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Home / Features / What is SailGP? How does it work, and what’s all the tech behind it?

What is SailGP? How does it work, and what’s all the tech behind it?

Racing boats in SailGP is not as easy as you'd think, there's an awful lot of tech behind it. Here's everything you need to know

SailGP boats racing

As electric tech takes over the vehicles that we drive, it’s also taking over the sports we watch. F1 is one of the top motorsports to watch, but Formula E is now on the scene with an electric version. But what about on the water? While electric racing might not have arrived yet, SailGP is like a race for the sea – with boats battling out in a race. These specially designed F-50 boats can fly over the water at speeds of 50 knots or more.

The sport is still fairly new to the scene, only in its fourth season so far. So what exactly is SailGP, and how does it all work? There’s plenty of tech behind it all. Here’s everything you need to know about the racing sport on the sea.

What is SailGP?


SailGP represents the pinnacle of sailing with a cutting-edge twist. It’s a global league where teams compete in identical, high-performance F50 catamarans that literally fly over water.

Launched in 2019, this new boat racing series pits ten national teams against each other in some of the world’s most iconic maritime venues – think Saint Tropez, Sydney, Bermuda. Each event in the SailGP calendar not only showcases crew skill but also pushes the boundaries of nautical engineering and sports entertainment. All of its events take place close to shore, so fans can get up close to the action.

With a hefty $2 million prize on the line in a blistering winner-takes-all final race between the three top teams, SailGP is as much a test of nerve as it is a display of technological prowess and tactical acumen.

How does it work?

SailGP teams on the water

The format of SailGP is designed to maximize excitement and competition. Each season is composed of multiple events held around the globe. During a typical Sail Grand Prix, teams compete in six fleet races, with points awarded based on finishing positions.

The culmination of each event is a dramatic final race where the top three teams vie for victory in a no-holds-barred showdown. The unique scoring system adds an intense strategic layer, as every race impacts the season-long chase for the championship, leading to a high-stakes season finale where the top three teams battle it out to become the overall SailGP champion.

SailGP is also one of the few sport competitions in the world that has two separate leagues: one for teams’ performances on the water and the other on how they impact the planet.

The tech behind it all

Central to the series is the F50 catamaran – a combination of high performance and high-tech in yacht racing. What sets these boats apart isn’t just their ability to fly over water at speeds exceeding 50 knots (about 57.5 mph). It’s that they do so powered by clean, electric energy. These systems are crucial for the dynamic control of the boat’s stability and speed, allowing its athletes to make precise adjustments. 

The foils of the F50 catamarans are constructed from high-modulus carbon fibre – for minimal resistance and maximum durability at high speeds. These foils are designed to lift the boats out of the water at speed, reducing drag and enabling faster racing. The design extends the foils outside the boat’s maximum beam, increasing righting moment and promoting a smoother transition. 

It also delays the onset of cavitation – where reduced water pressure causes boiling and air bubbles, increasing drag and reducing lift. So, the boats can maintain high speeds for longer and more efficiently.

SailGP’s F50s are equipped with a range of sail options that teams choose based on the wind conditions. It is also mandated by race management, so all boats have the same settings to maintain the one-design racing element. These options include a modular wing system that can reduce the wing size to 18m and increase it to 29m at its tallest.

How to watch SailGP

SailGP boat in racing

SailGP offers a spectator experience as dynamic as the racing itself. Fans can watch the high-speed action unfold from the shoreline of some of the most beautiful waterfront cities, or they can follow live broadcasts from anywhere in the world. SailGP operates and produces all of its live broadcasts of its events in-house from a remote studio in London.

Each race is augmented by state-of-the-art LivelineFX graphics, which provide real-time data and insights, making it easy for newcomers and seasoned fans alike to understand the complexities of the race strategies and the incredible speeds achieved. In person, SailGP offers a spectator experience as dynamic as the racing itself. Fans can watch the high-speed action unfold from the shoreline of some of the most beautiful waterfront cities. Whether you’re watching from the bustling piers of San Francisco or via live stream in your living room, SailGP serves up a thrilling spectacle of speed, skill, and cutting-edge technology.

Here in the UK, SailGP is completely free to watch. It’s broadcast live on ITV, and is also available to stream on ITVX if that’s more your jam. You can also watch the feeds straight from the SailGP app. Broadcasting in other countries varies, but you can check the official guide on how to tune in.

Profile image of Connor Jewiss Connor Jewiss


Connor is a writer for Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website. He has been writing for around seven years now, with writing across the web and in print too. Connor has experience on most major platforms, though does hold a place in his heart for macOS, iOS/iPadOS, electric vehicles, and smartphone tech. Just like everyone else around here, he’s a fan of gadgets of all sorts! Aside from writing, Connor is involved in the startup scene. This exciting involvement puts him at the front of new and exciting tech, always on the lookout for innovating products.

Areas of expertise

Mobile, macOS, EVs, smart home