SailGP's high-speed 50-foot flying catamarans will return to Sydney Harbour in December, nearly two years after their first appearance Down Under.
Organizers on Thursday said the Australia Sail Grand Prix would be the ninth event in the global championship’s second-season calendar. The race will be held on Sydney Harbour on Dec. 17-18 after the European stage of season 2 takes place in Italy, Britain, Denmark, France and Spain.
The 2020 race in Australia was voided because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The British entry skippered by four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie won what was at that time the opening regatta of season 2 in February 2020. But the result was voided when the season was delayed.
Tom Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former America's Cup winner, and his Australia crew won the $1 million, winner-take-all title in 2019.
Sydney wasn’t originally on the 2021 schedule because of Australia’s strict quarantine rules and general ban on international visitors during the pandemic, but local organizers have worked with governments to ensure the event can go ahead under tight controls.
After Sydney, SailGP will head to New Zealand in January 2022, followed by San Francisco, which will host the Grand Final on March 26-27, where the champion of season 2 will be determined in another single $1 million winner-takes-all final.
With international visitors still mostly banned from entering Australia, Sydney organizers said the Sydney event would “adhere to government guidelines and SailGP’s own COVID-Safe plan."
There'll be regular COVID-19 testing, and a reduced number of people at the event.
“All of SailGP’s athletes that have been competing so far for season 2, that have returned to Australia, have quarantined in line with, and adhering to, the government’s guidelines," organizers said in a statement to The Associated Press.
Joining Australia and Slingsby in the series are seven other teams from Denmark, France, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.
“Having eight F50’s lined up and racing on Sydney Harbour is going to be a pretty spectacular sight for fans and with the caliber of sailors we have on these boats this year, we can expect action-packed racing," Slingsby said in a statement.
“We lost to Ben Ainslie’s British team at last year’s Sydney event so we are focused on getting revenge and winning the event for Australia in front of a home crowd.”
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this story.
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