By his own admission, Spain grinder Jake Lilley came to sailing ‘quite late’, at around 15 years old. It was a bike crash that did it. Before sailing, Lilley’s sport was the Triathlon (swimming, cycling and running) but this all ended with a ‘nasty’ bike crash. In its place, Lilley found sailing through his school friends in Brisbane who all loved to sail. “Since then, it’s always been the goal to represent and be the best sailor I can be,” he says.
After starting on Lasers, Lilley progressed into the Finn Class and saw through two Olympic campaigns representing Australia at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, where he finished eight and seventh respectively. He also has an America’s Cup campaign under his belt, having competed with the Artemis Racing team in the 2017.
Joining the Spanish SailGP Team in Season 3, Lilley has found many of his past Olympic competitors by his side, but as crew mates, rather than rivals. “Now we’re on the same team,” he says. “It’s really cool to work with such professional guys and be part of the Spanish team.”
His Olympic campaigns and America’s Cup experience caught the eye of Spanish Driver Jordi Xammar, who approached Lilley to join the Spanish team. “He needed some power for the handles and some sailing expertise to help him,” says Lilley.
Despite preconceptions, grinding on the F50s is not ‘just about strength’, Lilley says. “In these boats you have to be understanding the manoeuvres, what’s going on with the foils, what’s happening with the wing - there’s a lot of different elements going on.” At two metres tall and weighing 105 kilos, Lilley describes himself as ‘quite a big guy’ and says he likes to ‘train hard’.
“I think that’s the most fun part of racing - being able to push yourself to the limit - physically, mentally and technically, so it’s the perfect role.” While he may be Australian born, Lilley is focusing all his efforts onto the Spanish team’s ambition to reach the podium of Season 3. “Personally, I try to contribute to the team as well as I can and get the best result possible for the team - that’s what I’m here for.”