SailGP partners with NEAR to create a DAO for fan-owned teams
This week saw champion sailing and blockchain tech join forces to bring fans closer to the sport. At this season’s race in San Francisco, SailGP announced a partnership with NEAR Foundation, makers of blockchain platform Astro. I’m attending the competition, so I took a look at what this means for the sport — and it’s big.
What is SailGP?
SailGP is a global sailing league co-founded in 2019 by tech mogul Larry Ellison, co-founder, CTO, and former CEO of Oracle.
The sport features America’s Cup winners and Olympic gold medalists, who race aboard wing sailed, 50-foot catamarans that can reach 96km (60 mph) while skimming above the waves on hydrofoils, so they look like they are flying.
Each season comprises eight events across the globe, with each event including multiple races.
Events occur across two days, with six races scheduled for each Sail Grand Prix. And the prize is a cool $1 million for the winning team.
Reimagining and democratizing sports team ownership
There’s a long history in sport of getting fans closer to the race through ownership. Historically it’s been most prevalent in racehorse shareholding. But more recently, it’s extended to football, cycling, and this week, sailboat racing.
Crypto boys LOVE boats — from the Bored Ape Yacht Club to blockchain cruises, and failed efforts to create floating societies in the shape of a bitcoin B.
Also, the SailGP is an extremely viewer-friendly sport. Races only last about 15 minutes each, leaving plenty of time for shitposting and NFT trading.
Even better, it’s exciting stuff to watch. Today’s race has seen two boats collide, causing damage, and the grand final was abandoned due to a whale being cited on the course (don’t worry, it was restarted once the whale passed).
So where does the DAO come into it?
A DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) is the perfect conduit for lovers of sailing and crypto. A SailGP DAO could mean crypto fans not only get closer to the sport, but even buy their own sailboat and form their very own team.
There are currently eight teams competing with two more joining the league in the next season. According to SailGP co-founder Russell Coutts, a DAO team could join as early as season four in 2023.
Last year, NEAR created Astro. The platform enables DAOs to coordinate and verify decision-making, rules, and governance through smart contracts and voting. It’s a conduit to pool funds, vote on strategy, and verify transactions.
Take a look at a beginner’s guide to joining a DAO.
According to NEAR Foundation CEO, Marieke Flament, a SailGP DAO could allow fans to vote on everything from a team’s logo to management structure. A DAO could even vote to have a women-only team.
The partnership between NEAR and SailGP is also an opportunity to develop R&D in areas like NFT and gaming, tickets, and Web3 apps for fan interaction.
What would a DAO sailing team look like?
Unsurprisingly, sailing is not a cheap sport. It costs $25M to enter the SailGP and a further $7M annually, leading to a reliance on sponsorship.
A DAO team seems an extremely viable fundraiser. Especially when you consider that crypto investors raised $40M in 7 days in an attempt to “buy” the US Constitution. It’s also an opportunity to educate sailing people on blockchain tech and conversely crypto kids on all things sailing.
Today’s teams represent specific countries like Denmark, Australia, the USA, and Switzerland. A DAO team could be global and borderless instead of national.
Can blockchain tech get green enough to join forces with a race powered by nature?
There’s still, of course, plenty that needs ironing out. SailGP is the world’s first climate-positive sport — even beyond halting the race due to a whale on the course.
They launched an Impact League in 2021 alongside the physical race. Racing teams compete to reduce their carbon footprint and win prize money for sustainability NGOs (stayed tuned to find out all about it).
However, blockchain is not a space traditionally associated with sustainability. But NEAR is part of a bigger movement to mine crypto sustainably. The company uses ‘proof of stake’, rather than ‘proof of work’, to validate transactions. This discourages ‘miners’ that consume huge amounts of energy to compete with each other.
As a result, the NEAR protocol is certified as carbon neutral and according to the foundation, 200,000 times more efficient than Bitcoin. Thus, a SailGP DAO could serve as an example of effective green mining. Any DAO team would need to comply with the race’s sustainability criteria.
An opportunity for virtual racing
There’s also scope for immersive virtual racing in the metaverse where simulated sailboats race against physical boats in real-time, emulating the same weather conditions. This would open sailing to those who would never otherwise have the luxury to experience getting out on the water.
It makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider it’s a sport that you don’t need to watch in person to enjoy.
Most journalists watch the race in the media room via a live broadcast filmed from a helicopter. Video and audio feeds transmit from cameras and microphones on each boat.
The broadcast of the race is overlaid with AR to help viewers and judges follow the trajectory of the race accurately. So, sailboat racing is already incredibly tech-heavy, and virtual racing is not an illogical extension.
The SailGP is a young competition, and it needs fans and funds to grow. It’s already pushing the boundaries of the racing and the viewing experience. Now, there’s an opportunity to evolve sailboat racing even further.