(Reuters) – SailGP’s four remaining second season races have been rescheduled to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and results from the first race have been declared null and void, the sailing championship said on Monday.
The championship was suspended after the first race in Sydney in February, which was won by a British team led by four-times Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie.
“This terrible pandemic has led to the tragic and ongoing loss of hundreds of thousands of lives,” SailGP CEO Russell Coutts said in a statement.
“Our focus must necessarily shift to returning at a time when our events do not present undue internal or external risk.”
SailGP was set up in 2018 by Oracle founder Larry Ellison and America’s Cup veteran Russell Coutts, and culminates in a winner-takes-all $1 million prize.
The championship has been billed as sailing’s equivalent of Formula One, and uses an updated version of the catamarans which featured in the last America’s Cup in 2017 and have hit speeds of 50 knots (93 kph).
The rescheduled second season has been expanded to a minimum of seven events from the current five and will run from April next year to the early months of 2022.
Ainslie said the pandemic, which has infected more than 3.5 million people and killed almost 250,000, was a huge challenge for the entire world.
“Of course, it’s tough not to be out on the water,” he added. “Racing these boats is a privilege, and I know we’ll have that moment again. In the meantime, I’ll be looking to find ways to be even better when we are up and racing again next year.”
SailGP also said Coutts had temporarily forfeited his salary and it had “tapered” its workforce, with its remaining employees voluntarily taking salary cuts through the end of the year.
“Contracted athletes are being compensated for more than 50% of the planned season activity,” SailGP added.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)