, the SailGP circuit thus costs Larry Ellison 50 million dollars a year. But ultimately, the goal is for drastic cuts in the investment, which is why they are looking for partners to support the circuit. Rolex, "for several million euros", according to Julien Di Biase, was the first to sign up, followed by Land Rover and Oracle, Larry Ellison’s company. Ultimately, the six teams are going to have to find their own partners. How far have they got at the end of this first season? None of the teams has so far attracted partners other than suppliers.
The clock is ticking. If SailGP initially talked about a guarantee for five years, that no longer appears to be the case: "The pressure is on for the teams to find commercial partners quickly. It’s more than a goal; it’s something that is going to be a requirement. Those who can’t find the finding will disappear. Larry Ellison is a fan of sailing, but he hasn’t just set up SailGP for his own pleasure and he hopes that the circuit will stand on its own two feet," confirmed Julien Di Biase. How much patience does the billionaire have? "Teams that have not found a partner by the end of next season will find it tough," he replied.
2020:  a new team and a leg in China?
The 2020 season will once again start in late February in Sydney. The other legs are to be announced shortly. "Ideally, we’ll be attempting to return to the same towns to build on the experience of this year and we’ll add China to that," explained Julien Di Biase. That was confirmed by Bruno Dubois, team manager for the Chiense team: "We are currently working on organising a leg, but for the moment, we don’t know where." Marseille is likely to host a leg again: "Everything is looking good and the City is keen, with all lights on green,” commented Stéphanie Nadin.

Another new venue next year could be Scandinavia, as there is the possibility of a seventh team from Sweden or Denmark according to our latest information, as a seventh F50 is being built at Core Builders in New Zealand. "Talks are ongoing, but nothing has so far been signed,” commented Julien Di Biase. “We’ll only include a new team if it is self-financed." That means any new arrivals must find their own funding, with the goal being to have one new team and venue each year. "This year was the first step, but there is a long way to go. Our vision is to have ten teams and ten events. We want to make this the Formula E of the seas, but we’re not there yet," concluded Julien Di Biase.

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Super Anarchist
Awesome dude!  I'm still pumped for this.

Located my Silver Card and the boyz are training as we speak.

Stll looking for;

  1. Entry Forms/online registration
  2. Notice of Race

Every WS event has them right?

Oh yeah, how much does it cost to enter?


This is a great interview with RC. Provides some good insight and perspective on what's next... trying to make its mark in the sports consciousness so people pay attention to sailing more than every few years when the America’s Cup is contested.
Hear, hear.

What has worked for SailGP in its first year?

All six teams have tracked under budget. We’ve found the right formula to manage the costs. The budgets are $5 million, and we added $2 million to allow for an upgrade to the boats.
Lots more there. Check it.

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And here is another that makes one of the most important points of all...

SailGP, Making Sailing Cool

This latest pro-sailing circuit, wrapping up its first year, had its growing pains, but the kids liked it.
And this from RC...

“We’ve channeled ourselves into this windward-leeward mentality,” Coutts added. “We’re killing ourselves with a formula where the same kids are always at the top and others come off the water disillusioned. Why send kids on a 20-minute beat to weather when two-thirds of them are the wrong size for the boat? A couple of kids will thrive, but we shouldn’t structure everything around those kids. In our program, we take young sailors out in big winds because going fast is a thrill. We have reaching starts. We mix things up and run different formats, like distance races that are mostly downwind.
Good thinking.

Good article on Emily Nagel and her arc into 2020. Good to see her determination paying off...

The dust has hardly settled upon the inaugural SailGP global series, but Emily Nagel can hardly wait for the next campaign to commence early in the new year.

The Bermuda sailor performed her duties as a performance data analyst for Great Britain SailGP Team at all but one of the five-race series and loved each and every moment of what she termed as an “epic rollercoaster ride”.

“Back in February, I booked a flight to the other side of the world and through the kindness of both old friends and strangers was able to intern for the first event of SailGP in Sydney,” Nagel wrote on the social media network instagram.

“After that, I was lucky enough to secure a spot with SailGP GBR as resident boat nerd and since then it has been eight months of an epic rollercoaster ride visiting some awesome venues and watching the boys improve event to event.”

Nagel was initially denied the opportunity of being involved in the new global series.

However, rather than give up hope, she volunteered her services as a performance data analyst for the series-opening regatta in Sydney, Australia which ultimately led to a role serving in the same capacity with Great Britain SailGP Team.

If you've not listened to the RC interview podcast above, you should if you're interested in his vision for SailGP. The heart of it starts at about 40:00 with this question from Shirley:

Shirley: "You had an incredible vision, as we're seeing now, to carry the sport on, and it was an amazing spectacle in Bermuda...but I guess in the end, there was something you're not very familiar with - and that was losing. How hard was that loss in Bermuda to you?"

RC: Actually, not that significant at all. I was disappointed for the guys that put all that work in. But the biggest disappointment for me is that the racing wasn't very close. It wasn't as good as - you didn't have as many lead changes as you did in the SF race. So you saw one boat with a technology advantage in Bermuda - and the races were 3 minutes apart. We were saying, 'Getting beaten is one thing - but the racing just didn't look that good'.

It's really what drove us to, 'Hey, we need a solution where...keep evolving the technology, but we make it such that the teams are getting access to equal technology. So we're not going to stand still with technology, but make it such that the technology doesn't compromise the quality of the racing product."
This is really a critical point. And you can see it clearly playing out both in SailGP and what's going on in the AC right now. SailGP is racing first, technology second. AC right now is the inverse of that.

Another great point he makes is that elite sailing has always lost its biggest brands as the AC comes and goes. There's just not been any continuity for sailors to aspire to and grow into. And that's what the national push in SailGP is all about. Allowing these countries to build sustainable sailing brands that are always there - like professional sports teams.

It's great interview. And the most impressive thing is that he doesn't whinge. Are we sure he's a Kiwi? Heh.

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Takes from last season continue to trickle in. This from SportsBusiness underscores the large audience available via social media...again pushing live broadcast tv to the edges...

Video production company Grabyo has stated that social media platforms remain the best medium for events such as SailGP to grow and educate audiences after detailing the success of its partnership with the fledgling sailing series.

SailGP’s debut season ended in Marseile, France last month and it said it was able to capture “vast social audiences” during the finale by delivering real-time highlights to social media using Grabyo.

As the final race unfolded, Grabyo’s cloud video platform enabled SailGP to clip, edit and deliver social videos and highlights to Facebook and Twitter in real-time. SailGP’s digital team were also able to create and share social videos that explained and explored the technology of the fleet of six F50 catamarans.

Aaron Duckmanton, Grabyo head of marketing, said: “The final race day of SailGP’s brilliant first season is a perfect example of why sporting leagues need to ensure they can easily deliver content to fans worldwide in real-time.

“Sport is unpredictable, and nobody wants to miss a moment of the action – social platforms still represent the best platform for sports like SailGP to grow and educate audiences.”

Tim Godfrey, SailGP’s chief marketing officer, added: “It was vital to us to be able to share the drama and excitement of SailGP with people all over the world, and Grabyo enabled us to do so live, allowing fans to feel like they were there.”



Super Anarchist
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Makes sense that Draper, as CEO, should focus on the sponsorship. It will be interesting to see how moves into that role for the other teams - and how it happens. It's got to happen - and it's actually a huge opportunity for guys like Draper to parlay their sailing success into business success. In my opinion, that's yet another unique aspect of SailGP and the opportunities it's opening up for a much broader swath of sailors.

All good.