By Alexander Smith
LONDON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Swiss watchmaker Rolex raised its aquatic profile on Monday in a long-term partnership with SailGP, a new $1 million winner-takes-all series backed by Oracle boss Larry Ellison.
"Rolex timepieces and clocks will be visible throughout all SailGP events, and featured on each of the six supercharged F50 catamarans – the world's fastest race boat," SailGP said.
SailGP, which was launched last year, will make its debut in Sydney on Friday, pitting six crews against each other in 50 foot catamarans which are expected to hit speeds of more than 50 knots as they lift up on foils and "fly" above the water.
The teams from Australia, China, France, Britain, Japan and the United States have been assembled by former America's Cup winner Russell Coutts for SailGP, an annual competition kick-started by Coutts and sailing fanatic Ellison.
"We have always appreciated endeavours and sporting disciplines that combine the highest levels of technology with the most talented individuals. SailGP meets such a vision, while the art of foiling perfectly illustrates the sport's constant desire to innovate and improve efficiency," Arnaud Boetsch, Rolex communication and image director, said in a statement.
SailGP also said that its races, scheduled for Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Cowes in Britain and a September finale in Marseille, France, would be broadcast across linear and digital channels that ensure coverage in 90 countries.
Fox Sports in Australia, Canal+ in France, BT Sport in Britain, DAZN in Japan and SKY Sport in New Zealand have each secured exclusive deals for live coverage.
SailGP said it expects to announce a broadcast partner this week in the United States, where races will be streamed live on Facebook, alongside full access on SailGP's own app, which will feature footage from onboard each catamaran.
"We will deliver a broadcast and digital product that caters to modern consumption habits and brings our sport to life in a way that hasn't been done before," SailGP's CEO Coutts said. (Editing by Ed Osmond)