The inaugural New Zealand event of SailGP will be held in Christchurch on 18-19 March, 2023. Such has been the demand from Kiwis, tickets for the 4,000-person grandstand sold out within hours of going on sale.

SailGP is one of the fastest-growing sports and entertainment properties in the world. In March, in the penultimate event for the season, it is set to deliver two action-packed days of short, sharp fleet races on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour, with nine national teams going head-to-head in identical F50 catamarans. Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and their New Zealand SailGP Team are currently riding high in the season standings.

“Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour will be a venue like no other for SailGP. Eventgoers will be up-close to the action on the water. Naval Point grandstands will be just 40 metres from the course, which is visually stunning in a unique natural amphitheatre,” said Event Director Karl Budge. Budge is familiar to New Zealanders for his stellar work with the ASB Classic tennis tournament in Auckland.

Christchurch was chosen as a venue for its ideal sailing conditions – in March, afternoon sea-breezes kick in like clockwork, which should ensure exciting racing around the short Utopian course, and also for the amazing natural amphitheatre surrounding the harbour. Connected to New Zealand’s second largest city by tunnel and hill passes, Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour is the southern edge of a great extinct volcano that created Banks Peninsula.

For those watching on TV or online, the venue’s unique topography means Christchurch will look significantly different to other SailGP events – “We are creating a new sailing destination,” says Budge.

Visitors can enjoy unique access to the Tech Village, where the teams are based, located inside the event’s public village. The whole complex will be compact with everything in one place.


On water viewing opportunities are limited to those with direct water access – yacht club members and those with moorings or marina berths – but premium Bring Your Own Boat, near-course viewing tickets are available. Several superyachts have also confirmed they will attend the Christchurch event.

Christchurch is thrilled to be hosting a sailing event, says Budge, which breaks away from the expected destination of Auckland for events like this, although Auckland will host a SailGP event next year.

SailGP looks set to be a huge economic windfall for Christchurch, with around $27 million in economic activity expected, including generating an estimated 11,291 visitor nights in the host region and $3,219,688 in tourism expenditure.

“SailGP coming to Christchurch has also fast-tracked major improvements to the facilities at Naval Point Yacht Club,” said Budge, who is responsible for organising SailGP events right around the globe.

The shift to SailGP has been a huge change for Budge, but also a huge opportunity, he told Boating NZ: “I love the [SailGP] league, which is accelerating with new venues and new teams. The last two events saw record viewership in the US for sail events – the growth is phenomenal.” Budge and SailGP CEO Russell Coutts have developed a close working relationship.

Late last year SailGP announced a multi-year national partnership with iconic Kiwi brand ITM. The partnership will see the building supply company become the Title Partner of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch, March 18-19, as well as the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Auckland the following year.

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