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17th June 2020

OO Emily Nagel joins Sir Ben Ainslie for Virtual Race Call

At the end of May, Emily Nagel (12) joined Sir Ben Ainslie CBE in a virtual race viewing event to discuss their recent success with Team GB at the inaugural race of SAIL GP Season 2. Together they did a post-race analysis of the two days of racing in Sydney, answering a range of questions about their preparation through to the decisions they made throughout the two days of racing.

The data analyst for Team GB, Emily, is described by Ben as “crucial to the operation” while Chris Draper, CEO of Team GB, called Emily’s “meticulous analysis essential to the success of Team GB.” As the team’s data analyst, Emily is on land throughout the races, and it’s her responsibility to analyse the incoming data, control the tactical prediction software and feed a whole host of real-time information to Ben while he helms the boat.

SAIL GP is a radical development in the world of sailing, and at the forefront of the use of data in competitive sailing. The seven teams of SAIL GP all race in a one-design class F-50 Catamaran, the fastest race sail boat in the world, which means that all the boats are produced to exactly the same specifications. One-class design combined with open-share data means that the success or failure is entirely on the crew rather than any advantage from the boat itself.

Like the rest of the world, competitive sailing and SAIL GP has been put on hold during the Coronavirus pandemic, and the remainder of Season 2 has been delayed until 2021. While not able to do “big boat” sailing, as Emily describes it, she has been in the water sailing a single-handed foiling boat, as well as joining our Director of Sport, Iain Simpson, for a chat as part of his 3 Questions Interview Series with various sports stars affiliated with Oakham School.

In the interview, Emily discusses her proudest, and toughest, achievement of sailing round Cape Horn during the Volvo Ocean Race and its gruelling nature – including having to sail through a serious back and shoulder injury for three weeks. Emily also discusses the world of professional sailing – the mental and physical struggles as well as a gaping gender disparity (“massively behind other sports”) and the difficulties that causes for talented female sailors.

In answering the final question, she imparts advice that she would give her younger self, and other young athletes, to “stay hungry, keep chasing, no matter the hurdles.”

Emily’s web chat with Ben Ainslie is available here, and her interview with Iain Simpson is available here.


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