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SailGP ‘fantastic success’ bringing in millions to Halifax

By Caitlin Snow Jun 3, 2024 | 8:41 PM

Tens of thousands of people lined both sides of the Halifax waterfront Saturday and Sunday, for the first-ever Sail GP event in Canada.

Ten, 50-foot catamarans, with teams from around the globe zipped around the harbour with speeds that can reach 100 km/h.

The event was huge for Halifax and a “fantastic success” according to Frank Denis, Executive Director of Sail Nova Scotia, who was the host.

He says they knew it would have an impact but didn’t realize how big it would be, with preliminary numbers indicating at least 30,000 to 40,000 people on the Halifax side, every day.

Not only that, but he also says the sailors absolutely loved it here and said Saturday was the greatest day in SailGP racing history.

He tells us there could be several reasons why that is, but it is still “quite the compliment” considering they have done over 50 of these events around the world in the last four years.

“The conditions, the fans along the shore, the atmosphere in the city, the buzz, how close the tech part was to the racecourse…there was no having to sail for 20 min to get back to the base after racing. I think the weather too… how it was really a strategy race… they were constantly on their toes.”

He adds that the sailors also liked how Halifax is like an amphitheater, with fans on both sides, ideal for them to be able to show off.

The weather

There was rain and wind all weekend.

Sunday, they even had to cut the number of boats in a race from 10 down to eight, due to high winds.

However, Denis says those conditions were “absolutely ideal” for some real strategic racing.

As for the cold water, he says they had just come from racing in warm conditions in places like Bermuda and Dubai, so the sailors thought it was nice to get into different elements.

“It keeps them certainly awake.  I do know that every spray of water when you are going 85 km/h feels really, really cold. So many of them had to have wet suits on.”

Economic impact

An event like this not only benefits residents of HRM but raises awareness of Nova Scotia on a global scale, all while pumping millions of dollars into the economy.

That’s according to President and CEO of Discover Halifax, Ross Jefferson who says SailGP was a huge success.

Jefferson tells us although it is still a few weeks too early to know exact figures, preliminary numbers estimate an economic impact of $14 million.

“The waterfront was fully packed, during the two days… Saturday and Sunday… but we also know that we had tremendous success with viewership around the world, in multiple countries.”

Both Denis and Jefferson say more discussion needs to happen between multiple stakeholders like Sail Nova Scotia, Discover Halifax and the province to determine what the event might look like for next year, with everyone very interested to have it come back.

Jefferson adds they are definitely looking at other global events around the world and the capability of Nova Scotia doing those as well.