Introducing the Australian strategist stepping into flight control

Alongside SailGP veteran Nina Curtis and aspiring driver Tash Bryant, Lucy Copeland completes Australia’s three-strong female roster for Season 3. Despite joining alongside Bryant this season, 25-year-old Copeland had her sights set on SailGP since the very beginning.

Learning about the league through Australia flight controller Jason Waterhouse and SailGP presenter Lisa Darmanin, Copeland worked behind the scenes as event staff in SailGP’s first ever season to get closer to the action.

But the launch of the Women’s Pathway Program in Season 2 was her call to action. She immediately applied and was down to the ‘last five or six people’ when she broke her finger, which forced her to miss out on WASZP training camps ahead of final selection and it was Nina Curtis who was selected to sail with Australia for the remainder of Season 2.

But the start of Season 3 saw a change in the rules, which required all teams to have a rotating roster of three female athletes, all of which are required to race for at least one event throughout the season. Tash Bryant was confirmed soon afterwards, and Copeland knew ‘the team would need one more woman’. “I was always voicing my interest, especially to Jason,” she says. Like a lot of teams, Australia’s female athlete program targets and trains each athlete in a specific role. With Bryant focused on driving, and Curtis targeting wing trimming, there was one spot left for a female athlete interested in flight control. Enter Copeland.

lucy copeland sailgp

Since being confirmed as the third strategist in Bermuda, Copeland has been ‘full of anticipation’. She got her chance to race in Plymouth, taking over flight control in practice and stepping into the strategist role in racing. Flight control is a notoriously difficult position but Copeland is in safe hands. Waterhouse, who is understood to be one of the best flight controllers in the league, is personally training her in the role. “In Plymouth I did a quite a few laps with Jason in the back just coaching me through it, which was awesome,” Copeland said.

lucy copeland sailgp

One of her key learnings has been the importance of clear and concise communication between the wing trimmer and flight controller. “They really do affect each other so much,” she says. When it came to racing, Copeland assumed the strategist role, which involves keeping a close eye on other boat activities, helping with the lay lines and always knowing where the next set of marks are to inform strategic decisions.

Copeland’s role was crucial as one of the most tense racing moments from the weekend began to unfold. Great Britain gybed in an attempt to beat the Aussies to the finish line, crossing closely in front of them. “When they gybed, it didn’t look like we were going to be anywhere near them but we knew we had to try and get near,” Copeland explains.

“We got a gust and it just knocked us down towards them at the perfect time.” The result was a devastating penalty, which forced the Brits to cross the line behind Australia and barred them from a place in the Final. “It was a good call by the umpires,” Copeland says.

Bryant, Curtis and Copeland are all racing by rotation. Curtis is back in the strategist role in Copenhagen while Copeland’s next event is likely to be Dubai in November. “It was so awesome getting to sail the boat in Plymouth,” she says. “I can’t wait for the next one.”

by Miranda Blazeby, Digital Editor SailGP

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