The awesome Sail Grand Prix (SailGP) is returning to the shores of Plymouth once again this summer on 30th and 31st July. It’s a thrilling sailing event where you can expect to see elite athletes on cutting edge wing-sail catamarans competing in exciting close-to-shore races. 


If you’re new to the world of SailGP here’s our beginners guide to understand everything you need to know…


What is SailGP?

SailGP is an internationally acclaimed yacht racing league for professional teams racing equalised ultra-high performance 50ft catamarans. Events take place over two days, with six races scheduled for each Sail Grand Prix, five fleet races and The Final. 

It is the ultimate adrenaline-fuelled race consisting of eight teams in eight events all in equal boats - the teams go head-to-head in iconic venues all over the world to win the $1 million prize!


What boats are in SailGP?


All the eight teams in SailGP race F50 Catamarans. The official event website describes these as “a revolutionary concept in sail racing that is the culmination of 10 years of development in high-performance, foiling, multihull racing. 


[The F50] was created as a one-design class to provide each of SailGP’s eight national teams with equal cutting-edge technology, leaving the race results directly in the hands of the world-class athletes.”


Modifications can be made to the boats including:-


- Revolutionary modular wingsail system allowing them to range from 18-24 metres (new wingsail tech enables boats to compete in wider range of weather and vital weight savings provides additional performance gains).

- Foils constructed with higher modulus carbon fibre.

- Geometry modified to promote more righting moment, increase boat speed prior to cavitation.

- Lower section of rudders manufactured in high-strength stainless steel to reduce drag.


How does the SailGP Race Course work?


The SailGP Championship is made up of eight events including multiple races, it takes place all over the world through-out the season in iconic venues facing all types of weather conditions. 


The racecourse is always changing, sometimes many times at the same event if the conditions dictate. The length and position of the course can always be changed depending on the weather during the event, this can seem confusing, but the basics of the racecourse remain the same regardless of the actual layout of the course. 


Racing is on windward (upward) and leeward (downwind) courses, with the final course to be decided by the race committee no later than five minutes before the starting signal. In the windward/leeward configuration, one mark is placed directly upwind from the centre of the start line and the second mark is placed directly downwind from the first mark. 


One of the most exhilarating parts of the SailGP race is right at the start, as the first leg takes the boats on one of the fastest points in sailing, a reach to the first mark, or the speed mark. 


From here, the boats begin heading to the leeward gate at the bottom of the course, once a boat has passed through, it starts heading upwind to the windward gate at the top of the course. The boats repeat the journey to the leeward gate once they have gone through the windward gate, then continue racing the course until the designated number of laps have been completed.


How does the SailGP race start?


There is no standing start in SailGP, all races begin with the entire fleet moving, various signals are communicated to the boats during the start, with the entire fleet needing to be inside the starting area at a set time. 


The fleet then starts moving towards the start line as the clock counts down to the start signal. Boats can cross the start line any time after the start signal has sounded to begin to reach the first mark, if a boat has crossed the start line before the start signal it is declared OCS (on course side) and penalised.



SailGP Fleet Races


The five fleet races include all eight teams, with points given to each team depending on their finishing position, SailGP fleet races last approximately 15 minutes each. A leaderboard is produced after each separate race to determine the event rankings, based upon how many points each team has been awarded in every race.


What happens in the final race of SailGP?


The last race of each SailGP event is ‘The Final’ - this is a race where the three highest ranked teams in the event leaderboard compete for the event champion crown. If there is a tie to qualify for The Final, the boats will be ranked in order of their finishing places in the most recent race. 


The final race at the last event of the season is the ‘Grand Final’ - this is a final race in which the highest ranked teams of the season leaderboard go head-to-head to be crowned SailGP champions and win the $1 million prize!


If you’re thinking of heading down to Plymouth this July to watch this spectacular water event find more information on tickets and experience packages here