January 30, 2024
Future of women’s sailing gathers along North Sea
By David Pendered
Aug. 11 — Leaders of the next generation of women sailors to compete in blue water campaigns and as social influences are gathered on the shore of the North Sea to race in the primary qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.
The 2023 Allianz Sailing World Championships has attracted a field of more than 1,200 total participants from 80 nations competing on more than 900 boats and boards. They’re competing across 10 Olympic sailing disciplines, according to the games’ home page.
Hannah Mills is the latest Olympian to establish that Olympic medals are a gateway to a global audience of potential supporters and opportunities to advance the sport and other missions.
On Friday, Mills used her international megaphone to sound a warning on what could be done about climate change. “It’s scary,” Mills responded, according to a report by reuters.com, which stated:
- “’There are tipping points … if we go beyond them it’s going to cause one way change … and potentially an unliveable planet for everyone,’ Mills told Reuters.
- “Mills, who now races with Ben Ainslie’s British team in sailing’s emerging equivalent of Formula One, said recent data, including record ocean temperatures, showed signs that the planet may be passing through some of those tipping points.
- “’It’s just scary, when you think about the future and about trying to create the best possible planet for people to live on and opportunity and all of the things you want for the next generation,’” Mills said in an interview.
Mills sailed her way to this position of influence. The British national is the most-decorated woman sailor in Olympic history.
Mills has won three Olympic medals in the women’s double-handed 470- skiff. The most recent one was a gold in Tokyo in 2021, which she won with Eilidh McIntyre, whose father, Mike McIntyre, won Olympic gold in 1988 as skipper in the double-handed Star keelboat.
Mills previously had won gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, in the 470, and silver in the 470 in London in 2012.
Mills now works with the world’s most-decorated male Olympic sailor, Ben Ainslie, who won a total of five medals at five consecutive Olympic Games — four gold and one silver.
Ainslie now heads a team in a class of boats so fast that it bears more resemblance to Formula One racing than a traditional idea of sailing. Ainslie’s team has partnered with the Applied Science division of Formula One’s Mercedes team to improve boat speed. The most recent regatta was held in Chicago in June.
Mills serves as a sailor on the team and as CEO of the affiliated Athena Pathways. The program provides this description of its purpose:
- “Athena Pathway, led by Hannah Mills, is a new pathway for female and youth athletes fast-tracking development in professional sailing, on and off the water, including into the America’s Cup and SailGP.
- “The Pathway will be founded with pillars of ‘People, Planet and Purpose’ to encourage athletes to use their voice in the fight against climate change.
- “Applications are now open to be a part of the programme, with opportunities on and off the water.”