A Ride On A Fast Catamaran Led Lindsey Vonn To Join U.S. Sailgp Team's Board Of Directors

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Eight years after catching a ride on a fast, foiling catamaran off Manhattan, retired skiing champion Lindsey Vonn has joined the board of directors of the United States SailGP Team.

Vonn is the latest star to come aboard the rebranded American team in tech billionaire Larry Ellison's global league.

“As a Red Bull partner for nearly two decades, I’ve had the pleasure of sailing with Red Bull and that experience engaged my interest in sailing and encouraged my decision to get involved," Vonn said in a statement released Monday.

The United States SailGP Team was purchased in November by a group of investors from the sports, technology and entertainment worlds. They include former Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner, who was taken with the 17th overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday in the NFL draft; actress/producer Issa Rae; founding Uber engineer Ryan McKillen; and professional sailor Mike Buckley.

“When Lindsey competed in the Olympics, our entire country tuned in; and when she won the gold medal, we all celebrated,” said McKillen, the U.S. SailGP Team co-owner and chairman. “Her success in bringing alpine skiing into mainstream sports is what SailGP has set out to accomplish for sailing. Over her career, she’s been a savvy business operator off the mountain as well. We’re fortunate to have her join the U.S SailGP Team and have her mind and experience in our boardroom.”

Vonn retired from skiing in 2019 after winning three Olympic medals, including one gold, and four overall World Cup titles. She was the first woman to win 82 World Cup races.

Vonn went sailing with then two-time defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA on its foiling catamaran on the Hudson River in May 2016, the day before the start of an America's Cup World Series regatta. She got the full experience, including hiking out and working the winches, while outfitted with a Red Bull crash helmet and other protective gear.

“The guys were so fun and so cool and I guess they don't normally let people help, really, when they get to be a guest on the boat, so it was a really cool experience,” Vonn said that day in a video released by Oracle. She said the combination of water and speed made for "just an incredible sensation. In that sense it is like skiing. When you're on the mountain by yourself and going fast, just you and the mountain, it's a similar feeling.”

The catamaran Vonn sailed on was an early version of the souped-up 50-foot cats used in SailGP, which is in its fourth season. Ellison and New Zealander Russell Coutts founded SailGP after Oracle Team USA lost the 2017 America’s Cup match to Emirates Team New Zealand.

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill was impressed with Vonn that day.

“For her to jump on and pick it up so quickly, especially in those conditions, we were all impressed and have a lot of respect for her. She is a natural athlete," he said then.

Spithill skippered Team USA for two-plus seasons before retiring recently from SailGP racing. He plans to launch an Italian team later this year while continuing to sail for Italy in the America's Cup.

Also sailing that day with Vonn was Tom Slingsby, who has skippered Team Australia to the first three SailGP season championships, each coming with a $1 million prize.

Team USA is sixth in the 10-team fleet with four regattas left in Season 4, which resumes Saturday and Sunday in Bermuda. SailGP returns to New York June 22-23 and the Grand Final is July 13-14 in San Francisco, with the winner-take-all purse increased to $2 million.