Canada SailGP team owner Fred Pye looking forward to Bermuda ‘homecoming’
Fred Pye, the Team Canada owner, is counting the days before the expansion franchise makes its debut in the SailGP global sailing league in Bermuda’s Great Sound in May.
The lifelong sailor and tech entrepreneur can hardly wait to see his vision of a Canadian team competing against other nations in a sailing regatta come to fruition and he believes they will have the firm backing of the local sailing community to spur them around the racecourse.
“We think we are going to have huge local support,” Pye told The Royal Gazette.
“We expect that there’s going to be a lot of Canadian flags around the racecourse and on Front Street come SailGP.
“This is the Bermuda event but Canada and Bermuda are very close in business, and in many different things, so we want to adopt this Bermuda race as our homecoming.
“We’ll call it the Canadian coming out party when we come to Bermuda in May.”
The Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess will return to the Great Sound on May 14 and 15.
Great Britain SailGP, led by multiple Bermuda Gold Cup winner Sir Ben Ainslie, are the defending champions.
Businessman Pye purchased Team Canada last year, and since then has been busy assembling the team from the ground up ahead of SailGP’s Season 3 opener.
“It’s been certainly a whirlwind introduction because we purchased the team in the Fall and the first thing we had to figure out is do we have enough time to build a boat for Season 3,” he added.
“The boat went into production right away and looks like we’ll be borrowing another boat for race 1 and 2 for Season 3.
“We hope to have the new, freshly designed and fresh boat built and delivered to the UK for race 3, so that’s been very exciting.”
Jean-Sébastien Chénier Proteau has been appointed as the team’s chief executive, while multiple world champion and Bermuda Gold Cup campaigner Phil Robertson will steer their wing-sailed foiling F50 catamaran.
“I can’t be more excited about the Canadian team that we are building,” Pye said. “I met Phil Robertson at the first race I went to in the UK and I connected with him almost immediately. I love his youthfulness, his spirit, his competitiveness.
“I’m always continually impressed with his knowledge, his understanding. He calculates everything, nothing is left for chance with Phil.
“Signing Phil was very important and since then we’ve seen Canadians from all over the world applying for positions on our boat.
“Phil says we will be able to field a world-class team in year one right out of the gate.”
The rest of the team will be announced in the lead up to the Season 3 opener in Bermuda.
“It will be the majority Canadian,” Pye added.
“The selection is very tough and when they get announced a lot of people will be very pleased and very surprised to see the kind of team that we put together.“
For the past several months team members have been training virtually with simulators and also on the water in Portugal.
“There are F50 simulators so we have rented out the simulators in Ireland a number of times,” Pye said.
“The team is actually in the simulator right now.
“We have also purchased a GC32, which is a 32-foot foiling catamaran, from a UK team and flew it to Portugal where we have been training for the last few months.
“We don’t have a permanent home yet for our training team. Unless we put skates on the boat we won’t be training in Canada during the winters.
“Between Bermuda and some other potential Caribbean islands, I think there’s a great opportunity for us to bring training closer to home, and that’s what we’d like to see.
“We will be coming here a few weeks before the event and training on the F50s with our team.
“We won’t have made the final team selection up until the race.”So what inspired Pye to become involved in SailGP?
“I have been a sailor since I was a child and when I saw the opportunity as a businessman, I looked at it from a business angle and it was an extraordinary opportunity for somebody who is passionate and understanding about sailing,” he explained.
Pye fully embraces SailGP’s vision of sustainability, inclusion and diversity.
“As I get into my retirement years, I look at what’s important to me,” he added.
“The message of sustainability, of inclusion, of diversity, of teaching children how to sail and getting them back on the water, and the excitement and entertainment that’s generated by SailGP.
“I don’t think the world has started to understand or appreciate the power of the sport that we have and the future vision that Larry Ellison [SailGP majority owner] had.
“I shared his vision and the fact that he took all the risks and built this.”
He is also particularly excited over SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Programme designed to create a more inclusive championship. Perhaps above all, Pye is driven by a burning desire to have Canadian sailors competing together under one banner.
“I wanted Canada to get back to the world stage of sailing,” he said.
“We have great Olympians, we have great world-class sailors all over the world, and now it’s important to bring them back to Canada and represent our country.
“And I think the concept of country against country is an amazing concept when it comes to this high-speed racing.”
Asked is he looking forward to hopping a ride on the high-speed F50, the Canadian chuckled: “I am excited to get my first ride on an F50, and most likely it will be on a very calm day.”