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U.S. SailGP Team launches American foiling pathway advancing diversity in the professional sailing pipeline

3 JUNE 2021News
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  • United States

RISE, World Sailing Trust, and Melges join the team to accelerate change in the sport as part of SailGP’s #RacefortheFuture

NEW YORK - June 3, 2021 - Today, the United States SailGP Team launched ‘Foiling First,’ a breakthrough development program created to become the first ever professional pathway to foiling in the U.S. and a catalyst for monumental change in the sport of sailing.

The announcement comes amidst the team’s final preparations in Taranto, Italy for the second event of SailGP Season 2, the Italy Sail Grand Prix, June 5-6, 2021.

Spearheaded by the U.S. SailGP Team as part of SailGP’s Race for the Future purpose-led agenda to drive meaningful change towards a more inclusive sport and a better planet, Foiling First builds upon the U.S. Team’s commitment to champion greater diversity and inclusion in the sport.

“Before this season started, we thought about how we could positively impact our sport in America and we quickly identified two problems,” said U.S. SailGP Team driver and CEO Jimmy Spithill. “First, the American talent pool is underdeveloped because there’s no pathway for foiling athletes. At the same time, our sport has struggled with diversity from a gender, racial and socioeconomic perspective. Our team sees an opportunity to address both challenges and help encourage change through Foiling First.”

In response to these challenges, Foiling First creates two solutions: one, a long-term partnership program between the U.S. SailGP Team and American community sailing organizations to develop foiling talent, equip coaches, and engage with diverse populations, and two, “learn to foil” camps with U.S. SailGP Team athletes which feature a curriculum designed to expand the sport’s talent pool and also educate young athletes and coaches on advancing diversity and inclusion in the sport.

Foiling First will directly complement SailGP Inspire – the league’s event-driven community engagement program aimed at building a more inclusive sport – operating as a year-round American initiative that supports the Inspire program at future SailGP events in the USA.

To help create accessible programming, the U.S. SailGP Team has partnered with American boat manufacturer Melges Performance Sailboats using the new Skeeta and Nikki foiling platforms which are designed to allow new athletes an easy transition between traditional sailing and foiling. Melges will demo these boats as the preferred platform at Foiling First Learn to Foil Camps.

“It is important for us to start at the grassroots level and we’ve designed Foiling First to develop the next generation of pros in a way that redefines our sport,” said Spithill. “We want to invite the American sailing community to join us.”

The U.S. SailGP Team also debuted two strategic partnerships with nonprofits RISE and World Sailing Trust who will both contribute to the social purpose curriculum of Foiling First and the team’s mission to help bring change to the sport.

RISE joins the team with extensive experience in empowering the American sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice, and improve race relations. RISE will lead diversity education at Foiling First programming using curriculums developed through their work with organizations such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NASCAR among others.

"History has shown that sports can inspire a movement and make real change, and now is the time again to use that power to unify our country to address discrimination," said RISE CEO Diahann Billings-Burford. "At RISE, we are equipping the sports community with the tools to be advocates for racial equity. We've seen how partners like the United States SailGP Team, which is committed to long-term action, can amplify this work and break down barriers. It is evident the team, through Foiling First, is dedicated to taking meaningful steps that bring sustained change, and we're excited and proud to partner with them."

Complimenting RISE, World Sailing Trust, the global charity established by World Sailing, the sport’s international governing body, to promote sailing in all its forms, will also join the team as they design local programming and advise on tangible steps organizations can take to contribute to advancing diversity and inclusion.

The Italy Sail Grand Prix | Taranto will air on CBS Sports Network this Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6 at 4:00pm ET. For live coverage of the racing starting at 7:30am ET, be sure to watch live streaming coverage on the SailGP APP, Facebook, and YouTube channels.

To learn more about Foiling First and receive the latest updates on how to be involved, visit FoilingFirst.com.