SHANDON sailor Anna Burnet says she hopes her success can inspire more young women to take up the sport.

The 31-year-old will be part of the British team aiming to win the first ever Women’s America’s Cup when it takes place in Barcelona in October.

But before that, the former Lomond School pupil is aiming to turn the silver medal she won at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago into gold alongside John Gimson in the Nacra 17 mixed multihull class at the Games in France this summer.

It will also be an Olympics which marks a milestone in the evolution and prominence of women’s sport – the first Games to see a 50:50 split of male and female athletes, both in sailing and the event as a whole. 

The Nacra 17 category was the became the first ever compulsorily mixed class to feature in Olympic sailing when it debuted at Rio 2016. 

She switched to the foiling mixed multihull following its first Games outing in Brazil, having previously campaigned in the women’s 470 – where she won silver and bronze medals at the 2012 and 2013 Junior World Championships – and latterly the 49erFX.

Anna Burnet and John Gimson won silver at the last Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.Anna Burnet and John Gimson won silver at the last Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021. (Image: PA)

It was a move which saw rapid results, with Burnet and Gimson winning bronze at the Sailing World Cup Final in 2016 – their first event as a new crew – and subsequently becoming a regular feature on the podium. 

A first Nacra 17 World Championship title followed for the pair at the beginning of the would-be Olympic year in 2020, before the pandemic saw the Tokyo Games postponed by 12 months.

Rather than dampening the fire, the delay only served as fuel to their medal-winning ambitions. Burnet and Gimson sealed Olympic silver on the waters of Enoshima in 2021 – Team GB’s first in the mixed multihull class – and went on to pick up a second consecutive world title just two months later.

Burnet is one of seven British female sailors named in the Athena Pathway squad hoping to bring home the first-ever Women’s America’s Cup.

All of them cut their teeth in the RYA’s junior and youth sailing pathway and progressed into Olympic campaigning with the British Sailing Team.

Hannah Mills OBE, the world’s most successful female Olympic sailor, is the team’s principal.

Anna Burnet will compete in the first Women's America's Cup after her bid for Olympic glory this summer.Anna Burnet will compete in the first Women's America's Cup after her bid for Olympic glory this summer. (Image: RYA)

As well as Burnet there are three other British sailors managing dual Olympic and Women’s AC campaigns this summer – a route never before open to female sailors – with 49erFX duo Freya Black and Saskia Tidey, and Formula Kite athlete Ellie Aldridge also part of the Athena programme.

Tidey partnered another local sailor, Rhu's Charlotte Dobson, in Tokyo three years ago, with the pair finishing sixth in the 49erFX class; Dobson announced her retirement from Olympic competition later that year.

Burnet, Dobson and another local Olympic competitor, Luke Patience, who also called time on his top-level sailing career after the Games in Tokyo, all learned their craft at the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club in Rhu, where supporters gathered to cheer on their home-grown heroes - and where there should be another big crowd of fans supporting Burnet in her bid for glory this summer.

“Life beyond Olympic sailing, when you step into the professional world, has been hugely male dominated,” Burnet said.

“Finally the last couple of years it’s finally starting to change and become more accessible for female athletes to progress to that professional level,” Burnet explained.

“When I was little, I really admired any successful female sailors so I hope for young girls getting into the sport they can see a future in professional sailing that maybe wasn’t as visible before.”

The sailing competitions at the Paris Olympics – actually being held in Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast – run from Sunday, July 28 until Thursday, August 8, while the Women’s America’s Cup takes place from October 5-13.