With Cowes on the horizon, the Great Britain SailGP Team is ready to hold court on their home waters. With five Olympic medals, 17 World Championship medals among the whole team and a hunger for revenge after their capsize, this group is some of the fiercest talent Great Britain has to offer.
Before he was the SailGP helmsman he is today, Fletcher was the son of two professional ballet dancers, who was breaking the family mold racing sailboats at Northampton Sailing Club with his friends. He caught the bug and started working his way up to pro status, working for P&B sailmakers, cutting his teeth in his first job at age 16. Just a few years after that first job, Fletcher found himself at the center of Olympic 49er sailing. He finished 6th at his first Olympic Games and a year later became world champion in the class. Hungry for Olympic success, he is currently campaigning for Tokyo 2020 alongside Stuart Bithell. He juggles his Olympic campaign with pushing the F50 to the limits in the hope of adding another medal to his resume.
His favorite part of SailGP? That's an easy one for Fletcher.
"Sailing the coolest boats in the world, against the best sailors in the world, at some of the best locations in the world, it's just epic; I am always frothing for the next time we get to sail these beasts."
Chris Draper, team CEO and wing trimmer got his first taste of sailing alongside his dad at age five; he cites his dad as a significant influence on his career. He won a silver medal at the youth world championship before Olympic success hit, winning a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. One of the most experienced members of the team when it comes to hydrofoiling catamarans, it wasn’t an easy decision for Draper to return in this role - a similar one he held at the Japanese America’s Cup Team - but in the end, he couldn’t resist and cut short an around-the-world sailing trip with his wife and two kids. The Drapers had made it to the Caribbean when the call came from SailGP and it didn’t take long to jump at the opportunity and start work putting a team together.
Draper is looking forward to having his team backed by British fans.
"I'm sure if we manage it correctly, having home team support will be a fantastic asset. For us, it just makes us take even more pride in our performance, and that reflects in every team member and how they do their role.”
Stuart Bithell's training for the F50 is different than most of the SailGP athletes, "I love nothing more than to put myself in a position of fear on a climbing wall, and the only way out (other than to fall) is to push beyond what you thought your limits were."
Pushing limits is exactly what the flight controller in the F50 does, challenge the boat to its highest performance. For Bithell joining up with the Great Britain SailGP Team was a natural next step in his career. He has been sailing since age seven and has an Olympic silver medal from the London 2012 in the 470 class. He has won multiple world championship medals, in both the 470 and 49er Olympic classes.
A fun fact about Bithell? He collects mugs from Starbucks all over the world, citing his classic British affection for a cup of tea.
Matt Gotrel, affectionately known as ‘Shrek’, has an Olympic gold medal from the Rio 2016, but not in the sport of sailing. Gotrel started sailing with his dad at age eight and stuck with the sport growing up but took a step back after he went to University and decided to try another sport - rowing. It was one of the best decisions he made and saw Gotrel become multiple world champion before going on to win gold in the men’s eight. More than six years later, Gotrel is back on the water, his role is still one of power but this time with a team of five, and with a grinding pedestal instead of an oar.
When Gotrel isn't on the racecourse, he's spending time with his new wife, Katie, or going for a jog with their 2-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer called Hiba.
Richard Mason is following in his father's footsteps, making his way into a professional sailing career. His dad, says Mason, is the most significant influence on his career. Mason is not just a high-performance foiling racer; he also has an impressive resume of solo offshore sailing. As a teammate, he's known for his easygoing attitude, but intensity on the water.
Off the water his big love is bikes and can often be found on the road or off the beaten track on his mountain bike. Mason seems to have a collection of celebrity doppelganger’s, some say Zac Efron, but his helm Fletcher insists his nickname is Jasper from the Twilight movies.
Neil Hunter grew up on the Isle of Arran on Scotland's west coast but now lives not far from the Cowes SailGP racecourse in Portsmouth. It's no surprise Hunter would take on a career in sailing, his mother is the well-known Sally Hunter of the all-female Maiden campaign for the Whitbread race in 1989. Hunter has been on sailboats since birth. He won the 2017 Youth America's Cup, and at age 21, was the youngest sailor to compete in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda. Known as a bit of a powerhouse and to ensure he doesn’t miss a moment of training, Hunter has a grinding machine in his garden shed.
When Hunter was a kid, he wanted to be a rugby player, but fate had a different course for him.