Anna Burnet is about to head into her first ever Olympic Games with Team GB in Tokyo in the Nacra 17 mixed crew boat, a foiling catamaran class, with John Gimson.
Before she heads to Tokyo, however, Anna is in Italy facing another career first as she jumps aboard a very different foiling catamaran in the Great Britain SailGP F50. For the Italian Sail Grand Prix Anna will be the British team’s second triallist in the female Athlete development programme, following Hannah Mills’ trial with the team during the season opener in Bermuda.
The programme was introduced this season to fast-track the inclusion of female athletes into SailGP. Over the course of three events, six female athletes will trial with the Great Britain SailGP Team, after which a decision will be made on who will join the team full-time. For Anna, the programme presented an opportunity well worth taking a short break from invaluable Olympic preparation time.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity”, she explained, “and I feel honoured to be selected for the trials. There are lots of very talented female sailors in the UK and it feels amazing to be in the mix”.
“I, like many others, would love to continue racing at the highest level after the Olympics. I have been so focussed on the Olympic campaign for the last few years that I have not been able to give much thought to life beyond yet, but there’s no doubt that being involved with SailGP would be a huge step for my future career”.
“There are so many very talented female sailors in the world but historically not many have been given the right opportunities to prove themselves. SailGP are now offering this opportunity and I hope it will be a big step forward for female participation in the sport.
“When I was little, I really admired any successful female sailors so I hope for young girls getting into the sport they can see a future in professional sailing that maybe wasn’t as visible before.”
Anna’s passion for sailing began as a member of the Northern & Clyde Yacht Club, Scotland’s oldest yacht club. She won the national title in the 420 class before progressing to Olympic 470, where she won silver and bronze medals in the 2012 and 2013 Junior World Championships. She then joined forces with John Gimson in the Nacra 17 in 2016, with the duo winning gold at Kiel Week in 2018, before going on to seal a quota spot for the 2020 Olympic Games and triumphing at the 2020 Nacra 17 World Championships.
Anna, therefore, brings a heap of experience to the British team in Taranto, including in foiling catamarans in the Nacra 17 class. The speed and size of SailGP’s F50s, however, is a completely different beast and not something Anna has experienced to date. It is a challenge she could not wait to face head on.
“It’s a very exciting circuit”, Anna added, “I was hooked watching the first season on TV. The F50s are very cool boats and it’s a great spectacle to see so many of them racing around a small course.”
In Italy, Anna has spent her time on the water aboard the F50 focused on Luke Parkinson’s flight control and Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen’s wing trimming, which has included taking the F50 wing control during training sessions.
“The team has been training me dockside at how to use the control systems, and I’ve been watching Parko and Goobs closely on the water, but it’s not until you take it into your own hands and give it a go yourself that it all slots into place.
“I had a go on the wing trim which was a brilliant experience. Goobs talked me through it. I started off just with the wing sheet and then controlled a bit with the twist too. The fundamentals are similar from my experience in the Nacra, but it’s a lot more complicated, advanced and nearly three times the speed!”.
For Anna, this is a unique opportunity to leave her mark and secure a future role beyond the Tokyo Olympics. It is an opportunity she was keen to grab hold of with both hands.
“My aspirations are simple”, she summarised, “they are to work hard with the team, do everything I can to learn as much as I can onboard the boat, and then to hopefully help the team win some races”.
Meet Anna here.