New Zealand strategist Liv Mackay has said the ‘time is definitely coming’ for female drivers to step up and begin leading SailGP teams.

Mackay, who has been helming the New Zealand F50 in training, reflected on a year of SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Program ahead of racing beginning in Cádiz.

Speaking at a pre-racing press conference, she said: “It’s definitely an incredible feeling driving the F50 and I’m very fortunate to get that opportunity and a lot of training recently.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Liv Mackay at press conference

“I think the time is definitely coming [for women to step up as drivers] and there’s an amazing opportunity to focus on that next generation and bring in more females to train and get some of the guys out [of the boat] some time in the future.”

U.S. driver Jimmy Spithill agreed with Mackay that female drivers will soon be seen in the league.

“I think there’s just a heap of talent throughout the fleet," he said. He pointed to French athlete Amelie Riou, who joined the U.S. team in Saint-Tropez after U.S. athlete Steph Roble was injured in training.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Jimmy Spithill with Tom Slingsby and Peter Burling at press conference

“The one thing that stuck out to me was her timing of communication and what she said - the timing was perfect every time and what she said was critical." He added: "There’s no doubt that she’ll be one of the stars in the future.”

Great Britain driver Ben Ainslie joined the chorus of praise for the Women’s Pathway Program and SailGP’s roster of female athletes, saying that ‘everyone in the league has been impressed with how the female athletes have got to grips with these boats’.

He added that the league’s female athletes are taking a more involved role in steering the F50s.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Ben Ainslie at press conference

“Particularly on the strong wind days now you see the female athletes getting involved in steering the boats through the maneuvers,” he said. “These boats are going along at almost 100 km/h - it’s pretty full on and they’re getting stuck in and doing a fantastic job.”

Since the launch of the Women’s Pathway Program in Season 2, female athletes have been on board for 100% of races around the world and become a visible example and inspiration for upcoming sailors.

Speaking about the program, Canada strategist Georgia Lewin-LaFrance said: “I have always looked up to so many of the female athletes in the league through my youth and it’s just amazing to have the opportunity to be racing against them now and learning from them directly.

Season 3 // Spain Sail Grand Prix // Georgia Lewin-LaFrance at press conference

“I guess what I would say to any aspiring athletes that want to pursue a career in professional sailing that the opportunities for us are drastically increasing and just go for it - that’s what I did and here I am today.”

The Spain Sail Grand Prix Andalucía - Cádiz presented by NEAR takes place on September 24-25. Click HERE for full broadcast information.