Hannah Stodel is awarded the Ladies Day Trophy at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in recognition for her leading role in sailing
In a sport in which determination is in decent supply, Paralympic sailor Hannah Stodel stands out. The 30-year-old sailor has spent the last 16 years striving for an Olympic medal over three Games. Yesterday she was given a top award at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, the Ladies Day Trophy, in recognition for her leading role in sailing.
The trophy recognises the growing importance of women in sailing. Some 40 per cent of competitors in Cowes Week are women, and this year 78 of the almost 800 helmsmen in the regatta were female.
Stodel, who campaigns a Sonar with crew John Robertson and Stephen Thomas, was born without a lower right arm. But she began her sailing career campaigning as a teenager in Mirror dinghies, competing on equal terms. Today, she not only races in Paralympic events, but coaches too, including the Blind Sailing GBR team and all-women racing team The Sirens, for whom she acts as tactician and bowman.
Taking the Ladies Day Trophy yesterday from previous winner Libby Greenhalgh, navigator on Volvo Ocean Race Team SCA, Stodel said: “To win is just amazing. It couldn’t have come at a better time in the run up to Rio. It is such a confidence booster, and it has certainly made my Cowes Week.”
Stodel and her team mates go into Rio with a score to settle. They are determined to gain a medal, having missed out in 2012. Then, the team’s performance in the final two races of the regatta lifted them from seventh to third overall, but they dropped down after a penalty received when their bosun – double Olympic 49er medallist Simon Hiscocks – failed to heed repeated warnings from the measurer to stop wiping down their keel after completing some repairs.
The discretionary four point penalty could not be reversed despite several attempts to reopen the protest and the heartbroken British crew tumbled from bronze medal position to fifth.
The Rio Paralympics will be their last chance, as sailing has been dropped from the Paralympic Games in 2020.
But Stodel has plans after Rio that will take her into a different area. Next, she says, she is going to concentrate on offshore sailing, probably single-handed. In the interview below, she explains more about this – and you can get a measure of what it is that makes her so remarkable.
At the ceremony for Ladies Day two other noted women sailors were recognised: Mary Rook, former 49erFX and Nacra national champion, coach with Oman Sail and alumnus of the Artemis Offshore Academy, with which she became the second British woman in the modern era of the race to compete in the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro after 2009 Ladies Day trophy winner Sam Davies.
Also recognised was Julia Bailey, one of the world’s leading Dragon sailors over many years, a renowned amateur sailor and last year the first ever female winner of the Dragon Edinburgh Cup.
It was noted that she almost always sails four-up in the Dragon, with one of her crew a young sailor. Last year’s Cowes Week young skipper winner, Will Heritage, learned much of his skill from sailing in major championships, including the Edinburgh Cup, with Julia Bailey.