Olympian Sarah Ayton carves out new career as Extreme Sailing coach

Thu Feb 4, 2016 1:24pm EST
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By Tessa Walsh

LONDON (Reuters) - British sailor and double Olympic gold medalist Sarah Ayton is carving out a new career as a coach in the ultra-competitive, male-dominated world of high-performance sailing - a kind of Formula One on water.

The only woman to race in the Extreme Sailing Series fleet, tactician Ayton was named female ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in Beijing in November, the highest award any sailor can receive.

With her four male crew mates, she capped last year by winning the Extreme series – a high-speed racing championship of 40-foot catamarans – after dominating the season.

Now it is out of the boat and into coaching, just as the Extreme Sailing Series switches to smaller, faster 32-foot GC32 catamarans which rise out of the water as they accelerate.

"It was a really good ending to 2015. I’d had my eye on Rolex sailor of the year for some time and it was a really big deal and special moment for me to get recognized and we finished off the job in Sydney winning the Extreme 40 Sailing Series,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

Ayton, now 35, scored Olympic success sailing with all-female crews in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. She retired from sailing in 2011 to look after her two young sons, but returned to competitive racing in 2014.

Sailing in the Yngling Olympic class with an all-female crew has the same intensity and commitment as racing the Extreme 40 catamarans - but not the physicality demanded of the latter.

“Getting back into competitive sailing in a really male environment has required me to be mentally tough and physically, I’ve really had to up my game,” Ayton said.   Continued...

Sarah Ayton of Britain, competing in Yngling class, holds her gold medal following the medal presentation at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao, Shandong province in this August 17, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Peter Andrews/Files