Australia’s Tash Bryant may be a new recruit for Season 3 but she’s no stranger to the racing circuit.
It began in Pittwater, an inlet north of Sydney Harbour, where Bryant grew up. She learned to sail ‘following’ her father around in his Laser at the age of eight before jumping into an Optimist and joining a training session with a local coach named Traks Gordon.
Gordon, Bryant says, is a ‘legend’ and was also responsible for coaching Australian flight controller Jason Waterhouse and strategist Nina Curtis. “It was a cool little environment I grew up in,” says Bryant, who credits her sailing success to the ‘place [she] grew up’.
Now at just 21, she holds an impressive list of titles and achievements, including being named Australian Female Sailor of the Year in 2017. A year before, she won the U19 World 29er Youth title at just 15 before jumping into the Olympic classes to win the U21 World Championships in the 49erFX class in 2020.
Her foiling journey began just two years ago on the iQFOIL windsurfer which, Bryant says, allowed her to learn ‘the basics of foiling’. “The basic physics is the same on everything, it’s just slightly adapted depending on the boat or board you’re on.”
Despite these achievements, Bryant describes her selection onto the Australian SailGP Team as ‘a massive highlight’. Recruited through SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Program, Bryant will race for the first time at the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess after joining the team for practice racing in San Francisco earlier this year.
Her journey to the Australian team however began in 2019 when Bryant watched from the sidelines as the flying F50s took to the water in Sydney during SailGP’s debut season.
She was immediately transfixed. “I just loved watching them race,” she says. When the Women’s Pathway Program was launched in 2021, Bryant jumped at the chance to apply and was trialled for the team alongside fellow Australian athlete Nina Curtis.
Despite not being selected to race in Season 2, Australian Driver Tom Slingsby remembered Bryant’s name and invited her to take part in practice racing ahead of the Season 2 Grand Final in San Francisco. “They were offering it to try and see if it worked and they asked me to continue on for this season,” Bryant says.
Now as a fully fledged member of the Australian team, Bryant has her eyes on the helm to fulfil her ‘ultimate goal to skipper one of these boats one day’.
She first took the wheel in San Francisco after a surprise offer from Slingsby. “I was a bit nervous because it’s a bit boat and I didn’t want to break anything but I didn’t have the opportunity to think about it,” Bryant says. “Tom [Slingsby] asked me if I wanted to do it and I just said ‘yeah’ and decided not to think too much about it.” Now, on the racecourse of the Great Sound, Bryant has been back taking the wheel in practice racing. “Tom and the team have given me so much time on the helm,” she says. “I come off the water and I can’t stop smiling.”
Looking back at her SailGP journey, Bryant is quick to recognise the pivotal difference the Women’s Pathway Program has made to the careers of female sailors like her. “I’m in a pretty lucky situation where I’m at the right time in the sport," she says. "I feel for the women I looked up to when I was growing up who didn’t have this opportunity and I’m so grateful that I have it.”