Great Britain SailGP Team confirms Season 2 squad and female development programme

With less than a week to go until the start of SailGP Season 2, which commences with the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix, the Great Britain SailGP Team has unveiled its squad for 2021-22.

The sailing squad includes four Olympic gold medallists in the opening event in Bermuda and has the core of the same team that won the last SailGP event in Sydney in 2020. It features six sailors who were together with the British Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup.

The team’s F50 catamaran will once again be helmed and skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR). Joining him is fellow Olympic gold medallist Iain Jensen (AUS), who returns as wing trimmer, and flight controller Luke Parkinson (AUS/GBR), who was most recently seen piloting the British boat in the America’s Cup. The grinder roles, meanwhile, are filled by Olympic gold winning rower Matt Gotrel (GBR), the Isle of Arran’s Neil Hunter (GBR) and Richard Mason (GBR). All three grinders have been part of the Great Britain SailGP Team since the first season of the sailing league.

In Bermuda, the British team will be joined by a fourth Olympic gold medallist, Hannah Mills (GBR), who will be the first trialist in the squad’s female development programme, an initiative which aims to fast-track the inclusion of female athletes into SailGP. Mills brings a significant amount of experience to the team, having won Olympic gold in the Women’s 470 in Rio in 2016 and a silver medal at London 2012 where she was a teammate of Ainslie in her first, and his last, Olympics.

“All professional athletes want to race at the highest level and the line-up for SailGP Season 2 has to be the most competitive we have ever seen in the sport. Sydney was a great start for our team and whilst Covid brought things to a halt we were able to keep the same squad together meaning we head into the opening event knowing we can win races,” says Ainslie.

“Alongside the racing it is also exciting to begin our female development programme. We share SailGP’s commitment to accelerate change in our sport and look forward to integrating the six trialists over the next three events. Hannah Mills, who will be with us in Bermuda, is a hugely talented sailor who will bring lots of experience to the team. We look forward to supporting her F50 development.

“It is going to be an intense season and we are ready to get back out racing.”

In the following two events after Bermuda, five more female athletes will trial with the team, before a final decision will be made on the successful athletes who will join the British team full-time. Anna Burnet (GBR), who will be competing in her first Olympic Games in Tokyo, will trial with the team in Taranto, Italy, whilst Hannah Diamond (GBR), Ellie Aldridge (GBR), Nikki Boniface (GBR) and Emily Nagel (GBR) will complete their respective trials in Plymouth, UK.

“This is a big opportunity and I’m looking forward to working alongside the team to learn as much as I can during my time in Bermuda. My fellow trialists are hugely talented and it will be tough challenge to earn the full-time spot. However, I’m a quick learner, a hard worker and incredibly motivated so it’s down to me to make the most of it,” says Mills.

“SailGP is setting the standard for female inclusion in sailing, it will be particularly inspiring for young female sailors to know that these types of opportunities are available at the very top level of our sport. I first met Ben at an Optimist event when I was an overexcited 11-year-old and he’d won his first Olympic medal, roll on 10 years and we were in the same team going to London 2012. It was massive for me to be in a team with Ben watching and learning how he operated. The same will be true during this trip.”

British fans will be able to watch all the action live on Sky Sports, SailGP’s Official Broadcast Partner in the UK, who will air each of the global races live, starting with the Bermuda event.

Main images shows: L-R top row Neil Hunter (GBR), Ben Ainslie (GBR), Luke Parkinson (AUS/GBR), Iain Jensen (AUS). Bottom row Rich Mason (GBR), Hannah Mills (GBR), Matt Gotrel (GBR).

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