Conservation win for Live Ocean and SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team has celebrated the signing of an historic agreement between the Governments of New Zealand and Spain to address the conservation emergency facing seabirds that migrate across international waters, including albatrosses and petrels. 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by New Zealand’s Ambassador to Spain Nigel Fyfe and Spanish Vice President Teresa Ribera in Madrid overnight signals prioritisation at the highest level by the two countries to reduce the number of threatened seabirds dying as a result of commercial fishing practices. 

Through its Race for the Future partnership with Live Ocean, the marine conservation organisation founded by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the New Zealand SailGP Team has actively used its platform to highlight the threats many seabirds face at sea, including New Zealand’s Antipodean albatross. 

New Zealand SailGP Team co-CEOs Burling and Tuke met with Ambassador Fyfe in Madrid in October ahead of the Spain Sail Grand Prix, as well as Spain’s Secretary of State for Sport José Manuel Franco. 

They discussed the transformational role sport can play in supporting environmental action, and gave their strong support for the planned cooperation between New Zealand and Spain for the protection of seabirds in the Southern Ocean. 

At the Spain Sail Grand Prix in Cádiz, the team displayed a graphic of the Antipodean albatross on its boat as a symbol of the team’s commitment to shining a spotlight on the plight of this great ocean voyager and working to stop their freefall to extinction. 

Burling and Tuke also shared their story of founding Live Ocean and their first project on racing to save the Antipodean albatross at SailGP’s Champions for Change forum in Cádiz, along with Ambassador Fyfe. 

SailGP and Live Ocean champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

The Antipodean albatross is New Zealand’s most threatened albatross with estimates of 2,300 lost each year. The number one threat to them is being accidentally caught by long-line fisheries. 

“We see the Antipodean albatross as a symbol for the crisis facing many of the world’s seabirds and the threats they face from longline fisheries. These incredible navigators are in a population freefall towards extinction and it’s excellent to see these two countries work together. Now the agreement is in place, it’s time for action,” says Burling.

The Ambassador for Spain Nigel Fyfe says it is a tangible commitment to ensure Spain’s fishing boats follow best practices to avoid capture of seabirds in the southern fisheries. “And our two countries will go out and work with other countries involved in that fishery to ensure those best practices are widely followed,” he says. “It wouldn’t have happened without the leadership and determination of Pete Burling and Blair Tuke who for the past two years have been championing the Antipodean albatross alongside the New Zealand scientists, agencies and communities committed to saving them from freefall to extinction.”

Now a signed MOU is in place, The New Zealand SailGP Team alongside Live Ocean is looking to the New Zealand government to scale up its commitment to action, including engaging with more nations where migratory birds travel including Taiwan, Australia, Japan and Pacific nations, and working with fishing fleets to actively encourage uptake of the bycatch measures. 

“Aotearoa New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world. If we don’t lead this, who will? It’s really encouraging to see New Zealand and Spain stepping up to this issue,” says Tuke. “These birds don’t understand national boundaries, the Antipodean albatross roams between New Zealand, Chile, Australia and the Pacific, so countries have to work together.” 

The albatross graphic will once again feature on the team’s F50 at the upcoming Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG in Sydney on December 17 (live on Sky Sport at 1800 NZT).

Liv Mackay of New Zealand SailGP Team at the wheel during a practice session ahead of Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG. 15 December 2021. Photo: Bob Martin for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

“At SailGP we believe sport has the power to change the world, and the New Zealand SailGP Team has demonstrated that by effecting real policy change to boost protection for threatened seabirds. Sustainability has been embedded with the team since day one through its partnership with Live Ocean, and it’s amazing to see them using their platform and ours to deliver real change for a better planet,” says SailGP director of purpose and impact Fiona Morgan.

The New Zealand SailGP Team races with purpose, supporting its Race for the Future charity partner Live Ocean. At the heart of the team is the mission of racing for a healthy ocean.

Sport for Climate Action Lead at UN Climate Change, Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu says the New Zealand SailGP Team has brought its commitment to the Sports for Climate Action Framework to life, raising awareness of the plight of the Antipodean albatross through the sport of sailing and using their voices for good. “Biodiversity underpins the health of our planet. Protecting and restoring our ecosystems and the life within them is critical to our response to a changing climate.”

SailGP and New Zealand Major Events have secured a four-year deal to bring adrenaline-filled racing to New Zealand shores. 

With support from the Major Events Fund, ChristchurchNZ and Auckland Unlimited, SailGP will host four world-class sailing events in New Zealand from 2023 – 2026, encompassing seasons three to six. The first New Zealand Sail Grand Prix will take place in Christchurch in 2023, before alternating between Auckland and Christchurch in subsequent seasons.

The exciting announcement comes after the inaugural event scheduled for January 2022 in Christchurch was forced to be cancelled due to COVID-19.   

