Erica Dawson has been a part of SailGP history.
Dawson, an Olympic sailor in the Nacra 17 class, has been with the New Zealand SailGP team this year as part of the competition's women's pathways programme (WPP). In Cadiz, Spain, at the weekend, the crew set-up was configured and each team's WPP sailor was onboard for the fleet races for the first time at a SailGP event.
The programme was devised to help provide more opportunities in the professional sailing realm for women, with the onboard configuration increasing the number of crew members from five to six, and three to four in the lighter airs.
"The more time we have on these boats the more we're bridging the experience gap that has been identified for women in sailing," Dawson said. "So, the more time we're getting with the teams involved is all beneficial.
"I think this is just the beginning, getting onboard in the sixth position and the fourth position. I'm really happy that it's happened and we're now racing. I think it was time to do that and I'm really excited to see where it goes from here."
It was something of a baptism of fire for the eight women getting their first taste of official racing onboard their respective teams, with the weekend's conditions in Cadiz serving up a bit of everything.
The opening day saw some lighter winds, with the second day welcoming high breeze and difficult sailing conditions. It was a mixed event for the New Zealand crew, who scored their first race win of the season, but finished toward the back end of the eight-boat fleet in the other four races.
"It was quite a lot windier than the previous regattas we've had. Even starting the day, we had to balance up taking it easy to make sure we didn't break the boat but also trying to get in some good training, so it was a bit of a balance trying to keep the boat in one piece. It was a pretty awesome weekend to start in having those kinds of conditions," Dawson said.
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"It was pretty awesome being able to race. We had a real mixture of conditions; a really light day and then today was pretty hectic. The racing was really full on so that was pretty exciting. I loved it."
The athletes in the WPP will again get the opportunity to race when the series makes its final stop of the year in San Francisco in late March, but will not be on deck in Sydney in December due to limitations presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.