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British sailing star says Women's America's Cup is 'mind-blowing'.

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 12 Sep 2021 04:05 PDT 12 September 2021
Tokyo2020 - Day 4 - July, 28, - Enoshima, Japan. Hannah Mills & Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) Womens 470 © Richard Gladwell - Sail-World.com / nz

Hannah Mills, the most successful female sailor in Olympic history has enthusiastically welcomed the announcement of the AC40 foiling monohull, and the creation of a Womens America's Cup event as part of the regattas surrounding the 37th Match for the most prestigious trophy in sailing.

"It's a bit mind-blowing, but I think it's exactly where the sport needs to go," the British sailing star told the Times (UK).

The announcement of the new Womens event, which will be sailed in a 40ft version of the AC75, America's Cup class, has answered calls for women sailors to have a pathway into the high-profile America's Cup.

Mills who is already part of the Great Britain SailGP team, has been non-committal about continuing for a fourth Olympic cycle in the what used to the Womens Two-Person dinghy event, sailed in the 470 class. As part of sweeping changes made by World Sailing, the event in which she won two Olympic Golds and a Silver, will change to a Mixed Two-Person dinghy for the 2024 Olympic Regatta to be sailed in Marseille.

Last October the SailGP circuit, backed by IT mogul Larry Ellison and contested in 50ft foiling wingsailed catamarans, announced that a requirement for Season 2, would be the inclusion of at least two women in each of the now-nine national teams.

Mills joined the Ben Ainslie led British SailGP team prior to the Tokyo2020 Olympic regatta, where she won her second Gold medal last month. She would logically combine her SailGP career with the Womens AC40 event, and become one of the first women to enjoy a regular, year in year out, professional sailing career.

The Volvo Ocean Race, now rebadged as The Ocean Race, was the first to create required opportunities for professional female sailors with the introduction of male/female crew ratios for the 2017/18 race. However racing 40,000nm around the world is not everyone's cup of tea, and it would seem that the Olympic's loss is SailGP's and the America's Cup teams' gain.

Of course, professional female sailors now enjoy almost the same options as their male counterparts, and can elect to be part of an America's Cup and SailGP team. Or run an Olympic program into an America's Cup campaign, or join one of the teams in The Ocean Race - following the lead of Martine Grael, double Olympic Gold medalist in the 49er FX.

Given that few of the sailors at Tokyo2020 showed any interest, when questioned in the Medalists Media conferences, in moving across to one of five new events, it will be interesting to see who is selected for the AC40, which will start sailing in October 2022. Before that, there will be several months of long days on the AC simulator before stepping on board the real thing.

Certainly there would seem to be no shortage of candidates for the AC40 crews, with the revamped Olympics likely to become just a staging post for professional sailing careers of both genders.

The AC40 is all electric, meaning that there is no requirement for grinders, and for the female crews it means that sailing ability rather than physique will determine selection - playing nicely into Hannah Mills and others of her ilk.

For the full Times UK story click here

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