Hannah Mills: How did she get here?
Published on August 10th, 2022
Hannah Mills put the sport on notice at the 2003 Optimist World Championship, finishing first girl and fifth overall. It began a competitive trail in which she became the most successful female sailor in Olympic history.
Since retiring from Olympic sailing after Tokyo 2020, she’s now crew on the Great Britain SailGP Team, though her current pregnancy has her on land for the moment. How did she get to where she is… here’s her story:
My family weren’t a sailing family so I started sailing at eight years old on a family holiday in Cornwall. The previous years my brothers had been on the same sailing course but you had to be eight years old to join and I finally got my chance to go. I just couldn’t believe it – sailing on the ocean away from mum and dad and having ownership of the boat was just crazy to me.
The skills you learn from sailing at a young age – confidence, independence, resilience, and understanding the weather and the ocean – are amazing. I had never experienced the sport before but at the same time I had watched the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and I just fell in love with the Olympic Games and, as a sport lover, I said – that’s what I want to do.
I absolutely loved sailing and was lucky enough to carry on when I went back home to Cardiff. I sailed on a tiny little reservoir. I went after school, at the weekends, whenever my parents would take me. I still had this Olympic dream and I still wanted to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal but I had no idea that sailing was in the games. That’s when Ben Ainslie came along.
I was 11 years old and I was at an Optimist sailing event and Ben came to do a Q&A after winning his silver medal in Atlanta. He just shared his experiences of the Olympics and winning the medal and I remember realizing right then – that’s what I want to do.
I realized that I could go to the Olympics with my favorite sport of sailing and, at 11 years old, my mindset became completely focused on that goal. I was lucky to have a dedicated goal at such a young age – that meant there were never many distractions that took me off that path.
Competing in the Women’s Two Person Dinghy (470) event, Mills went on to win a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics, followed by a gold in Rio 2016 and a second gold in Tokyo 2020.
Season Three Standings (after three events)
1. Australia, Tom Slingsby – 29 points
2. Great Britain, Ben Ainslie – 24 points
3. New Zealand, Peter Burling – 22 points
4. Canada, Phil Robertson – 22 points
5. Denmark, Nicolai Sehested – 20 points
6. France, Quentin Delapierre – 15 points
7. United States, Jimmy Spithill – 13 points
8. Spain, Jordi Xammar – 8 points
9. Switzerland, Sébastien Schneiter – 7 points
2022-23 SailGP Season 3 Schedule
May 14-15, 2022 – Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess
June 18-19, 2022 – United States Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier
July 30-31, 2022 – Great Britain Sail Grand Prix | Plymouth
August 19-20, 2022 – ROCKWOOL Denmark Sail Grand Prix | Copenhagen
September 10-11, 2022 – France Sail Grand Prix | Saint-Tropez
September 24-25, 2022 – Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía – Cádiz
November 12-13, 2022 – Dubai Sail Grand Prix presented by P&O Marinas
January 13-14, 2023 – Singapore Sail Grand Prix
February 17-18, 2023 – Australia Sail Grand Prix | Sydney
March 17-18, 2023 – New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch
May 6-7, 2023 – United States Sail Grand Prix | San Francisco (Season 3 Grand Final)
Format for 2022-23 SailGP events:
• Teams compete in identical F50 catamarans.
• Each event runs across two days.
• There are three races on each day, totaling six races at each event.
• The opening five fleet races involve every team.
• The final match race pits the three highest ranking teams against each other to be crowned event champion and earn the largest share of the $300,000 prize money to be split among the top three teams.
• The season ends with the Grand Final, which includes the Championship Final Race – a winner-takes-all match race for the $1m prize.
For competition documents, click here.
Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans for event prize money as the season culminates with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.