By the end of its fourth season in late 2023, SailGP, the global league co-founded by software tycoon Larry Ellison, might feature a team owned and run by cryptocurrency fans.
SailGP and blockchain development platform NEAR launched a multi-year agreement that will allow sailing and cryptocurrency enthusiasts to interact with their favorite teams and players in unprecedented ways.
Most of the world’s best sailors compete in SailGP, including America’s Cup winners and Olympic gold medalists, riding 50-foot catamarans with wings that can achieve 60 mph while skimming over the waves on hydrofoils. For its third season, SailGP will grow from eight to ten national teams.
While the agreement with NEAR is planned to provide several benefits for fans, including NFTs, the highlight would be the ownership of a sailing team by a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization, consisting of token holders.
According to SailGP co-founder Russell Coutts and NEAR Foundation CEO Marieke Flament, the SailGP DAO would be different from traditional sports team arrangements in which a single owner or a small group makes the decisions.
People from all over the world might participate in the DAO, which would vote on everything from the management structure to the length of the skipper’s contract, as well as whether or not a woman should steer the boat.
That’s in some ways why this is so exciting, Coutts said in a video interview. This is groundbreaking technology, a groundbreaking initiative. We don’t believe it’s been done before, especially on this scale. And when you think about it, with our events being all over the world, as well, we’re not just in one particular territory. That’s of interest as well.
Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner from New Zealand, believes a DAO would attract more than just sailors.
I think sports fans, racing fans, businesspeople, tech people … you can imagine this being a very diverse group of people and they would probably feed off each other’s skills, Coutts said. The whole concept of, ‘Hey, we’d like to have a say in what’s going on,’ that will appeal to a lot of people out there.
According to Coutts, a DAO must be profitable enough for SailGP to offer it a seat as a team operator.
After their two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA was routed by Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2017 America’s Cup, Coutts and Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle Corp., founded SailGP. They redesigned the 50-foot catamarans used in that event and established a yearly circuit featuring regattas all around the world.
Tom Slingsby, a former America’s Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, led Team Australia to the inaugural championship and a $1 million prize in 2019.
Slingsby and Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, a two-time America’s Cup winner, have qualified for the $1 million winner-take-all race, which will determine the Season 2 championship, which has been delayed due to the pandemic.
One reason for collaborating with NEAR, according to Coutts, is that it is carbon-neutral, which aligns with the league’s mission of being environmentally responsible.
We want to be leading in terms of tech, whether it’s our boats, our media, interactions with our fans, Coutts added. We want to be modern and leading. We want to be at the forefront not just what’s happening today, but we want to be looking at and leading what’s happening tomorrow.
Flament said NEAR was looking for a partner “who was willing to innovate, and when I look at SailGP and the amount of data and innovation and what’s being done with that, I think it’s amazing. There’s an openness to doing new things and trying new things.”