International Women's Day 2024 // Cortnee Spessot, Tech Team Operations Manager

Today, SailGP celebrates Inspiring Women driving SailGP forward for International Women's Day 2024. Our global sporting league proudly recognizes and honors the invaluable contributions of the incredible women within our organization, particularly those driving innovation and excellence in technology.

Over the course of this week, in the lead up to #IWD2024 celebrated today, we have shined a spotlight on five of the remarkable females in tech at SailGP whose passion, expertize, and leadership continue to propel us forward. From software development to data analytics, from technical team operations to broadcast, these trailblazers embody the spirit of innovation and empower our organization to reach new heights.

Today we spotlight Cortnee Spessot, SailGP's Technical Team Operations Manager. Cortnee travels to every event on our global calendar and works closely with SailGP's first ever female Technical Team Director Michaella McCloskey to oversee the team composed of 90 dedicated individuals; responsible for the construction of the F50 catamarans and the build of SailGP's technical site. Cortnee coordinates on-water race operations, manages staffing and crane schedules, and oversees the reduction of the chase boat fleet to minimize SailGP's carbon footprint. Read more below.

Cortnee Spessot IWD

Can you share with us your journey into the world of tech and how you became involved with SailGP?

I consider myself incredibly fortunate with my SailGP journey. At the time, I had been working as an Executive Assistant to the Head of Equities for a large banking corporation for just over 9 years. Tom Slingsby, the Driver and CEO of the Australia SailGP Team, had been a friend from my time growing up on the Central Coast, NSW. In 2019, when Tom was in the process of developing his team, he reached out to me to see if I knew of anyone suitable for the Team Admin Role. Upon reviewing the job description, my immediate response was, “How about me?” Following a series of interviews, I was excited to secure the position marking the commencement of my SailGP journey.

Following this milestone, I had the opportunity to explore various facets of the business and joined the Sydney Event Team alongside the accomplished Leah Trafford and her exceptional team. Working with them provided valuable insights, allowing me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the different aspects of the business.

During this period, I witnessed the magic that occurs behind the scenes within the SailGP Technical Team. Composed of 90 dedicated individuals, this team works tirelessly to construct the F50’s and ensure their readiness for race day.

Soon after my time with the Sydney Team, an exciting opportunity emerged to join the Technical Team alongside our first ever female Director Michaella McCloskey and her team. I have gradually grown and progressed within the department, transitioning from the role of Tech Team Coordinator to Tech Team Operations Manager. This journey has been a challenging and rewarding experience, providing me with valuable insights into the intricate workings of SailGP’s technical operations.

What does your day to day look like over an event weekend? What are the specific roles and responsibilities you undertake within SailGP?

The role of Operations Manager is a dynamic role encompassing meticulous planning for upcoming events, daily site scheduling, coordinating on-water race operations, managing staffing and crane schedules, and overseeing the reduction of the Chase Boat Fleet to minimize our carbon footprint. From TechHQ, I am working with various teams and departments to align on processes for successful event weekends, and manage the F50 sign-off process on race weekends, ensuring early identification of technical issues and smooth on-water operations.

As a woman working in a predominantly male-dominated industry, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

While challenges like breaking stereotypes and gender bias have been present as a woman in a male dominated industry, I've embraced them as chances to showcase my skills and leant on other female leaders in the industry for guidance and mentorship.

IWD Cortnee

In your opinion, what unique perspectives or strengths do women bring to the world of sport and to SailGP in particular?

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of sports, as women we continually demonstrate adaptability and strategic thinking. This skill set proves beneficial in addressing unexpected challenges and devising innovative solutions. Additionally, women demonstrate resilience and determination in the face of adversity, qualities that play a crucial role in the competitive environment of sports, where overcoming obstacles and pushing boundaries are integral components of the journey.

How do you envision the future of women's involvement and leadership roles within SailGP and the broader sailing community, and what steps do you believe are necessary to continue promoting gender equity and diversity in the sport?

While SailGP is evolving, the ongoing commitment to promoting gender equity and diversity in the sport remains particularly crucial. We are fortunate to have impactful initiatives like the Woman’s Pathway, Women of SailGP and the Inclusion Action Group. These programs are led by individuals who have already forged leadership roles within SailGP and share their experiences with potential future leaders serving as mentors guiding them on their journeys.

Who inspires you within your life?

Many individuals in my workplace are inspiring for me, and notably is Leah Trafford. Leah has a multitude of accomplishments and demonstrates remarkable leadership qualities. Her dedicated efforts and commitment to instigating change have been instrumental in paving the way for women in SailGP, ensuring the opportunities that we have now.