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Helping change the face of sailing >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

by Des Bieler, The Washington Post
The speed that hydrofoils add to boats has transformed the world of competitive sailing, but it has nothing on the dizzying rate of CJ Perez’s ascent in the sport.

After starting to sail at 13, the Honolulu native turned 18 just in time to take her place aboard a state-of-the-art catamaran in October and compete in the world’s top sailing league.

Perez’s participation with the U.S. team at an event in Cadiz, Spain, made her the first American woman and the youngest person, period, to race in SailGP. Just as significant for someone keen to help bring more diversity to top-level sailing, Perez is the nascent circuit’s first Latina athlete. Her rise is intertwined with “foiling,” a technological revolution in sailing that has the promise to lure a new field of participants at a time when the sport is taking steps to become more inclusive.

“I’ve been given so much,” Perez said, “and I feel it is a part of my responsibility to also give back and try to break down these barriers that have historically excluded many people in the sailing community.”

Foiling refers to the use of watercraft with hydrofoils, winglike appendages that protrude from the bottoms of boats and boards. Perez’s proficiency at foiling landed her a coveted spot with the U.S. team after an open call for applicants for SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Program, an initiative aimed at increasing gender diversity on all of its teams, elicited interest from highly accomplished and experienced women across a range of aquatic disciplines. All teams in SailGP, which represents eight nations, use one-design F50 catamarans that boast a predicted top speed of over 60 mph and have approached that mark in races. As the boats pick up speed, their foils push the twin hulls entirely out of the water, vastly reducing drag and hurtling them past the 50-knot (57.5-mph) barrier.

“They are incredible and flat-out dangerous,” Nevin Sayre, who runs U.S. Sailing’s youth-oriented O’pen Skiff Class, said of the F50s. “For the average sailor to get in a boat like that, they’re scared out of their mind, because you’re going from a bicycle to a Porsche.” – Full report

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