Forget F1. A-Lister’s Are Getting Into the SailGP Racing Game.

Riding in a speedboat on the Red Sea, 34-year-old Major League Soccer striker Jozy Altidore is observing his new sailing team as it races a highly technical 50-foot catamaran in the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix. The contest is part of the SailGP race series, now in its fourth season and comprising 13 events in 10 countries. As for Altidore, he represents the winds of change. Such ownership has typically been the province of elderly billionaires who self-fund America’s Cup and other entries more for yacht-club bragging rights than for profit.

Many in this elite club grew up in the sport and have dedicated decades to competing, often spending tens of millions of dollars along the way; Altidore had never watched a race in person before Dubai. It’s a sign that professional sailing’s traditional funding mechanisms are being overhauled.

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The soccer star is one of a growing number of high-profile athletes and entertainers investing in the sport. For Altidore, sailing is part of an ownership portfolio that includes golf, pickleball, and women’s soccer. Not having grown up with halyards and teak decks underfoot, Altidore became interested when he did a deep dive into SailGP’s long-term potential and liked what he saw. So have others. (Credible rumors have it that a major Hollywood star is seriously considering buying a SailGP team outright but that the deal is on hold.)

In late 2023, tech entrepreneur Ryan McKillen, his wife, Margaret, and professional sailor Mike Buckley purchased the U.S. SailGP property for well above its $40 million valuation. Principal investment came from Marc Lasry’s Avenue Sports Fund, which targets emerging sports teams and leagues.

The minority investor group, which includes Altidore, is populated by an eclectic mix of screen and sports celebs, including actress Issa Rae and a consortium of NFL players such as DeAndre Hopkins, Malik Jackson, Roquan Smith, and Kayvon Thibodeaux, plus draft-bound University of Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner. Rae, who cocreated and starred in the HBO series Insecure and had supporting roles in recent Oscar-winners American Fiction and Barbie, fell in love with the sport after she attended the race in Los Angeles last year.

“There’s a sexiness to it,” Buckley says. “SailGP is not far off from Formula 1 and other similar properties. A billionaire couldn’t buy a big-five sports team in the U.S. right now, so the trickle-down investment into emerging sports has been massive.” (Speaking of Formula 1, former champion Sebastian Vettel recently purchased the German SailGP team.) As a bonus, the adrenalizing action that Buckley’s investors can experience on high-speed chase boats—not to mention on the actual 50-foot foiling catamaran doing 50 knots—is far more visceral than that provided by the most exclusive owner’s box, courtside seat, or paddock perch.

The investment group led by the McKillens and Buckley is diverse with many small investors from different backgrounds, a stark departure from the ownership profiles of other league teams from Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Canada. And while most of the stateside squad’s shareholders don’t hail from sailing backgrounds, many come with broader mainstream followings—something SailGP is eager to leverage to both promote and diversify the sport.

“As an athlete, competition is what I love to see, and that was always my bottom line with this investment,” Altidore says. “But the biggest thing is being part of something that involves representing my country.” That, and—if we had to guess—the chance to experience a few high-speed runs aboard his new liquid-adjacent asset.

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