The waiting and speculation is over as America's Cup veterans unveil their plans for a World Racing League 9/2/07
A fleet of 70ft catamarans will form the basis of a brand new international sailing event which will begin in 2009. At a press conference in Lisbon, Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard announced their collaboration with Portuguese sports promoter, João Lagos, to create the new annual global sports series which will be held at premier sailing locations around the world with the series winner receiving a cheque for $2 million.
Twelve teams, representing nations, will compete in identical, state-of-the-art 70ft catamarans. It is anticipated that there will be venues in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North America and South America. Cayard and Coutts are both committed to skipper teams in the league.
The World Sailing League will use a fleet racing format although a number of other innovative concepts such as time trials and slalom racing will be tested using the prototype yacht. It will also have a customised support ship to transport the boats and equipment to each venue. The ship will be akin to a transportable pit lane, with all the technology required to maintain the 70′ catamarans.
The design of the boats will be finalised by early summer of this year with the first prototype being launched in the latter half of 2007 to allow sufficient testing and refinement. The 14 one-design yachts will start being built in 2008, ready for the launch of the series during 2009.
The new boats have been designed by a team including Marc Van Peteghem and Lauriot Prévost and are at the forefront of technology. The 70ft catamarans will combine speed, maneuverability and the ability to sail close to shore for optimum spectator viewing.
João Lagos, whose company, Lagos Sports, runs prestigious international golf, cycling, tennis and motor racing events, commented: “I immediately recognised the potential of the World Sailing League and am excited about the opportunity to raise the profile of sailing here in Portugal through this international sporting event. There is also the possibility of a Portuguese venue and team, but this is yet to be confirmed.
“From the results of our detailed due diligence and conversations with potential venues, skippers and sponsors, I can confirm that the level of support for this new and innovative concept has been remarkable and we are delighted to be involved.”
Russell Coutts outlined why João Lagos is the ideal partner for WSL: “We have been planning this for a long time and were looking for an organisation that would share our vision for the World Sailing League. In João Lagos we have an entrepreneurial figure with the foresight to see the potential of these events, coupled the expertise and credibility to bring the concept to life. Our partnership with Lagos Sports, a leading event promoter allows us to make this announcement today.”
Cayard added, “Russell, João Lagos and I are pooling our experiences from the America’s Cup, the Olympic Games and a multitude of other sporting competitions. We have taken the best ideas from sports events all over the world – and added innovative concepts – to generate an exciting new series that will maximise the appeal to sailors, sponsors and spectators. For a venture like this, it was also important that ISAF support the concept and they have confirmed they are fully behind us.”
Yachting World’s Racing and technical editor Matthew Sheahan was at the announcement and spoke to Cayard and Coutts in more detail about their plans for the new event. Watch out for his story coming shortly on yachtingworld.com as well as the April issue of Yachting World on sale early March.