SailGP is set for a shakeup in season five as three teams have been warned they are at risk of being dropped from the competition if they cannot find funding.

It’s a warning that comes with potential implications for the Black Foils, too.

The global foiling league will welcome a Brazilian team and another is yet to be announced for the new campaign. It is expected to be an Italian team after former US driver Jimmy Spithill confirmed plans were under way to get Italy into season five back in November.

SailGP will confirm their season five lineup in the coming months, however only 11 F50 foiling catamarans will be available for the first event of the season in November. That means one of the current 10 teams is at risk of having their participation paused for the season. A similar situation occurred in season three when the league expanded to 10 teams with only nine available boats. That saw the Japanese team, who had finished second in seasons one and two, dropped from the league based on logistical and commercial considerations.

As teams who still draw partial funding from the league, Canada, France and Spain, have all been put on notice by SailGP that if they are unable to be independently funded for season five, they will be at risk of being the team to go.

The only other team also receiving funding from the league is New Zealand, who have been the best performers this season and go into this weekend’s grand finale in San Francisco as the only team to have booked their place in the US$2 million grand final shootout – in which the season’s top three teams contest one race to decide things.

In the latest episode of Racing on the Edge, SailGP’s behind-the-scenes show, league chief executive Sir Russell Coutts said that should Canada, France and Spain all find the funding for next season, then New Zealand would be the team potentially on the chopping block if they find themselves still being partly league funded.

Speaking to the Herald ahead of this weekend’s season finale in San Francisco, Black Foils co-chief executive and driver Peter Burling said they had not had any conversations with the league about the possibility of them not being on the starting line in season five.

“There haven’t been any conversations that look negative for us next season,” Burling said.

“We’re really happy with the commercial programme we’ve got building. Obviously, we’re one of the current league-owned teams so we always get dragged back into these conversations, but we’ve got an amazing group of partners, we’ve got a really loyal group of fans which we’re really proud to represent.

“The growth of the team of the last year has been unbelievable so we’re really excited to push that forward and continue to build our programme.”

The Black Foils head into San Francisco buoyed by an event win last time out in New York and on the back of confirmation that the league will return to New Zealand in season five, with a regatta scheduled for Auckland in January 2025.

From the first event of this season, the Black Foils set the tone when they sailed to victory in Chicago in June 2023. Through the 12 regattas held this season, the Kiwi crew have won five and finished in the top three of two others.

While their 15-point lead in the season standings has them pinned as the team to beat in the three-team grand final shoot-out on Monday morning (NZ time), Burling said there wasn’t any additional pressure ahead of this weekend.

“There’s always pressure. It’s the race you want to be in and the one you want the opportunity to put your best foot forward in. That’s the excitement of sport,” Burling said.

“We’re very excited to be there. We’ve made a big effort this season of really enjoying those high-pressure moments and really making sure we put our best foot forward to perform in them. Doing things like winning our home event, and winning the New York event have been really cool milestones along the way to practice that.”

Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.

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