Snellgrove Sets Sail for Gold

With London 2012 on the horizon, TOM TRYON speaks to GB sailor and Olympic hopeful Hannah Snellgrove about gold medals, geology and guitars.

2012 Boat gold hannah snellgrove london 2012 olympic games Olympics sailing sailor Sport Team GB tom tryon

With the Olympics just around the corner one Cambridge sailor has been making waves on the international scene. Caius Natsci Hannah Snellgrove has propelled her way into contention for a spot on the GB team for the 2012 Games.

A string of impressive results in the Laser Radial class have brought her to the brink of qualification for London. First in Weymouth last summer, where the Olympic sailing will be held, Hannah finished 11th in one of the toughest international fields ever assembled as sailors were attracted from around the globe by the chance to race at the Olympic venue.



Hannah Snellgrove competing at the Laser Radial Worlds in Perth, Australia

Then in December Hannah consolidated her fine performance with a strong 14th placed finish at the World Championships in Australia, thrusting her into the reckoning for London 2012. The upcoming trial events in Europe this Spring will be the final test of whether or not she makes it.

Only one spot is allocated for each country, however, and Hannah is now one of the top three British girls in the race to Weymouth. As the youngest and least experienced of the three contenders it will be a tough task, but Hannah’s not letting the pressure get to her. She describes the coming months as a great opportunity for some experience of world-class competition, whether or not she makes it onto Team GB. Competing against the best in the world now means she’ll be ready for anything that’s thrown at her in the future, and she hopes over time it will help her make the step from contender to champion.

Firmly in her mind is Rio 2016, by which time the ambitious 21-year-old hopes to be heading the pack of British sailors. Combining a Natsci degree with international sailing isn’t easy: her life consists of “training and working” and it doesn’t help that Cambridge is “an unfortunately long way from the sea”. She even took a year out after her first-year to train full-time before returning in October.

But it also means she struggles to get the funding needed to travel to major events. Despite being part of Skandia Team GBR, it was only through help from her sailing club and old schools that she managed to finance her trip to the Worlds in Perth.


Sit-ups and sedimentary rocks go hand in hand


It all sounds like hard work, but is it worth it? Hannah believes it is; having won a race at the Worlds in December, she got home to find hundreds of messages of congratulations from friends and family. It’s the “support and understanding” of her friends that makes it possible to lead the intense lifestyle she does.

When she’s not reading up on geology or out on the water, she finds her own way to relax – learning to play the guitar is the current method of choice. And whether in Weymouth this summer or Brazil in 2016, perhaps the tune playing for this Cantabrigian will be the National Anthem.

Photo courtesy of Richard Langdon