LONDON (Reuters) – China has dropped out of the 2020 series of SailGP, its organizers said on Tuesday, with Spain stepping aboard their vacant F50 foiling catamaran to race for a $1 million prize.
“We were unfortunately not granted the permissions necessary to continue operating the team within our existing structure,” SailGP CEO Russell Coutts said in a statement detailing the change in line-up for the 2020 circuit.
SailGP said last week that Denmark would compete in its second series, bringing the total number of entries to seven. China finished third in the competition’s inaugural series in 2019, with Australia narrowly clinching victory over Japan.
China has been raising its profile in global sailing and last week America’s Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand announced a revamped Youth America’s Cup, with the backing of China Sports Industry Group (CSIG), in foiling monohulls.
“SailGP remains interested in continuing to support both a Chinese team and the development of a sailing academy in China as planned if a future agreement can be reached,” added Coutts, who launched SailGP in 2018 with financial backing from Oracle’s billionaire founder Larry Ellison.
SailGP’s second season begins in February in Sydney, where Spain SailGP Team will begin its campaign against Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States.
The SailGP catamarans, which lift up above the water on hydrofoils, are an updated version of those used in the America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017 and in their first season hit speeds of 50 knots (93 kms per hour).
SailGP did not say what would happen to members of the Chinese team, which included Chinese Ocean Race veteran Liu Xue alongside New Zealand helmsman Phil Robertson and Britain’s Paul Campbell-James, although it said it was looking forward to continuing to work with some of them.
Spain SailGP Team’s line-up will be announced in Madrid in January after undergoing training in New Zealand, it added.
(Editing by Christian Radnedge)