Emily Nagel grabbing trial opportunity with both hands
Emily Nagel will venture into the unknown during her trial with Sir Ben Ainslie’s Great Britain SailGP team in one of the fastest racing classes in history.
The Bermudian sailor is poised to make her debut in the high-performance wing-sailed foiling F50 catamaran, which is capable of speeds exceeding 50 knots, at the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth, England, this weekend.
“I know how the F50s work, but I’ve never raced one,” Nagel told Yachts and Yachting Magazine. “Processing how things happen at 50 knots. I’ve never been on a boat that’s done 50 knots before, so there’s always going to be things to learn.”
Team Great Britain broke the F50 speed record of 94.8km/h (59.9mph) en route to winning the inaugural Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess in the Great Sound in April.
Ainslie’s team were also the first to break the sport’s 50-knot speed barrier, which they achieved during a training run in August 2019.
Nagel is one of six female sailors vying for a spot on the British team.
As part of the SailGP’s gender-equality initiative, which sees female athletes included for the first time, Nagel has taken advantage of the opportunity to trial before a final decision is made on the successful athletes who will join the British team full time.
“For me it’s a brilliant initiative,” Nagel said. “It’s not easy as a female sailor to get a lot of opportunities sometimes, especially in the world of foiling. There’s a lot guys with a lot of experience and, obviously, they’re going to be the ones who get the rides.
“SailGP is creating these opportunities for women to get this experience that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get, so I am grabbing this opportunity with both hands and hoping at the end of the day I manage to get on board. But there’s some pretty tough competition.”
Nagel added: “I’d love to see more women racing on board and hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later.
“I fully believe in all of the [female] athletes among all the SailGP teams. I’ve raced against many of them, whether it’s in The Ocean Race or on foiling boats. There’s a lot of women out there with experience, a lot with gold medals and from very different backgrounds. There’s nothing to say we shouldn’t be involved.”
The professional sailor is no stranger to the British team, having served as their data analyst during SailGP’s inaugural season in 2019.
“The data analyst looks at all the numbers coming off the boat, whether that’s boat speed, true wind angle, true wind speed,” Nagel explained. “On these boats, we’ve got data channels for every button that is pressed, be that dropping the boards, changing the angle of the rake, so you can see everything that’s going on board.
“The data analyst looks at all these numbers while the team is out sailing and afterwards, and tries to assess what is the right thing to be doing. What is the optimum boat speed for each angle. How can we have more time foiling and less time in the water, and so on.
“It’s down to half-seconds. What can you gain in each manoeuvre. Are you losing 0.1 more boat speed in the middle of the tack or gybe than someone else. Tiny percentages and every little bit counts. If you’re getting up on the foils in 14 knots of true wind speed and everyone else is getting up later, that’s going to make a huge difference.”