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Agag’s electric powerboat series eyes 2022 start, broadcast via existing ‘network’

Details of an electric powerboat championship backed by Alejandro Agag, the founder of electric vehicle racing series Formula E, and Rodi Basso, former director of motorsport at McLaren, have been announced, with the series scheduled to begin in 2022.

The UIM E1 World Electric Powerboat Series, which will be known as the E1 Series, has been exclusively licensed by UIM, the international governing body for powerboat racing, and with the boat concepts to be developed together with SailGP, the sailing series launched in 2019.

Agag and Basso are looking for up to 12 teams to each purchase two boats, one based in Europe and one to be stored on the St Helena, a refurbished former Royal Mail ship that will be used as a ‘floating paddock’ for races outside Europe.

Basso has been named as chief executive of the series with Agag named non-executive chairman and former Formula E Holdings commercial director Yanni Andreopoulos taking up the position of chief marketing and commercial officer at E1 Series.

Speaking to SportBusiness, Andreopoulos said the plan is to launch the series with a 10-stop series in 2022-23. No race venues have yet been announced by E1 Series, which will take place on “short courses at prestigious city-based and stunning remote locations around the world”.

Asked if the series has secured external financial investment or if sponsorship revenue had been secured yet during the tough market conditions presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, Andreopoulos said that negotiations were ongoing.

He remarked: “We are going to market with a financial proposal and are already advanced with several parties, which will enable us to prototype and test the boat, and then roll out production of the boats for the teams.”

The boats are being developed by UK-based start-up SeaBird Technologies that is to work with out companies to produce what has been described as a “super-fast and superlight, largely one-design race boat”. As part of the tie-up with its sailing counterpart, E1 Series will receive event and logistics management support from SailGP.

Agag, who followed up Formula E with the inception of off-road racing series Extreme E at the start of 2019, said: “We believe this series will engage not only the sporting public, and boating and tech enthusiasts around the world, but also ocean conservationists who care about the future of our planet. The earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers are under huge environmental pressure and the E1 World Electric Powerboat Series will lead the way in electrifying water mobility for future generations.

A futuristic ‘RaceBird’ boat

“Right now the use of electric power on the water is still at an embryonic stage. My ambition is for the E1 Series to accelerate the adoption of electric boats, to demonstrate how exciting they can be and to promote electric solutions and clean water mobility to marine travel worldwide.”

Russell Coutts, chief executive of SailGP, added: “This is an incredibly exciting partnership that allows us to continue accelerating change toward a cleaner future. We are powered by nature, and SailGP and E1 share a similar sense of purpose to be leading examples of sustainable technology.”

Pilots for the inaugural E1 Series will come from existing powerboating championships but also electric road vehicles. Each race weekend will comprise testing, qualifying and a series of knock-out races leading to a final.

Distribution through Formula E, Extreme E broadcasters

Quizzed about the initial plans for linear broadcast distribution or digital coverage, Andreopoulos said that talks would first be held with existing Formula E and Extreme E broadcast rights-holders.

He noted: “We’ll be using our existing network that we’ve developed through the Formula E and Extreme E Championships, and approaching our current partners, to get the new Series broadcast as far and wide as possible.”

However, he added: “Of course, this is an entirely new form of racing and a new type of Championship, so we’ll also be looking for new partners who can bring our content to different audiences.

“We want to reach as many people as possible, on all platforms, and will use a diverse range of content, offering our partners the best possible return on their investment. That’s the key objective of the E1 Series for our broadcast partners.”

Extreme E has been on the front foot in announcing its international broadcast deals, the most recent of which was a three-year agreement in sub-Saharan Africa with pay-television broadcaster StarTimes. The rights are non-exclusive across these territories and will be shared with global sports broadcaster ESPN, which will also broadcast Extreme E from 2021.

In July, Extreme E struck a rights deal with international media group Discovery, which will showcase the series in over 50 European markets on Eurosport, and in North America through subscription streaming service MotorTrend.

Extreme E has also signed rights deals with the likes of the BBC (UK), Fox Sports (US, Canada and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Australia), Mediaset (Italy), Sony India (Indian subcontinent), and China Sports Zhibo.tv (China).

Commenting on the UIM’s backing of E1, president Raffaele Chiulli, said: “As the IOC-recognised world governing body for all powerboating activities, we at UIM are excited to have this opportunity to support and foster the preservation of the marine environment and to establish and implement good practices towards a more sustainable future.

“The UIM is delighted to support scientific research and its dissemination, as this will support awareness-raising activities on the many environmental and climate-specific challenges that the world faces today.”