First woman sailor in new SailGP League named by French team

SAN DIEGO (LOG News Service) — Olympian and round-the-world sailor Marie Riou of France is the first female crewmember to be announced for the new SailGP global racing league, which will begin competition next year in foiling 50-foot catamarans.

The 37-year-old Riou will be flight controller for the France SailGP Team, which will be skippered by her Olympic partner, Billy Besson. The five-member team was announced Oct. 23 at Marseille Harbor, which will host the final regatta of the inaugural season, concluding with a $1 million winner-take-all match race between the two top teams.

Riou said she was “deeply honored to be the first woman aboard the F50 and hope there will be others to follow as this inclusive league continues to build.”

She will control the hydrofoils on the French boat. The F50s are a supercharged version of the 50-foot cats used in the 2017 America’s Cup.

American software tycoon Larry Ellison and New Zealander Russell Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner, founded SailGP. Ellison and Coutts’ Oracle Team USA won the America’s Cup in 2010 and 2013 before losing it last year to Emirates Team New Zealand.

“It’s fantastic that Marie is on board,” Coutts said. “She is an incredible athlete and rightfully earned a place on the France SailGP Team based on the merits of her extremely successful sailing career.

“Sailing is one of the only sports in which men and women are able to compete together,” Coutts said. “We think it’s incredibly important to offer talented female sailors the same high-level opportunities afforded to their male counterparts.

Besson and Riou have teamed up to win four world titles in the Nacra 17 catamaran class.

The U.S., British and Australian SailGP teams don’t have any female crewmembers. The teams from Japan and China have yet to be announced.

Riou said women belong on top-level sailing teams and added, “The most important thing on the boat is not to have a woman and men on board, the most important thing is to have a good spirit on the team and we believe we have that.”

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