‛The best 30 minutes of sailing ever’
Emily Nagel ticked another item off her bucket list after fulfilling a dream of sailing on the turbo-charged F50 at the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth, England, last week.
The sailor and naval architect was granted the wonderful opportunity during a three-day trial with regatta hosts Great Britain SailGP team, which she described as “one of the greatest experiences” of her life.
“The past few days in Plymouth with SailGP GBR have been absolutely incredible,” Nagel told The Royal Gazette.
“Obviously I have been involved with the team in previous seasons, so I’m familiar with the boats. But to actually sail on board was one of the best experiences of my life.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to trial with the team. I have dreamt of sailing on the F50s since working with SoftBank Team Japan during the America’s Cup.”
Nagel was one of four women who had trials in Plymouth on board Team Great Britain’s high-performance wing-sailed foiling catamaran that 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 and was also the first to break the sport’s 50-knot speed barrier in 2019.
The trial began last Wednesday and comprised boat preparation and safety training.
Nagel realised her dream of sailing on the boat the next day.
She added: “As there were four of us, obviously there wasn’t a huge amount of time available to be able to go on the boat, but we each had the chance to get on board in the sixth position — behind the driver.
“I was first up and it’s safe to say I didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. The speed and G-forces are insane and make for quite the ride.
“Being in the sixth position gave me the opportunity to watch what each of the sailors was doing, the timing of the button presses and the accuracy in which they do their jobs. And we hit 45 knots, which was awesome.”
Although her time on the water on the third and final day of her trial was limited to 30 minutes because of technical issues, Nagel said it was “the best 30 minutes of sailing ever”, having been granted the opportunity to steer the boat.
“The team had been practising with a four-man set-up due to the lighter breeze so they put me in the front grinder position for tacking practice upwind,” she added. “The adrenalin rush going from grinding to sprinting across the tramp is exhilarating, and to actually be involved in making the boat go was such a great feeling.
“The following downwind, though, blew my mind. After the bearaway, Paul Goodison [deputising helmsman] moved to the side of the cockpit, offering me the wheel. Absolutely mind-blowing to have the opportunity to drive an F50.
“Goody would still drive during the manoeuvres but then handed back to me a couple times to keep driving. I was over the moon.
“The sensation, while similar to my foiling Moth, was also completely different. But the trust the guys had in me to let me steer even for those few minutes was such a privilege.”
It now remains to be seen which of the women sailors gets the nod to join Sir Ben Ainslie’s team full time.
“The next stage involves the team selecting one female athlete to move forward with for the rest of the season,” Nagel said.
“Obviously I want it to be me. But whatever happens I couldn’t be more grateful to the team for giving me such an incredible opportunity, and I am so proud of all of them for the effort they put in this weekend.”
The hosts finished fourth, winning the last qualifying race to finish just three points shy of advancing to the winner-takes-all podium race, which was won by defending champions Australia.