RNZYS Member Greta Pilkington writes history with ILCA 6 New Zealand Olympic Selection

 In Competitions, International Events, Ladies, Member Interest, News, NZL Sailing Team, Olympics

Article and images supplied by Suellen Hurling / Live Sail Die.

When Greta Pilkington started sailing at just 6 weeks old on her family’s Stewart 34 Playbouy, the Olympics wasn’t even a thought in her mind.

Fast forward 21 years and now this sailor, who has been campaigning for a place in the Olympics for over three years, can stand proud next to her fellow teammates and head to the 2024 Olympic Games with the sailing event set to race in Marseille.

Representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Greta is writing her name in the history books by breaking the cycle of a female athlete being missed from selection for the ILCA 6 class.

2024 NZL ILCA National Championships. Napier Sailing Club. Photo: Suellen Hurling / Live Sail Die

In 2012 Sara Winther was the New Zealand representative in the class, which was then known as the Laser Radial, finishing 20th overall from a fleet lineup of 41 of the best sailors in the class in the world. Since then, there hasn’t been a Kiwi woman represented, with hopes of many young girl’s Olympic dreams fading.

But then came along Greta Pilkington – with her natural athleticism and sheer determination, Greta has defied the odds, and the difficult selection criteria, and rightfully gained an Olympic ticket as part of the New Zealand Sailing Team. And she has only been in the ILCA 6 class for four years, having come up through the ranks across the junior classes.

“Wanting to go to the Olympics and then actually being selected is just an amazing feeling. It’s really hard to describe!” said Greta at the official announcement of her selection at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron this morning, the 28th of May 2024.

“It wasn’t until I finished my Architecture degree at the end of 2023 that this dream started to become a tangible reality,” continued Greta, who amongst all the international regattas she has been competing at managed to complete a university degree.

“I decided some time ago that I wanted to campaign for the Olympics and study full-time at the same pace. Naturally, I had to compromise a bit on both sides, but it worked out in the end!”

2024 NZL ILCA National Championships. Napier Sailing Club. Photo: Suellen Hurling / Live Sail Die

Greta’s selection provides a future pathway for young women to follow. There are plenty of female sailing athletes who can now continue their own Olympic dreams, including current ILCA 6 national champion Naiomi Ferrissey and up-and-comer Chloe Turner, who will represent NZL at the 2024 Youth World Championships in the class.

“Representing women in sailing is about inspiring younger generations and creating pathways for young females to aspire to. It’s about showing that with dedication and hard work, they too can achieve their dreams in this sport,” said Greta proudly.

On the TV Three AM Show this morning, Greta was described as the “rising star of sailing”. Greta had her first taste of being in the mainstream media spotlight appearing on the show at 0750.

Greta Pilkington on the AM Show

When asked about her selection by the hosts, Greta responded with “It’s surreal that now it’s a reality,” her young eyes glistening in the camera lights.

Greta stated that “the whole ILCA 6 class is very competitive so anyone could end up on the podium”.

She went on to say that most of the campaign to date has been “self-funded thanks to Mum and Dad,” but now that she is in the team, funding has become available from a range of sources, but there are still many personal expense costs.

“I’ve never sailed in Marseille, but my Olympic coach Mark Howard has a lot of experience in the racing area where there will be a wide range of conditions. I’ll be a sponge taking in all the knowledge he has of the race area.”

Greta heads off to Europe on the 2nd of June for training events and several regattas before the ILCA 6 class commences their Olympic racing event on Thursday 1st of August 2024.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point, but being able to wear the fern on my chest and represent New Zealand on the biggest stage makes it all worthwhile.”

The 21-year-old Aucklander is the 10th member of the sailing team to be confirmed for the Olympics, joining Tom Saunders (ILCA 7), Jo Aleh and Molly Meech (49erFX), Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie (49er), Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17), Veerle ten Have (women’s windfoil) and Josh Armit (men’s windfoil).

Support Greta’s Olympic Campaign by purchasing a ticket in the Kiwi Cup Raffle! 

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