THE second season of global championship SailGP — featuring Olympic gold-winning Isle of Wight sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie — has been suspended until next year, amid coronavirus.

With a continued emphasis on protecting the health and safety of its national teams, SailGP organisers pulled the plug on the recent San Francisco race and at New York, due to start on Thursday.

SailGP was also due to be held during Cowes Week, over the weekend of August 14-15, and in Denmark, over September 11-12, but they have been rescheduled.

Season 2 is set to be expanded in 2021 to as many as seven races, running through to early 2022.

Russell Coutts, SailGP chief executive, said: “This terrible pandemic has led to the tragic and ongoing loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and, first and foremost, our thoughts go out to those victims and their grieving families and friends.

“The global nature of our league is one of our strongest characteristics, as we bring together top talent from all over the world to both organise and compete in a new form of professional racing.

"As we face this health emergency, our geographic diversity unfortunately becomes a potential liability, both to ourselves and those around us.

“Our focus must necessarily shift to returning at a time when our events do not present undue internal or external risk.

“We’ll use the coming months to focus on important initiatives, to make our racing and broadcast even more attractive — including the further development of our F50 catamarans, simulator and gaming platform, as well as enhanced data integration, via artificial intelligence.

"We will also continue to work toward our ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2025.

"I’m confident our rescheduled second season will go beyond what we would have been able to deliver this year."

Two months ago in Sydney, teams representing Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, Spain and the United States took to the water in the world’s fastest sail race boats, for what was anticipated to be the first of five events in 2020.

There, four-time Olympic gold medalist, Sir Ben, led the British entry to victory in his SailGP debut, overcoming the local favorite and defending season champion, Tom Slingsby and his Aussie crew.

However, the result for the first and only completed event of the year, is null and void.

Sir Ben, of Seaview, was disappointed by the result, but said: “This has, of course, been a huge challenge for the entire world and in particular, for healthcare workers on the frontline of this crisis.

"At the end of the day, this is sport, so we’ll get back out there when it’s safe for everyone involved.

"Of course, it’s tough not to be out on the water — especially after I got my first taste of SailGP in Sydney a couple months ago.

"Racing these boats is a privilege and I know we’ll have that moment again.

"In the meantime, I’ll be looking to find ways to be even better when we are up and racing again next year.”