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Sir Russell Coutts believes even a disrupted SailGP can be worth $10m to island

Sir Russell Coutts, the SailGP chief executive

The organisers of the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess estimate the sailing spectacle showcasing elite sailors in the cutting edge F50 will generate as much as $10 million for the island’s economy despite the loss of revenue owing to Covid-19 restrictions.

SailGP, whose auspices the event falls under, scrapped plans to have as many as 650 spectators view the event live at its racing facility at Cross Island as well as on ticketed charter boats.

However, Sir Russell Coutts, the SailGP chief executive, said he expects the event will still generate anywhere from $5 million to $10 million for the local economy in spite of these setbacks.

“Obviously that’s [estimate] been modified because of the restrictions that we’re under and people unable to travel to the island to watch it,” he told The Royal Gazette. “But regardless of that, I know that the economic impact will certainly be five to ten million dollars.

“Typically our events exceed $20 million and I think they average around $23 million in economic return. But clearly we’re not going to have that sort of return in this Covid rich environment, so let’s call it $5 million to $10 million.”

The inaugural event, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, will launch the start of SailGP Season 2, which was delayed because of the pandemic. It will be broadcast live in the United States and Canada on CBS Sports and in Britain on Sky Sports, with added exposure in 175 countries.

“We are broadcasting in 175 different territories so I think that there would be great images coming from Bermuda showcasing racing,” Coutts added.

“Everyone knows that this is a fantastic venue and just the images going out to various other markets effectively showing that Bermuda is open, I think, is a great message to get out there as well.

“Clearly all the best sailors are here and the sailing world and sports fans are really switched on. There’s a lot of interest in it.”

While organisers have scrapped plans for ticketed charter boats for spectators, Coutts, a seven-times King Edward VII Gold Cup winner, still hopes to see spectators out on the racecourse.

“I’m hoping that we will be to have at least on-the-water spectators, even if there is limitations in the boat and so forth,” he said.

“But even if we can’t do that, in terms of the television delivery, it’s still going to be a spectacular race in a spectacular, natural environment. So from that point of view, I don’t think the racing itself is going to be compromised, but clearly it would be awesome if we can get fans out on the water to see it.

“Then in terms of the inshore facilities, we’re clearly not going to be able to have bleachers seating or anything like that.

“It will still be pretty easily viewed from the shore, but no doubt the Government will have rules around how many people can congregate in one area.”

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Published April 19, 2021 at 9:01 am (Updated April 19, 2021 at 9:39 am)

Sir Russell Coutts believes even a disrupted SailGP can be worth $10m to island

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