Olympic sailing’s most successful female sailor reinvents herself with SailGP
She is the most successful female Olympic sailor ever, but after retiring from Olympic campaigning in a blaze of glory at Tokyo 2020 Hannah Mills still had to apply to join the Great Britain SailGP Team.
Last year – along with several other aspiring women sailors Mills – tried out with Ben Ainslie’s British outfit through SailGP’s diversity programme ‘Inspire’ to become part of the circuit’s newly formed women’s performance pathway programme.
“I had watched Season 1 and just loved what I saw and I knew it was a huge opportunity,” Mills says. “There are not many opportunities for women beyond Olympic sailing to carry on in our sport so it felt like a massive chance that I wanted to grab.”
Unsurprisingly given her pedigree and track record of Olympic success in the women’s 470 dinghy – a silver and two gold medals at the last three Olympics, as two world championship titles in the class – she made the grade.
Unlike the majority of her new male SailGP team-mates Mills admits to having had very limited foiling experience before stepping aboard the British F50 flying catamaran.
“My only foiling experience prior to this was on a wing foil,” she says. I got pretty addicted to that just after the first [Covid 19] lockdown. The Olympics had been postponed and it was just something new to get out on the water when we could and I completely fell in love with it.
“Sailing-wise, the F50 is the only boat I have been on that foils – so I have gone in right at the top, I guess.”
Mills’ first flight aboard an F50 took place in Bermuda last April during her trial to join the British squad.
“Sailing the F50 for the first time was insane,” she recalls. “The first time out is just mind-blowing. You are cruising along with the hulls in the water and then suddenly they say ‘OK, we’re going’ and they ramp it up and it feels like you triple your boat speed in a second.
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