SailGP South Waszp sailors sail with best in the world

Talent identification pathway helps connect ambitious sailors with the pinnacle of the sport
28 Jul 21

Six youth sailors from the South region joined an exclusive group, of just 16 selected from around the country, to take part in Inspire Racing at the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix, (SailGP) in Plymouth from 17-18 July 2021.

SailGP Inspire Racing, in conjunction with foiling-dinghy manufacturer Waspz, is a talent identification pathway which helps young sailors to enter sailing’s professional ranks, and connects ambitious sailors with the pinnacle of the sport.

The up-and-coming sailors, aged between 15–21, lived the life of a professional F50 sailor for a week and experienced the unique opportunity of going behind the scenes at one the world’s most thrilling sailing events.

The sailors were also given the incredible opportunity of racing high performance foiling Waszp boats alongside some of the best sailors in the world. They also got up close to the supercharged F50 catamarans and met the SailGP athletes.

The six Hampshire SailGP Inspire Racing sailors are: Megan Faffar (15) from Emsworth Sailing Club, Hattie Rogers (21) and William Heathcote (18) from Royal Lymington Yacht Club, Monique Vennis-Ozanne (18) from Hill Head Sailing Club / Hayling Island Sailing Club, Finley Dickson (18) from Hayling Island Sailing Club, plus Hampshire sailor Matilda Nicholls (19).

The sailors were selected by the Inspire Racing Committee following an online application process which looked at a wide-ranging criteria, which included: sailing ability; willingness to learn new skills; positive attitude towards the sport; ambitious and demonstrate the potential to become a SailGP athlete in the future.

On hearing the news that she had been selected, Megan Farrar said: “I was amazed and completely star struck that I, out of 100 sailors that applied, was one of the lucky 16 selected. Despite being only 15 I didn’t want to miss this awesome opportunity.”

Megan continues: “SailGP is up there in amazing things to do - I’ve always wanted to sail one or at least be a part of it someday. Whether that is sailing one, designing them or even being part of the media crew for the events. SailGP is so cool, I love how the F50s go so fast. And sailing a WASZP really close to them when they are about to bear down rounding their mark 1 is really quite something else! Nothing like I have experienced before.”

Hattie Rogers and Matilda Nicholls also qualified to compete against the top eight youth sailors in the finals, which took place on the SailGP’s F50 racecourse in Plymouth Sound in front of thousands of spectators. After two days racing, Hattie finished a very respectful 4th, whilst Matilda claimed 7th spot.

But it’s not all about competing, as Matilda Nicholls explains: “I have absolutely loved the adrenaline rush of foiling and sailing at much higher speeds than my laser! It’s also been a very fun environment to be in with plenty of other young and talented sailors from other classes. 

It’s been very cool foiling only a couple hundred meters away from the F50s and watching them up close! It’s been exciting to see some of the world’s best sailors in the Sail GP flying round Plymouth. I am still not perfect on my gybes but was very excited to try and put the boat around a slalom course! We also got to catch-up with a few of the SailGP GBR F50 sailors including the women who are trialling on the boat.”

Waszp UK Ladies National Champion 2021 Hattie Rogers adds: “We’ve had talks from the coaches, SailGP GBR team and the SailGP team which has been fab. Getting the boats and sailing kit was also a highlight as it’s so exciting all having the same equipment and all looking smart.

Any opportunity to sail WASZP’s I take up, along with the fantastic coaching and racing this week is providing. It’s such a cool boat and this event has a really professional environment. Sharing the water with the F50’s and professional teams is an exciting opportunity and getting so close is awesome! Meeting new people is also something I love about sailing events.”

SailGP Inspire also aims to serve a leading role in helping to diversify the sport of sailing. The programme aims to select 50 percent female and 20 percent racially diverse candidates.

Monique Vennis-Ozanne adds: “A few things about sail GP stand out for me, firstly the racing is so fast and exciting and the boats are incredible to watch. Secondly the mission of SailGP being powered by nature really sets an example to other sports and companies to care about their own carbon footprint. Lastly I like how SailGP is trying to get more equal involvement and participation in sailing.”

Hattie Rogers adds: “I love how diverse and sustainable it is. They’ve made the series not just about the sailing but more about the whole experience which makes it so much more inclusive. Also bringing together the world’s best athletes in one venue from lots of different types of sailing is awesome!”

Duncan West, RYA South and SW Regional Performance Manager said: “I’m extremely proud of all the youth sailors who took part in the SailGP Inspire Racing programme. It was a pleasure to watch them showcase their sailing talents and foiling abilities in front of the large crowds, especially as I have watched some the sailors mature and grow in their sailing abilities for several years now.

The Waszp class of boat is becoming more popular and it’s great to see the younger sailors embracing this new sailing technology, and taking the opportunity to learn more about them at the SailGP event. The RYA youth and junior sailing programmes are all about encouraging more young sailors to take up and stay in the sport. SailGP Inspire Racing and the new foiling boats can certainly help play their part in this.”

Tom Herbert-Evans, SailGP Youth Program Manager concludes: “It’s an amazing atmosphere and experience, which also gives an insight into the professionalism in sailing and the marine industry. It’s a great way to incentive the next generation of youth. We add an experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else, next to the F50’s – they are the only boats on the racecourse other than the F50s.”

Watch the Inspire Racing highlights video here