High-climber Hattie Rogers takes the helm in Dubai as she spends a week with the Great Britain SailGP Team
Blog by Hattie Rogers
Blog by Hattie Rogers
It has been a fantastic week and a privilege to be with the Great British SailGP team in Dubai, both on and off the water for the inaugural SailGP Middle Eastern event!
My SailGP journey has truly felt like a ‘pathway’ in which I believe many sailors will follow in the future. It was only last season that I was invited to take part in the UK leg of the SailGP Inspire WAZP racing programme, I won that event which meant I qualified for the grand final in San Francisco, which I also won. Since then, I have had the privilege to train with the British SailGP team, getting helm time and acting as the reserve athlete for the SailGP Plymouth event last July. I have now finished my first event with the team, as a fully integrated team member and what a week it was!
When I was younger, we’d watch the America’s Cup and the Olympics as a family, and I have been lucky enough to have been sailing and learning from the some of the best in the World throughout my youth. Being in the SailGP environment and particularly with the British team it can’t fail to excite. To walk into the base on the first day in Dubai and see my own lifejacket and harness labelled ‘Rogers’ felt like a big step in my career. It’s hard for me to describe that feeling. My ultimate dream is to be helming one of the SailGP or Women’s America’s Cup boats and having Ben Ainslie by my side whilst we flew around the harbour in Dubai was unbelievable and it’s fired me up even more to reach my goals.
One particularly moment will stick in my mind was when Ben gave me the opportunity to helm, and Hannah Diamond was trimming. This was the first time two female athletes have ever been on the F50 sailing together and it was made even more rewarding having managed to pull off a foiling gybe. The Athena Pathway Program, which Ben Ainslie and Hannah Mills have set up, has played a major part in supporting us, allowing us to spend time on the F50 and gain experience on other boats such as the ETF 26, with the aim of upskilling ahead of the Women’s and Youth America’s Cup in 2024.
The SailGP circuit is like nothing I’ve experienced before in my career. The time on the water is very limited and there is a lot of media, events and talks all happening at the same time. Being organised was key and a timeline of daily tasks was sent out each morning. Some of my media tasks included a base tour for the ‘Adopt a Club’ program for members of the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC). I was also given the opportunity to do a couple of talks and Q&A sessions with the Inspire Youth Athletes. This felt close to home as just over a year ago I was in their shoes, at the Plymouth SailGP Season 2 event, going on a base tour. They were all keen to ask how it felt to helm the F50, as I was still in my kit having just come off the water!
The night before racing started I was invited to Dubai Offshore Sailing Club for a panel discussion led by Ben Ainslie alongside SailGPGBR co-owner Chris Bake and Roy Bedlow Co-Founder of Low Carbon on ‘How Sport can play a pivotal role in the journey to net-zero’. Naturally the young sailors sat right in the front row, hanging off every word and were the first to eagerly ask questions to the team. It really took me back to when I grew up and Ben Ainslie gave a presentation at the Optimist Nationals in 2009. Those talks really do inspire the next generation. Charlie Cullen was also welcomed back as the Inspire Intern for the British team in Dubai. I’ve trained and raced against Charlie for years and it was special going through this experience with him as part of the team.
There is such an electric atmosphere at each of the SailGP events but to see SailGP introduced and blend into a completely new culture in Dubai has been memorable. The racing was probably the best to date with nail biting lead changes in a dramatic final. The team’s reaction and professionalism was impressive after a tough result!
The last week has felt like a big step in the right direction for me and has shown me what is possible. To say it has provided heaps of motivation is an understatement, and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to get racing on an F50 as part of the British SailGP team and continue my pathway to the Women’s and Youth AC with Athena in 2024.