Ahead of Saint-Tropez, former Swiss flight controller Jason Saunders has transferred to the France SailGP Team, replacing French national Francois Morvan. But how does the transfer of Saunders, a New Zealand national, affect the nationality make-up of the French team? What are SailGP’s nationality rules and how have they changed in Season 4?

Before Season 4, SailGP’s nationality rules split teams into ‘developed’ and ‘non developed’ sailing nations, stipulating stricter national crew requirements for ‘developed’ countries and more relaxed rules for ‘non developed’. However, at the beginning of Season 4, all this changed, and now all teams from all countries progress at the same rate when it comes to national requirements.

Season 3 // France SailGP Team // France crew line-up

This change, chief umpire Craig Mitchell said, was made after some teams deemed ‘developed sailing nations’, such as Switzerland and the United States, were still struggling to find enough crew to meet nationality requirements. The rules have now been changed, with the ‘developed and non developed’ stipulation removed. Instead, the number of national crew members depends on the amount of time teams have been racing in SailGP.

Season 4 // Switzerland SailGP Team // Mettraux with Sebastien Schneiter

Teams racing in their first and second seasons are permitted a total of 3 non nationals, but this drops to 2 non nationals once a team progresses into its third season. When teams reach their fourth season, they are allowed just one non national in their ranks. This rule stays in place no matter how long they have been racing in SailGP.

An athlete is deemed to have a specific nationality if they adhere to the following requirements:

  1. The athlete must provide proof of citizenship, or proof of residency for more than 3 consecutive years
  2. The athlete must be conversational in the language of that country
  3. The athlete must provide evidence that they have not represented another country in an Olympic class at the Olympic Games, a continental or regional games, a world or regional championship, or a national championship of a World Sailing Event in the last 3 years
  4. The athlete must provide evidence that they have not identified as a national of another country in the last 3 years

This means that the teams that began SailGP in Season 1 (Emirates GBR, Australia, the United States and France) are allowed one non-national, while teams which began in Season 2, and are now in their third season (ROCKWOOL Denmark, New Zealand and Spain), are allowed two.

Canada and Switzerland, which are now in their second season, are allowed three non nationals - the same amount as Germany, which joined the league at the beginning of Season 4.

Season 4 // Switzerland SailGP Team // Swiss crew line-up Chicago

This change to the nationality rules was made ‘to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to get up to speed,’ Mitchell explained. “The rules are there to help any team joining the league because it’s very difficult to find crew - the F50 is such a difficult boat to sail.”

This means that Jason Saunders will become France’s one and only non-national crew member after replacing French national Francois Morvan.