SailGP’s youngest athlete on stepping onto the most exciting racing in sailing
Leo Takahashi is busy by anyone’s standards. He’s representing Japan in the most technologically advanced racing championship in the world, he’s an accomplished match racer, Olympic-level 49er sailor with Tokyo 2020 firmly in his sights…and he’s only 20. How’s he handling the pressure at such a young age? One race at a time.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for me to be a part of the whole atmosphere, and being a part of the Japanese team is awesome. It’s not often young guys get this opportunity, so I just want to be a good role model. The younger kids at my home club always ask me how it’s going and what it’s like going 50 knots around a racecourse. That’s a big motivator for me,” said Takahashi.
Takahashi doesn’t take his selection for the team lightly; he’s working his hardest to set himself up to be in the driving seat in a few years’ time, taking on the baton from current helm Nathan Outteridge. “They make it really easy for the new guy coming in, there’s a lot of banter, and chit-chat but when’s its race time, its serious,” says Takahashi. “I’m really grateful, and just taking it all in from the older guys.”
Crediting his success to time spent in the Olympic 49er class, Takahashi has been a member of the Japanese National Team since 2015 and represented Japan in the 2017 Youth America’s Cup. He draws some parallels between the two classes.
“You have to be able to sail a fast boat but also have the racing skills to compete. The 49er translates a lot to the F50, you’re racing a high-speed boat on a really tight track against the best sailors in the world, and that’s exactly what’s happening in the F50, the fastest boat, and the most advanced technology.”
When he’s not sailing, Takahashi maintains a relatively normal life. He enjoys being outdoors, playing league basketball with his friends, and he’s pursuing his pilot’s license. He’s not just taking flight on the F50, but also in a Cessna 172, a tried and true icon in aviation, he hopes to solo later this year.
As for the higher profile that comes with being part of the Japan SailGP Team, he takes it in stride with a cheerful attitude, “It’s pretty cool. My friends have been really supportive. They have watched every race and cheer me on. They send me videos when I’m on camera- which is pretty funny to see. No one can believe it! They all joke about how they let me onboard.”
Time will tell whether Takahashi’s hard work will come to fruition and but one thing is sure, this ambitious young athlete has set his sights on representing Japan, whether at the Olympics or in SailGP…or both.