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SailGP celebrates role of women in new championship on Women’s Day

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Marie Riou
Marie Riou

SailGP today joins the celebration of International Women’s Day by recognizing and saluting the many women who are integral to the new global championship, highlighted by two-time Olympian and member of the France SailGP Team, Marie Riou.

Riou has found significant success in both women’s and mixed Olympic classes, winning four world titles and earning two Olympic berths. More recently, she has made headlines for crossing into a realm formerly reserved for her male counterparts, pushing her to pioneer status. In 2018, she was one of the first female sailors not only to compete in The Ocean Race, but to win the grueling round-the-world marquee offshore event.

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Now she continues to make waves as the first female sailor in SailGP, which features top sailing talent representing six countries on the world’s fastest race boats.

“It’s an honor and privilege to compete alongside the world’s best sailors, regardless of gender,” said Riou. “First and foremost, I am a competitor, and I am happy that the barriers have begun to fall across both sailing and the broader sport community. Today we celebrate the global advancement of women – this is just the beginning.”

Alongside Riou, many women are steering the inaugural SailGP season to success. Nearly 30 percent of SailGP comprises female team members in a variety of roles across management, technical operations, engineering, finance, race management, race governance, broadcast, hospitality, creative and communications.

“Women play an integral role in all parts of our society, and that is especially true at SailGP,” said SailGP CEO Russell Coutts. “Our operation as a whole relies heavily on a diverse set of expertise, and we’re fortunate to be one of the few sports in which men and women can compete alongside one another. Marie Riou is a pioneer and role model, and we hope the first of many female sailors in our exciting new professional sports league.”

As flight controller and tactician for the France SailGP Team, Riou is responsible for ensuring the boat is foiling and at optimum speed throughout the vital maneuvers the team has to make to get around the racecourse at speeds never before seen in sail racing. She also has to absorb all the data from the environment, the boat and the other five competing national teams to place the French in the best position on the racecourse and get them over the line in front.

Joining Riou as crucial members of the SailGP team are women in every area of the new organization, from all corners of the globe.

Susan Lake (USA/NZL), a composite structural engineer and naval architect with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, has been integral in the production and manufacturing of the one-design, cutting-edge F50 fleet at Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, New Zealand, where she is general manager. She has been instrumental in overseeing the 135,000 people hours that went into producing the six boats throughout the 15-month project.

With the overall responsibility for the delivery of the season’s grand finale, Stephanie Nadin (FRA) is in charge of the Marseille event. In fact, the delivery of each of the five inaugural 2019 events is being led by a woman – Leah Trafford (AUS) for Sydney, Jennie Kim (USA) for San Francisco and New York, Leslie Ryan (GBR) for Cowes, and Nadin for Marseille.

Meanwhile, Sofia Truchanowicz (POL) is a world-leading international judge and umpire. Her role is to witness the racing from the water and ensure that the rules are being observed, issuing penalties when infringements have occurred.

Putting the France SailGP Team through its paces and ensuring the sailors are at peak fitness and injury free throughout the season is Malin Samuelsson (SWE). With a degree in physiotherapy, focusing in sports physiology and psychology, Samuelsson is responsible for the French team’s injury prevention and rehabilitation, as well as the sailors’ physical training and recovery sessions.

From the global side, Lyn Winford (BDA) is the creative genius and driving force behind the innovative branding design, delivering the look and feel for every SailGP touchpoint and event around the globe.

Competing in three around-the-world yacht races has ensured Abby Ehler (GBR) has the skills to cope under pressure. Her role as LiveLineFX operator requires her to think quickly in the pressured environment of live TV. Likening her role to an air traffic controller, during races Ehler monitors the telemetry network that controls the feeds from the F50s, ensuring there are no faults in the on-screen graphics that viewers are watching live, either on TV or via the innovative SailGP APP.

Later this year, SailGP will launch its youth, internship and sustainability programs. As part of these programs, SailGP will provide training and opportunities for talented females to take part in SailGP – either on or off the water. While SailGP does not have a rule regarding female participation onboard the F50s, it hopes that offering opportunities for girls and women will lead to additional high-performance female sailors across the sport.

“There are so many more opportunities for girls and women in sailing today than yesterday, but we still have a long way to go,” said Coutts. “We hope that through exposure and training, we will continue to see female sailors take center stage, both in SailGP and beyond.”

Tickets are now on sale for SailGP’s second event and U.S. debut. San Francisco SailGP is set for May 4-5, before the annual championship moves to New York (June 21-22), Cowes (UK, August 10-11) and Marseille (France, September 20-22), where the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race. Visit SailGP.com for additional detail.

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