Women will embark for the first time aboard Sail GP foiling catamarans


The women will race for the first time aboard 50ft foil catamarans in the SailGP world league starting this weekend at the Spanish Sailing Grand Prix in Cadiz.

Each of the eight teams will have a woman in sixth position behind the pilot as part of SailGP’s Women’s Pathway program, introduced to provide women with the experience necessary to navigate high performance catamarans.

The addition of women brings the number of crew to six per boat in normal configuration and four in light winds.

CJ Perez, 18, from Honolulu, joins the US team for his first competition. Perez, who won the 2021 USA WASZP National Championship last week, is the youngest sailor to compete in SailGP and the first Latina.

Sailing the F50 catamarans “feels like a rocket,” said Perez, who has extensive foiling experience. “We are moving at speeds never seen before and we are flying so high out of the water. I can’t wait to fight at the start line this weekend. I can’t imagine how exciting it will be.

Hannah Mills joins the British squad, which became the most successful Olympic sailor when she won a gold medal at the Tokyo Games to take her career tally to two gold and one silver.

“It really is a big step forward for female athletes to be in the thick of it, to witness everything, to come in and help wherever we can – tactics, strategy and communication,” Mills said. “I’m really excited for this. The adrenaline rush is going to be huge, it is already the case when we do the training race. “

Mills joins British skipper Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time with four gold and one silver. Ainslie, who recently bought a majority stake in British team SailGP, is also a former America’s Cup champion.

The other women joining the fleet are Nina Curtis from Australia, Katja Salskov-Iversen from Denmark, Amélie Riou from France, Sena Takano from Japan, Erica Dawson from New Zealand and Andrea Emone from Spain.

Cadiz is the sixth of eight regattas this season. The teams started the year by recruiting and training sailors. Each team had at least one woman on the crew, which allowed them to gain knowledge and experience on board.

SailGP was founded by American tech mogul Larry Ellison and five-time America’s Cup champion Sir Russell Coutts from New Zealander.

“It is our responsibility as a world league to ensure that we create a culture and a sports championship that respects gender equality,” Coutts said. “It’s no secret that there is currently an experience gap among women at the top of sport.… We recognize that we need to go further to close the gap and work faster to accelerate change, that is why we are taking this next step: it is imperative to break down existing borders and create a more inclusive environment.

Perez recently joined American SailGP skipper Jimmy Spithill, two-time America’s Cup winner, and crew members Andrew Campbell and Alex Sinclair to organize a Foiling First: Learn to Foil Camp for Chicago youth.

It was the first time she had met her new teammates. Barely 18 years old, it will be the first time she will sail with them.

“I can’t wait to sail with them and learn all that they have done so much of their life and take it for myself,” said Perez.

“I’ll take the wisdom of all the coaches and sailors around. A lot of it is about learning from the whole atmosphere of being with the team, not just sailing, but also learning how to rig the boat and put it away, and the debriefings, which goes a lot. to help. I will also be training on the boat, which is essential.

Perez said she would eventually like to become a skipper or take on one of the technical positions as a flight controller or wing trimmer. She’s a freshman engineering student at UC Berkeley, studying online so she can navigate.

With three races remaining, the US team is fighting to stay in the top three and try to win the million dollar prize, the winner to be determined in San Francisco in March.

Japan leads with 37 points, followed by the United States and Australia with 35 each, Great Britain 32, Spain 31, New Zealand 30, Denmark and France 28 each.


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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