SailGP Commercial Director and Head of Event Karl Budge says it has been fantastic working with New Zealand Major Events, ChristchurchNZ and Auckland Unlimited to bring SailGP to New Zealand. “While we were incredibly disappointed to be forced to cancel this season’s event in Christchurch, everyone was determined to ensure we wouldn’t miss out on future seasons and to establish a long-term future for SailGP in New Zealand,” says Budge. “New Zealand is a key market for SailGP and the New Zealand SailGP Team boasts some of the best sailing athletes in the world. This long-term commitment across different cities gives us a fantastic platform to engage with a wide number of New Zealanders and showcase exciting, inner-harbour racing.”

As a regular fixture on the sporting calendar from 2023, not only will Kiwis get to enjoy more of the sport they love, they’ll also witness local sailing legends in action. SailGP Season 3 marks the first time the New Zealand SailGP Team will be competing on home waters, headed up by Burling and Tuke. 

“There’s been a huge amount of hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes to bring SailGP to Aotearoa so we’re incredibly excited to get the opportunity to race on home waters. We’ve always had fantastic support from Kiwi fans, so bringing this exciting format of racing to both Christchurch and Auckland will be awesome.,” says Burling.

Tuke adds the team has really enjoyed stepping up as ocean champions as they’ve travelled around the world for SailGP Season 2. “These events at home in Aotearoa will be a fantastic opportunity to share the important message of ocean restoration and protection with Kiwis,” says Tuke.

While fans will be excited by the multi-city offering, the long-term commitment is expected to generate many other positive benefits for New Zealand’s economy and environment. Local events will help stimulate regional tourism, while the partnership will support SailGP’s sustainability ambitions and intention to boost the popularity and participation in sailing for all New Zealanders.

“The race series will bring significant economic benefits for New Zealand, and opportunities to celebrate our unique culture on the global stage,” says Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash.

“The stunning Whakaraupo Lyttelton Harbour in Ōtautahi Christchurch and the Hauraki Gulf in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland will allow us to showcase the racing up-close, and the events are also a brilliant opportunity to support our tourism industry,” says Nash. “SailGP has a strong environmental focus and its emphasis on diversity and inclusivity through its Women’s Pathway Program align strongly with Government priorities. We now look forward to working with organisers to finalise the contractual arrangements to bring these events to life.”

The announcement coincides with the release of SailGP’s Season 3 calendar. The future has never looked brighter for SailGP as it expands both its competitive roster and an enviable list of global event locations, whilst returning to some fan-favourite destinations that attracted thousands of fans in Season 2.  

Once again bringing the sport’s best roster of athletes together, the global championship welcomes two new franchise teams for its third season, with Canada and Switzerland set to expand SailGP’s reach to new audiences. They join teams from Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.

SailGP Season 3 has been expanded to include ten events, with seven grand prix taking place in 2022 and the remainder in the first quarter of 2023, with the season expected to finish in April.

The championship kicks off for the second straight year in Bermuda with the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess. From there, the ten-nation fleet will head to a new SailGP destination in North America and include a home race for Jimmy Spithill’s U.S. team at Navy Pier in Chicago on Lake Michigan in June. Both Bermuda and Chicago are two-year agreements that will see the league return in Season 4.

The fleet will arrive in Europe for the summer with four European events planned. Following successful events in Season 2, SailGP will return to Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City – in late July, the iconic French destination of Saint-Tropez in September and then later the same month Cádiz, in Andalucía, Spain. In addition, the fleet of hydrofoiling F50s will revisit Denmark, but this time, the capital city of Copenhagen will host the ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix. Racing for 2022 will conclude with another new addition to the calendar as SailGP hosts its first Middle Eastern event in Dubai, UAE presented by P&O Marinas on November 11-12.

All the Season 3 action will be available live in over 175 territories through SailGP’s broadcast partners, including New Zealand (Sky Sport), Australia (Fox Sports), Denmark (TV2 Sport), France (Canal+ Sport), Japan (J Sports), South East Asia (beIN SPORTS), Spain (RTVE and TV3), UK/Ireland (SKY Sports) and the U.S. and Canada (CBS Sports) as well as across SailGP digital platforms including YouTube, Facebook Live and the award-winning SailGP App.

SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said when he and Larry Ellison came up with the concept for SailGP, they envisaged a league with the best athletes in the world, racing in equal high-tech boats that are extremely fast, creating exciting, close to shore action, and with a regular season for fans to truly engage with the sport globally. “We set ourselves a five-year goal, but to sit here in Season 3 with ten teams on the start line – including two new franchised teams – an expanded season calendar, an impressive collection of commercial and broadcast partners, purpose and impact at our heart with a positive environmental impact and an immersive fan experience through our broadcast and gaming offer – I simply couldn’t be happier with what has already been achieved,” says Coutts.

Season 2 of SailGP continues with the Australia Sail Grand Prix presented by KPMG in Sydney on December 17 and 18. The season will conclude March 26 and 27 with the SailGP Grand Final in San Francisco. 

SailGP Season 3 Schedule* // May 14-15 Bermuda SailGP presented by Hamilton Princess June 18-19 United States Sail Grand Prix at Chicago Navy Pier July 30-31 Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth August 19-20 ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP | CopenhagenSeptember 10-11 France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-TropezSeptember 24-25 Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – CádizNovember 11-12 Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas | Dubai2023 New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
*Further events will be announced to complete Season 3, which will conclude April 2023. 

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