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Sailing - 07 Oct 2021
The Great Britain team that competes in sailing's SailGP, led by successful Olympian and America’s Cup winner Ben Ainslie, has become the first from the international series to take ownership of its franchise.
The purchase of the Great Britain SailGP Team sees Ainslie take up an option agreed with SailGP founders Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison when he entered the series for Season 2 (2021-22) that stipulated he could take ownership of the team if its running costs and liabilities were covered in full.
This has been achieved through an investment from Chris Bake, founder of energy and commodities trader Vitol Dubai.
Ainslie and Bake take full ownership of the Great Britain SailGP Team, while Ellison’s Oracle Racing yachting syndicate retains a minority stake.
Bake will work with the team on “biofuel solutions to support the transition for the league and teams logistics, operations and broadcast.”
The decision to make the purchase was based on what Ainslie and Bake are said to have seen as “the greater commercial opportunities” of owning the team, with them viewing it as “a unique offering to take to the market and attract partners who share similar values and are looking to activate their brand and message.”
Ainslie said: “When I was first invited to lead the Great Britain SailGP Team by Russell Coutts, I was immediately impressed by Russell’s and Ellison’s vision of a global sport and sustainable racing circuit which could really elevate the profile of sailing and provide continuity, which I have always been very much aligned to. I am delighted to have exercised the option together with Chris.
“With new teams, owners and partners coming into SailGP the league is in a very exciting commercial space right now. SailGP has the commitment from Larry Ellison to take sailing where it has never been before. We look forward to welcoming new like-minded partners to the GB team who share our ethos and our drive to push forward positive change.”
Coutts added: “SailGP continues to go from strength to strength and this is another fantastic milestone on our journey to having a fully sustainable and commercially viable league.
“This new financial agreement for the British team – along with the announcement of our ninth team and the completion of a second further franchise transaction for the tenth team for Season 3 – continues to give us confidence that our commercially viable model is rapidly growing and can pave a successful and sustainable, year-round, pathway for our global league.”
Ainslie and Bake’s purchase of the team follows news that two additional new third-party-owned franchises, one of which has been confirmed as a Swiss outfit, will be joining the league for Season 3, which is due to start in May 2022.
The final SailGP event of the European leg of this season will be held in Cádiz, Spain, this weekend (9-10 October).
Elsewhere, women will race with men in the SailGP series for the first time this weekend through the addition of an extra crew position aboard its F50 catamarans.
The league’s Women’s Pathway Program was introduced at the start of season 2 to better promote inclusion and the new six-crew configuration is an output of that scheme.
Hannah Mills, of Great Britain SailGP Team and the world’s most successful female Olympic sailor, said: “I’m incredibly excited to be racing this weekend, it's a really great step forward for the female athletes to be in the thick of it, witnessing it all, getting in and helping wherever we can – tactics, strategy, and communications – I am really excited for that. The adrenaline rush is going to be massive, it already is when we do the practice racing.
“It's also awesome for SailGP to have a strong vision and commitment going forward for the future of women's involvement in the league, it’s very exciting and I can't wait to figure out how we can make it all happen, how we can make it a success and how I can help drive it forward.”
Coutts added: “It is our responsibility as a global league to ensure we create a culture and sporting championship that has gender equity. It is no secret that there is currently an experience gap among women at the top of the sport and so far this season we have embedded female athletes in each of our teams to gain vital experience. But, we recognize we have to go further to close the gap and work quicker to accelerate change, which is why we are taking this next step. It is imperative to break existing boundaries and create a more inclusive environment.”