Darmanin, Curtis Chosen To Try To Make Aussie SailGP Team

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Four years ago, the closest Australian Olympic sailing medalists Lisa Darmanin and Nina Curtis could get to the Americas Cup was by taking jobs in a hospitality lounge on site in Bermuda.

Theyll be back in Bermuda in just a few days, this time with the defending champion Australian team in SailGP as part of a developmental program designed to fast-track the inclusion of women into the global league.

Its exciting because Nina was with me doing the same sort of hospitality thing. So its cool for us to go back together and represent women in a more exciting way, Darmanin said from Sydney.

Darmanin and Curtis were part of SailGPs inaugural season in 2019, but not as sailors. Darmanin was a TV commentator and Curtis worked in the guest chaser program, where guests got a close-up look at the racing from speed boats.

It was a cool job but Id much rather be sailing, Curtis said.

Darmanin and Curtis will be immersed with the team in Bermuda for the opening regatta of Season 2 on April 24-25. Following the preseason training and development, one of them will be selected to join the team for the rest of the season.

Darmanin said its a privilege and a big responsibility to prove that as women we can actually do a good job. Im really looking forward to the opportunity to get on the boat and see what its about.

SailGP was founded by five-time Americas Cup winner Russell Coutts of New Zealand and tech tycoon Larry Ellison after their Oracle Team USA lost the 2017 Americas Cup in Bermuda. It is contested in souped-up versions of the foiling 50-foot catamarans that were used in that Americas Cup.

While SailGP doesnt have the same cachet as the Americas Cup, it has more teams than were entered in the most recent edition of sailings marquee regatta and is loaded with the worlds best sailors from the Americas Cup and Olympic ranks. Among them are Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who last month helped Emirates Team New Zealand successfully defend the Americas Cup. The losing helmsman, Jimmy Spithill of Italys Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, is taking over as CEO and helmsman of the U.S. SailGP team.

Australia SailGP Team CEO and helmsman Tom Slingsby said theres no specific timeline other than having a female crewmember onboard sometime later in the season, first for practice racing and then in a real race.

As soon as we hit the water in Bermuda, those girls are part of our sailing team, said Slingsby, an Olympic gold medalist and former Americas Cup winner who steered the Aussies to the Season 1 SailGP championship and the $1 million prize.

Once theyve been familiarized with the boat, the women will start getting experience in the role theyre interested in, such as flight controller, wing trimmer and even helm.

Darmanins first cousin and Olympic sailing partner, Jason Waterhouse, is Team Australias flight controller, so she might eventually be going after his job. Theyve sailed together for years, including winning the silver medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the high-performance Nacra 17 mixed gender catamaran. Theyve earned a berth in the delayed Tokyo Games.

Darmanin knows itll be tough for one of the men to have to give up his job, but its just as tough for us. Were just trying to catch up from not having the opportunity in the past when these guys did.

Darmanin and Curtis know the learning curve is going to be steep.

Russell actually said to us not so long ago, These boats are tough for anyone to sail, its not just because youre women that its going to be hard, Darmanin said. Anyone coming in trying to learn these boats, its going to be a challenge.

Curtis was part of the Aussie women’s match-racing team that won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics and also sailed with Team Brunel on the final five legs of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. Among her crewmates on the team that finished third were Kyle Langford, the Australia SailGP Team wing trimmer, and Burling.

Im really hoping its going to be a similar experience because it was one of my favorites in my career jumping on board that boat, Curtis said. Its just that up until now there hasnt been much to aspire to for females in terms of Americas Cup and foiling boats. And so Im really looking forward to that.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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