Silver medalist to lead new Danish team in SailGP league

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Olympic silver medalist Jonas Hogh-Christensen will lead a new Danish team in the SailGP global league.

Denmark SailGP Team, announced Wednesday, joins the six national teams returning from the inaugural season.

Hogh-Christensen won the silver medal in the Finn class at the 2012 London Olympics after a memorable duel against British star Sir Ben Ainslie, who also is joining SailGP for the 2020 season. Hogh-Christensen led the entire regatta until the medals race, when Ainslie finished one spot ahead of the Dane to clinch his fourth straight gold medal and record fifth straight Olympic sailing medal.

Ainslie announced last month that he and his major America’s Cup sponsor, INEOS, are taking over the British SailGP team.

Hogh-Christensen said he became intrigued with SailGP after having dinner last year with Tom Slingsby, another gold medalist from 2012 who skippered Team Australia to victory in the $1 million, winner-take-all SailGP finale in October.

“When I heard of it the first time around, I immediately saw the appeal,” Hogh-Christensen said in a phone interview. “From the Danish perspective, the America’s Cup is always out of reach. It’s too expensive, and frankly, the boats they’ve been sailing, are not enough. I also really liked the idea that it was nation vs. nation.

“As a small country, one of the challenges we have is competing against major nations like the Brits or the U.S. and the Australians and nations like that,” he added. “We’re always struggling financially to keep up, and here is a series where the boats are the same and it comes back to the sailors, and they’re representing their countries. All that, I really like.”

SailGP is contested in identical F50 foiling, wing-sail catamarans.

The team has signed Danish green tech company Rockwool to a three-year deal as its major sponsor. Hogh-Christensen said it will cost about $7 million per year to run the team, and that he’s looking for other sponsors.

“These teams are not cheap, but compared to an America’s Cup team, they are,” he said.

Hogh-Christensen, 38, will serve as team manager and won’t sail. The helmsman will be Nicolai Sehested, 30, who was a helsman in two round-the-world races.

Hogh-Christensen said that while he’d love to continue his rivalry with Ainslie, he figured having a younger helmsman like Sehested is better for the long term.

“I mean, I guess there’s always a score to be settled with Ben,” Hogh-Christensen said. “He’s the best sailor of all time, I guess, and I had the opportunity and chance to go head-to-head with him on a bunch of occasions, most notably in London where it got quite heated and quite close in the points. I would have loved to have gone out on equal terms and give him a run for his money, but Nicolai will be the guy taking names and putting marks on people’s backs.”

The other countries in SailGP are Japan, China, New Zealand, France and the United States.