Rory Sail GP Experience

Scottish Hansa sailor Rory McKinna gained a unique opportunity recently with a work experience opportunity with the Swiss Sail GP team at Sail GP in Plymouth
02 Aug 22
Sail GP in Plymouth where Rory McKinna gained work experience with the Swiss Team

The professional global sailing circuit is one of the highest profile aspects of the sport of sailing, competing in 50 foot foiling catamarans, in locations around the globe.

Rory gained a place through the Sail GP Inspire program providing once in a lifetime career and racing opportunities, which may otherwise have been inaccessible and unthinkable, for young adult males and females from diverse backgrounds with an interest in sports.

Rory documented his experience on social media, giving a great perspective on life at Sail GP, and probably left in his own words.

Sail GP in Plymouth where Rory McKinna gained work experience with the Swiss Team

“The First day of work experience at the SailGP Plymouth regatta with team Switzerland! 

A great introduction to what’s involved in preparing for a competition with machines that resemble aircraft more than boats!”

The competition itself doesn’t start until the weekend but we’ll need all that time to get the F50 ready for racing (there’s a lot more going on than in my Hansa)!

Thank you to team Switzerland and the SailGP Inspire Careers programme for providing this amazing opportunity and I’m sure I will have plenty of updates as the week progresses.


Day 2 of work experience with the Swiss SailGP team.

The main task for the team today was installing the mechanisms for controlling the foils (the wings that lift the boat out of the water). This is quite a specialist task so was left to the technicians and experienced crew.

As many of you will know, wherever I go, shiny boats are left in my wake and today was no different as I was given the task cleaning the F50’s hulls! As well as this, the sandpaper pads on top of the hull needed replacing with a more sympathetic material and this was done with a wee Swiss themed twist! Tomorrow will see the foils installed and calibrated so stay tuned for that.


Day 3 of work experience with the Swiss SailGP team. 

Today was quite busy, with the F50 raised up to the roof for the foils to be installed.

The solid carbon fibre foils weigh quite a bit, with four team members required to lift them into place, plus another to guide it in!  Things were quieter in the afternoon as the foils and rudders were covered in sensors and calibrated, making sure they were all in the correct position relative to each other.

Sail GP in Plymouth where Rory McKinna gained work experience with the Swiss Team

In the evening, I was lucky enough to join some of the team on a trip up the River Tamar and into Cornwall to visit the Swiss team’s sponsor club for the regatta, Cargreen Yacht Club where a couple of our Olympic athletes sacrificed the future use of their knees and jumped in Picos to join an evening race with some budding young sailors. Cornish pasties and Toblerone were enjoyed by all before we were whisked back to the camp.Tomorrow, boat launching and practice begins.


Day 4 of work experience with the Swiss SailGP team.

Today was the first practice day and saw all the F50s have their wings fitted and hoisted into the water!

The teams then headed out into the bay for some training and to get acclimatised to the conditions. I remained on shore today and spent my time going round the camp offering help where it was needed until the team returned later in the evening.

Standard procedure is for the boats to be lifted back out of the water, wing removed and stored back in the hanger at the end of every day. A quick inspection revealed the F50 was in good shape and ready to take on the other teams in tomorrows practice race!

Sail GP in Plymouth where Rory McKinna gained work experience with the Swiss Team


Day 5 of work experience with the Swiss SailGP team! 

Oh boy. That was fun! Today was the second day of practice and included all eight teams participating in three practice races. I was lucky enough to join representatives from one of the Swiss team’s major sponsors (Stiftelsen VI ) on an extra RIB to watch the morning warm up and afternoon races! We were positioned in the closest of the viewing areas next to the race course and experienced some very close flybys!

It is an incredible sight to watch these machines and their crews lift out of the water and fly along at speeds of 60kmh (three times the speed of the wind)! At the end of the day, the boats were again lifted out of the water and parked away in their hangers.

The Swiss Sail GP Team

To finish, we received a presentation from Bjorner Erikstad about the goals of Stiftelsen VI and the many benefits of disability sport (sailing in particular). This was well received by the event staff and race teams and a good few more signatures were added to the #backthebid poster!  Another great day. Bring on the racing! 

The Swiss Sail GP Team


Day 6 of work experience with the Swiss SailGP team

Let’s go racing! After five days of seeing the boat be put together and tested it was finally time for the first three races of the GP.

Sail GP in Plymouth where Rory McKinna gained work experience with the Swiss Team

I was lucky enough to be out on a press RIB with a couple of photographers and subsequently had one of the best seats in the house! 

We were stationed at the windward gate (meaning we also had a good view of the start line) but had to zoom down to the bottom of the course to photograph the finish as well!

It was an intense experience being on the press RIB, with the photographers giving (sometimes yelling) instructions at the driver to get into positions for the perfect shot! I was able to observe the Swiss team right in the thick of the action, putting on an impressive performance for a team that has only done two regattas.  The weather is set to hold for tomorrow so fingers crossed we get some equally exciting racing.


Day 7 of work experience with the Swiss SailGP team!

Today was the final day of racing, and the Swiss team was ready to apply what they had learned from yesterday. Once again, I managed to get onto a press boat to watch from the water (this time stationed at the leeward gate).  This made for some exciting spectating, as the boats were still relatively close together as they made their first pass! Conditions today were very light, making it difficult to keep the F50s out of the water, meaning the more experienced teams had an advantage. The Swiss team put on a good show, but ultimately it was New Zealand, Australia and Denmark that made it through to the final race with New Zealand SailGP Team going on to claim their first ever regatta win. 

With the racing over, the F50 was lifted out of the water for the final time and given a thorough clean. The Swiss team will leave Plymouth with more experience and skill than when they came and will go on learn and improve with every coming regatta! 

Tomorrow will be a bonus day with the team de-rigging the F50. Spoiler alert: it comes apart far quicker than it went together! 

Thank you Rory for sharing such a fantastic experience and also to the Swiss Sail Gp for championing disability sport in the quest to get sailing reinstated to the para Olympics for 2028.

#BackTheBid #SailtoLA.