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Bermuda to remain SailGP host despite Covid-19 spike

Cautious approach: SailGP officials have hinted restrictions may have to be implemented for the event in Bermuda because of the recent rise in Covid cases (Photograph by Bob Martin/SailGP)

SailGP officials are keeping close tabs on the recent dramatic spike in active Covid-19 cases on island in preparation for the second season opener in April.

It was announced last month that the global sailing series will make its debut here when the island hosts the inaugural Bermuda Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess & Beach Club next spring.

At the time, Sir Russell Coutts, the SailGP chief executive and multiple King Edward VII Gold Cup winner, hailed Bermuda as the “ideal location” and a “haven” for the championship to safely resume their schedule amid the pandemic.

But since then the number of active Covid-19 cases have shot up considerably, prompting SailGP officials to implement several contingency plans to cope with the situation.

“As with all of our venues for next year, we will be closely monitoring the situation as it relates to the pandemic, and will have a number of contingency plans in place,” a SailGP spokesperson told The Royal Gazette.

“We’ve developed a comprehensive Covid-Safe Plan in consultation with leading medical, risk and international event experts, which prioritises the health and safety of our athletes, staff, fans and the local communities where our events are held.

“At this stage we are not considering any other venues.”

The Bermuda Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess will be held on April 24 and 25, with racing to take place in the Great Sound.SailGP will also work closely with Bermuda on the common goal of diverse and meaningful social impact, with clear engagement points across the community, including through SailGP Inspire.The 2020 SailGP Championship was due to commence in Sydney in February, but was postponed because of Covid-19.

San Francisco and New York were then initially set to host the first events after SailGP’s season two postponement before Bermuda got the nod.

The inaugural Bermuda Grand Prix will set the stage for an expanded season that is planned to feature nine events.

After the league’s restart in Bermuda, SailGP will shift to Europe for a series of five grand-prix events, beginning in the city of Taranto in Italy.

Great Britain Grand Prix Plymouth will then take place on July 17 and 18, followed by Rockwool Denmark Grand Prix Aarhus on August 20 and 21. Two additional European host cities as well as the rest of the season schedule will be confirmed at a later date.

SailGP, co-founded by software billionaire Larry Ellison, involves eight national teams boasting 18 sailors with Olympic medals.

Each grand-prix event includes two competition days, featuring five fleet races leading to a final match race between the two leaders. Points are accumulated at each event throughout the season, culminating in a $1 million winner-takes-all championship race at the Grand Final.

Australia SailGP, helmed by Olympic champion Tom Slingsby, were the inaugural winners.

The championship is contested in the same wing-sailed foiling catamarans designed for and raced at the 35th America’s Cup, which Bermuda also hosted in 2017.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Spithill will also be making a return to Bermuda after signing on to become CEO and helm of the United States SailGP Team.

Rome Kirby, who previously led the team from inception as helm, will shift to the flight controller position, making the US the only team to have a former F50 helm flying the boat. Spithill is widely regarded as one of the sport’s top athletes, having spent the last two decades competing in the America’s Cup.

He served as skipper of Oracle Team USA for more than ten years, during which time he delivered two America’s Cup wins.

The addition of Spithill will see him renew rivalries in Bermuda with a host of other 35th America’s Cup competitors including Nathan Outteridge, Sir Ben Ainslie, Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and his former team-mate Slingsby.

“It’s going to be awesome, the rivalries in a whole lot of different ways, and just knowing how competitive a lot of these individuals are and what’s at stake,” he said. “I just can’t wait for that first event in Bermuda.”

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Published December 10, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 11, 2020 at 10:32 am)

Bermuda to remain SailGP host despite Covid-19 spike

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