Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

SAIL GP: Landmark moment as female sailors participate in the Cadiz Grand Prix

Posted on 22 October 2021 by Luke Young

New six-crew configuration aboard the F50 Catamarans expands crew numbers to include female athletes in each team.

Since the inaugural championship in 2019, the Sail Grand Prix community has been showcasing its innovative approach to energy-reducing technologies and opening the gateways to fair play and inclusion.

These positive developments all come hand-in-hand with eight national teams consisting of the greatest sailors on the planet all competing for the winner takes all prize of one million dollars.

Star-studded crews are taken across the globe to iconic venues for adrenaline-fuelled racing, with an intention to inspire worldwide sailing and promote sustainability within sport to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Credit: @SailGP

The revolutionary F50 Catamaran is providing an exhilarating second season in the 2021 Sail GP Championship, with just five points separating the top four teams.

Tom Slingsby’s Australian team sit just one point ahead at the top of the leader board after a successful weekend in Cadiz, Spain.

Ben Ainslie and Great Britain will be eager to chase down the Australian crew as the championship heads to Sydney in December for the penultimate grand prix.

Lauren Morgan, Production Secretary at Aurora Media Worldwide, broadcasters of the Sail GP Championship, shared her reaction to the weekend of racing:

“Personally, for me, I found the Cadiz Sail Grand Prix the most exciting event we’ve had this season!”

“There certainly wasn’t a lack of drama, with Spain capsizing in practice and Great Britain capsizing in the final. The wind speeds in previous races had been half of what they were in Cadiz, so it was really cool to see the boats working at their complete maximum and hitting their highest speeds to date – it did make me a bit nervous watching though!”

Weekend six of the season in Cadiz saw a landmark occasion with female sailors racing alongside men for the first time in Sail GP’s short history. This second season launched the Sail GP’s Women’s Pathway Program with ambitions of fast-tracking the development of top female sailors resulting in each national team in Cadiz introducing a new female crew member.

Morgan shared her moment of the weekend:

“Despite all the high-intensity drama of Cadiz, my real highlight was the introduction and inclusion of female sailors on the boats. There was a specific feature on this within the broadcast which introduced the female sailors for each team, whilst stating their personal achievements within the sport too”.

“I found this a powerful VT as it highlighted how successful these women have been in their sailing history, actually making you wonder why they hadn’t been included on the boats sooner. It was fantastic hearing the likes of Hannah Mills communicating with the Great Britain team and demonstrating how much of an asset she was”.

Credit: @SailGPGBR

Two-time World Champion, Hannah Mills teamed up with Ainslie’s crew for Cadiz, a valuable team member that will most definitely benefit Great Britain at the final two grand prix weekends.

Hannah Mills is Britain’s greatest female sailor, having been crowned world champion in the Women’s 470 class in 2012 and 2019.

Mills also won a silver medal for Team GB in the London 2012 Olympics. She then added to her accolades in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 again in the 470-class, winning Gold in both games.

Team Captain and driver for Great Britain, Ben Ainslie had this to say about the arrival of Mills:

“She is a huge, huge talent. There is a lot of talk about how critical it is in this league and in these short races to spot the wind and be in the right area of the course, and Hannah undoubtedly can help us with that”.

The elite female athletes being introduced include; Nina Curtis of Australia, CJ Perez with the USA team and Liv Mackay of New Zealand who helped her fellow Kiwis to the grand prix win in Cadiz.

Amelie Riou joins the French team, Andrea Emone with Spain, Katja Salskov-Iversen of Denmark and Sena Takano links up with the Japanese after their success in Saint-Tropez in September.

Discussing the impacts of the Women’s Pathway Program with Lauren Morgan, she said:

“Being a female who works in sport myself, I feel as though this development is a step forward in the right direction.”

“It’s great to see both men and women competing together in a sport that can be consumed and loved by all, and for females to know that they are also being represented within the sport itself and not just watching it from the side-lines, which in turn will inevitably draw in more female spectators and perhaps even more importantly more women who feel inspired to give sailing a go”.

The F50 Catamaran is the product of cutting-edge, state of the art technology that has been in development for ten years.

With the aim to produce high performance multi-hull racing with foiling speeds of up to 92.6 km/h (50 knots/57.5 mph), the F50 exhibits faster and more stable flight than its predecessors, with an improved design on the AC50 that raced in the 2017 America’s Cup.

Now the F50’s latest design introduces a new revolutionary six-crew configuration, allowing for larger crews and ultimately more exciting and competitive sailing.

Credit: @SailGP

The modernisation of sport, however, is not limited to developing the fastest, lightest and most streamlined boat.

Sail GP is proving its class with the Women’s Pathway Program, which is accelerating the involvement of female sailors and reducing disparity between genders in the sport.

The rapid growth of the sport goes further than the equipment being used, we are seeing vast growth of the sports fanbase which is further endorsed by the introduction of some of the world’s most prestige female sailors.

Lauren Morgan added:

“I feel like Sail GP are very forward-thinking, proving that through their awareness of equality and sustainability which is expertly touched upon throughout the shows”.

The first seaon of Sail GP reached a global audience of 1.8 billion across broadcasts, social media, press and event attending audiences across the globe, totalling an economic impact of $115 million.

With numbers growing throughout season two, we can most certainly expect an invigorating third season with both male and female sailors racing in the world’s fastest regatta.

In review of the Cadiz races, Morgan shared her thoughts on Great Britain’s chances going into the next round:

“I was absolutely gutted for Great Britain in the final of Cadiz! Such bad luck, however, they had a strong result on day one so I’m hoping that they harness in that winning energy, learn from their slip up and move onto Sydney even stronger. Sir Ben Ainslie is a great leader, so I don’t doubt they’ll be working extra hard between now and then”.

The teams and fans now look forward to the Australia Sail Grand Prix, commencing on December 17th at the iconic Sydney Harbour, for a weekend of thrilling action and dynamic racing.