The Great Britain SailGP Team has unveiled its squad that will race in the global sailing championship series in 2021-22.
The announcement comes less than a week before the start of SailGP Season 2 which kicks off with the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess next weekend – April 24-25.
The talented sailing squad, which includes four Olympic Gold medallists in the opening event in Bermuda, has the core of the same team that put on a series of impressive performances to win the last SailGP event with a clean sweep in Sydney in 2020, before the remainder of the season was postponed due to COVID-19. It is a team who know each other very well, featuring six sailors who were recently together with the British Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup.
The team’s F50 catamaran will once again be helmed and skippered by the world’s most successful Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie.
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 cutting-edge sailing league.
In Bermuda, the British team will be joined by a fourth British Olympic gold medallist, Hannah Mills, who will be the first triallist in the squad’s female development programme, a new 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’s in her first and his last Olympic Games.
Speaking ahead of the opening event of the season in Bermuda Great Britain SailGP Team helmsman Ben Ainslie said: “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.
“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 triallists 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 trail 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.
Mills, the team’s first triallist in their female development programme said: “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 triallists 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.
“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 over excited 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.”
The British team also welcomes ‘The 1851 Trust’ as its Race for the Future Purpose Partner with activation plans to include the launch of a free-to-use SailGP innovative education resource for secondary school students. Focusing on environmental science the resource will highlight the causes and impacts of climate change to accelerate changes in sustainability behaviours and help the next generation become the problem solvers of the future.
The league’s Season 2 calendar will feature eight Sail Grand Prix events, beginning in Bermuda on April 24-25, before heading to Taranto, Italy (June 5-6), Plymouth, Great Britain (July 17-18), Aarhus, Denmark (August 20-21), Saint-Tropez, France (September 11-12), Cádiz, Spain (October 9-10), Christchurch, New Zealand (January 29-30, 2022) and culminating in the Grand Final in San Francisco, USA (March 26-27, 2022).
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.
SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said: “After what has been a challenging year for the world and sport, Bermuda will be the perfect venue to relaunch SailGP. Our events are where our championship really comes to life so we are all eager to see such an incredible calibre of athletes racing in equal boats. I can’t remember a time in our sport when the starting roster included so many of the world’s best sailors and through our Inspire and Race For The Future programmes we will be also able to engage with the youth of Bermuda and amplify our purpose, which is to take action against climate change by accelerating the transition to clean energy.”
Great Britain SailGP Team lineup for Season 2:
Ben Ainslie | Helmsman | GBR | 44
With four Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver medal, Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. Amongst his other accolades he includes an America’s Cup win (in 2013) and 11 World Championships.
Ben Ainslie helmed the Great Britain SailGP Team to victory in his first event in SailGP in Sydney in 2020.
Luke Parkinson | Flight controller | AUS/GBR | 31
Luke ‘Parko’ Parkinson has competed in both the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, including winning the 2014/15 edition with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. Parko will control the main system on the F50 which alters the rudders and foils.
Parko competed with Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen for the Japan SailGP Team in Season 1 before joining Ben Ainslie’s British outfit.
Iain Jensen | Wing trimmer | AUS | 32
Iain Jensen, known as ‘Goobs’, brings a significant amount of knowledge and experience to the British team, having competed in two Olympic Games (including winning a gold and silver medal) and in three America’s Cup campaigns. Goobs will be trimming the revolutionary wing sails aboard Great Britain’s F50.
Matt Gotrel | Grinder | GBR | 32
Matt Gotrel returned to sailing after winning an Olympic gold medal in rowing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He has since competed as a Grinder in SailGP since in the inaugural season and in the America’s Cup with the British Challenger in Auckland.
Neil Hunter | Grinder | GBR | 25
Neil Hunter, who at 25 is the youngest member of the team, was the youngest sailor to compete in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017, where he was also part of the British team that won the Youth America’s Cup. He subsequently competed in the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland earlier this year. This will be his second consecutive season with the Great Britain SailGP Team.
Richard Mason | Grinder | GBR | 33
Rich Mason is a highly experienced professional sailor who has competed in various catamaran classes including the M32 Series, GC32 Racing Tour and the Extreme Sailing Series. His biggest achievement to date, however, was on one hull when he completed the gruelling, single-handed Solitaire du Figaro race. This will be his second consecutive season with the Great Britain SailGP Team.
Female Development Programme:
Hannah Mills | Triallist | GBR | 33
Hannah Mills will go in search of a third Olympic medal this summer, and second gold in the 470 class. Mills first teamed up with 470 partner Saskia Clark in February 2011 and the pair saw immediate success on the water as a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships was followed by gold at the same event the following year.
At London 2012, Mills and Clark took silver after losing out to Kiwi pair Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie in the medal race. Four years later at Rio 2016, the duo went one better and became Olympic champions to end the hugely successful partnership on a golden high.
A final decision will be made on which female athletes will join the team full-time after the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth on 17/18 July 2021.