By BERNIE WILSON | AP Sports Writer
The Chicago regatta, to be held off Navy Pier on Lake Michigan, is set for June 18-19. It follows the season opener in Bermuda on May 14-15. SailGP will visit the Middle East for the first time for the Sail Grand Prix Dubai on Nov. 11-12.
SailGP, which is contested in foiling 50-foot catamarans that reach the equivalent of highway speeds, announced eight of its 10 stops on Tuesday. Co-founder Russell Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner, said the league is in negotiations with three venues for the final two regattas. Those cities include San Francisco, Sydney and an undisclosed port in Asia.
There are two regattas left in the second season, next week in Sydney and March 26-27 in San Francisco, which will include the $1 million, winner-take-all final podium race.
U.S. skipper Jimmy Spithill was with America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA when a preliminary regatta was held off Navy Pier in 2016. He said the SailGP F-50s are faster than the America’s Cup catamarans used back then and should put on a good show racing on Chicago Harbor.
“Mate, it was epic, that one,” said Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup champion and a SailGP newcomer this season. “You’ve just got an awesome location because you can race inside that breakwall area, right off Navy Pier. From a spectator point of view it’s awesome. The other thing is there were boats everywhere, lots of spectators. I had no idea that many people in Chicago had boats."
The rest of the Season 3 schedule after Bermuda and Chicago includes Plymouth, England, July 30-31; Copenhagen, Denmark, Aug. 19-20; Saint-Tropez, France, Sept. 10-11; Cádiz, Spain, Sept. 24-25; Dubai, Nov. 11-12; and Christchurch, New Zealand, sometime in early 2023.
New teams from Canada and Switzerland will join the current lineup that includes teams from Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and the United States.
SailGP has a four-year contract with New Zealand. The regatta will alternate between Christchurch and Auckland. A regatta scheduled for Christchurch during the current season was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
Christchurch was struck by a major earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 and injured thousands.
“It’s really good to be going back to Christchurch,” said Coutts, a New Zealander. “It’s taken them a long time to fully recover. This will be the first really big sports event they’ve had there in quite some time. It’s a really good opportunity to sort of do something positive for Christchurch.”
New Zealand’s SailGP is headed by two-time defending America’s Cup champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who have also won multiple Olympic medals.
SailGP includes most of the top skippers in the world. Defending champion Australia, skippered by former America’s Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Tom Slingsby, holds a one-point lead over Spithill’s U.S. team and the Japanese team skippered by Nathan Outteridge, an Olympic gold and silver medalist. Five points off the lead is the British team skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie, a former America’s Cup champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist.
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