This is the first time that an all-female team will take on this event, which is sailed in high performance catamarans. The team comprises a mix of nationalities including 4 British sailors, 2 of whom have Olympic pedigree, and Dee Caffari, ocean racer.
Hannah Diamond, GBR sailing squad, and crew member for the Extreme Sailing Series event this weekend in Lisbon has written an exclusive blog for Women’s Sport Week.
Racing in the Extreme Sailing Series in Lisbon was certainly not where I expected to be in October of this year! Having campaigned for 4 years to represent Great Britain at the Olympics in Rio in the Nacra 17 class and missing out after the losing the trials in March of this year I was suddenly left with a big space in my calendar. I was gutted but had no intention of wasting any time. I spent the first half of the year racing keelboats around Europe and the Caribbean, sailing with lots of new people and learning huge amounts from different boats that I was hoping to take back to my Olympic campaign for Tokyo 2020. My aim for the year switched from trying to bring back an Olympic Medal in August of this year to broadening my horizons with the goal of increasing my chances of a medal in Tokyo. Four more years of Olympic campaigning seems like a long path so I have been really keen to get as much variety of sailing as possible, partly as a distraction from my disappointment but also sailing is a sport where experience counts and at 26 I know I have so much more to learn in order to reach my potential.
It was actually before the start of a 700-mile offshore race Round Ireland when one of The Magenta Project girls asked me if I would be interested in a GC32 training week in Cowes. There was only one answer…where do I sign up?
The GC32 is a 32-foot carbon, hydro-foiling catamaran capable of speeds well over 30 knots (35mph).
It was during this week that I met our skipper Sharon Ferris-Choat and her passion for the GC32 was so infectious and her ability to sail the boat whilst also making sure everyone was learning and improving was amazing.
It has been Sharon’s goal for many years to have a women’s team in the Extreme Sailing Series and to have this opportunity to be part of the team is very exciting.
The Olympic class Nacra 17 is a double-handed mixed class so I was used to sailing with just one other person, it was awesome to jump on a boat with 5 other women and see the progression in different combinations and positions. We have a mixture of World and Olympic Medallists plus numerous laps of the World so everyone brings their different sailing experiences to make a great team. The learning curve during our training week was huge and it was a great environment to be in.
I have had some foiling experience in smaller boats but nothing like the GC32. It is hard to describe the feeling of foiling in words that truly do it justice, the 32-foot boat effortlessly rises out of the water when it reaches the necessary speed and then when you think you’re at top speed it accelerates further! The bumps of each wave no longer bother you as you glide about a metre above the surface of the choppy water. The main foil which allows the boat to rise up out of the water is over 2 metres long and must be constantly trimmed to keep the boat balanced, get it wrong and suddenly the whole boat turns into a wild bucking bronco ride and the main focus switches from going as fast as you can to just staying on board! There is so much to do on board that everyone is busy all of the time if you’re not pulling on metres and metres of rope you’re preparing the next sheets for the next manouevres or preparing to deploy or put away a sail. The choreography required to pull off the moves around the course has to be perfect because the loads are so high that if the timing isn’t quite right, it will be impossible to execute. The style of racing used in the Extreme Sailing Series is fast and furious with boats always racing in close-quarters. We will need to be at the top of our game to avoid all of the other boats and put ourselves in the best positions around the course. Nine boats racing at over 30 knots of boat speed will definitely be adrenaline filled!
It is incredibly exciting to be part of the first ever-female team in the Extreme Sailing Series, the boats are very physical and we will be racing against the best teams in the world. We have a great team of sailors and a lot of work has gone into just getting the team to the start line but hopefully that is just the beginning. We know that the learning curve is going to be unlike anything we have experienced before but it is an amazing opportunity to demonstrate what we can do. We are realistic in that the other teams have been sailing these boats for over a year now and we are just starting, but we hope to demonstrate that the potential is there for us to close that gap and put some good results in.
It will be an exhausting regatta and will give us a better idea of the level we need to be at if we are to have an entry for the Series next year. The goal is to be at a level where we can be competitive during the 2017 season. It is a really exciting time to be involved in women’s sailing, there are so many amazing sailors really pushing for progression and I hope that this is just the start.
The Extreme Sailing Series is a great way to showcase our sport and we are really excited to be part of it, with so many races scheduled over the four days and the ability for spectators to be so close to the crash and burn racing, I can’t wait!