The United States SailGP Team held its inaugural ‘Learn to Foil’ camp with the Bristol Yacht Club & East Bay Sailing Foundation (EBSF) July 20-21 as it kicked off ‘Foiling First’ – a breakthrough athlete development program created to advance diversity and inclusion in the sport as it builds the first-ever professional pathway to foiling in the US.
Foiling First: Learn to Foil Camps were created in support of the initiative’s goal to use foiling as a catalyst to advance change in the sport of sailing; expanding the talent pool, educating young athletes and coaches about the importance of inclusion and equity in sailing, and including communities that may have previously been excluded from the sport.
For the camp at Bristol Yacht Club & EBSF, U.S. SailGP Team athletes Jimmy Spithill, Rome Kirby, Andrew Campbell, and Cooper Dressler flew in straight after competing at the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth, to facilitate a multi-day course introducing thirty-five community youth and their coaches to foiling. The two-day camp consisted of extensive individual coaching sessions with youth and athletes, including safety briefings, equipment overviews, on-shore instruction, as well as two individual hour-long, on-water coaching sessions per athlete.
Spithill said in a statement: “The other athletes and I couldn’t help but smile all day. When you see the next generation get their first taste of foiling, it takes us back to our first time taking off and flying above the water. We see this as starting to fill the American talent pool and we want to be sure we’re casting a wider net and help to advance inclusion and diversity in our sport.”
American boat manufacturer Melges Performance Sailboats, which has partnered with the U.S. SailGP Team and Foiling First, provided access to the new Skeeta and Nikki foiling platforms for the camp which are designed to allow new athletes an easy transition between traditional sailing and foiling, facilitating a smooth process for youth to learn how to foil for the first time.
East Bay Sailing chairperson Kristin Browne said in a statement: “This was an amazing week for our community helping launch Foiling First with the best coaches you can possibly have. I heard kids come off the water saying ‘this was the most fun they’ve ever had sailing’ and we can’t wait to continue in our partnership with the U.S. SailGP Team.”
As part of the camp programming, youth and coaches also participated in an educational workshop put on by the team’s #RacefortheFuture partner RISE, which educated the group about the concept of identity, its multifaceted nature and how advancing diversity and inclusion benefits teams and the sport more broadly.
RISE senior director of curriculum Dr. Collin Williams said: “We’ve seen that engaging with youth is important because a lot of the stereotypes and biases we have heard we learn as kids. We’re excited to partner with the U.S. SailGP Team and help educate young athletes on how they can create inclusive environments and, in the future, help lead change.”
The United States SailGP Team is currently accepting applications from sailing organizations interested in joining Foiling First. Interested organizations can learn more and apply for both the partnership program and learn to foil camps at FoilingFirst.com.