By Alexandre Smith
LONDON (Reuters) – SailGP will include female sailors in its adrenaline-filled races for the first time this week by adding an additional crew station aboard its “foiling” catamarans.
There have been few routes for high performance women to progress beyond events such as the Olympics and SailGP has put in place a route in an effort to bridge this gap.
The $ 1 million competition, co-founded in 2018 by Oracle President Larry Ellison and SailGP CEO Russell Coutts, is in its second season and will see eight crews line up off Cadiz in Spain. this weekend for the last event of its European stage.
One of those sailing in Spain will be Britain’s Hannah Mills, who became the most successful Olympic sailor of all time when she and Eilidh McIntyre won gold in the 470 dinghy in Tokyo, adding to her medal. gold in Rio and silver at the London Games.
“It’s pretty revolutionary for women sailors and the sport… I know how inspiring it would have been for me when I was young,” Mills told Reuters from Cadiz.
SailGP said competitors with Mills would be Nina Curtis for Australia, Katja Salskov-Iversen for Denmark, Amelie Riou for France, Sena Takano for Japan, Erica Dawson for New Zealand, Andrea Emone for Spain and CJ Perez for the United States.
“The more professional opportunities there are, the more women will participate,” said Mills, who was chosen by Ben Ainslie to join his UK SailGP team after testing.
“It’s an adrenaline rush like no other sail I’ve ever done. The speed and G-forces you get in the corners are absolutely phenomenal. You can get the impression that the boat is on the edge, ”Mills said of the futuristic F50 craft.
Ainslie, who is the most successful male Olympic sailor, said it was a “big” development, adding that Mills and others “can and will play a big role” in both SailGP and America’s Cup, which includes a women’s event.
“Hannah is a great team player. The talent speaks for itself. The results speak for themselves. In women’s sailing they don’t improve, ”Ainslie said of Mills.
“She’s just as motivated, if not more motivated to win than the rest of us,” he told Reuters, adding that Mills would be involved in tactical calls and how the broad ‘wing’ is defined.
For Mills, who set out to win Olympic gold from a young age, the transition from practice to full-fledged F50 racing opens another chapter in the wake of a feat that continues to sink.
“I never started my Olympic journey hoping to make it… I can’t believe this happened,” she said.
(Reporting by Alexander Smith, editing by Toby Davis)