Duchess of Cambridge helps Team GB to victory in Commonwealth sailing race
The Duchess of Cambridge brought good luck to the British sailing team, as she helped their crew to victory in a friendly “Commonwealth Race” under the eye of Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie.
The Duchess, a keen sailor, wore a wetsuit to play her full part in GB crew, briefly taking control of the 49ft F50 catamaran for the exhibition race at Plymouth Sound.
The British team sailed to easy victory in front of thousands of spectators, with Sir Ben calling his newest recruit “a really good sailor in her own right”.
The Duchess visited Plymouth in her role as patron of the 1851 Trust, the official charity of the Great Britain SailGP Team.
As well as joining the fun on the water, she was there to highlight its work in making the sport sustainable.
Trying her hand at weaving mats out of seagrass to help protect the marine environment, she spoke to young sailors aged 11 to 16 to find out how they were combining their hobby with saving the planet.
Writing on social media afterwards, a member of the Kensington Palace staff appeared to capture the Duchess’ thoughts to write: “Can say for sure that the world’s first climate positive sport is fast, frenetic and fiercely competitive!”
The Duchess arrived at the coast wearing a suitably nautical outfit, with a navy and white striped top and white linen shorts with gold buttons said to be from Holland Cooper and costing £199.
She then changed into full waterproof sailing gear to match the British team, with a cap complete with its logo and rash vest and leggings.
The Duchess took part in the friendly “Commonwealth Race” between Great Britain and their New Zealand rivals, ahead of the final day of the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix.
Lewis Pugh, the swimmer and environmentalist, joined Team NZ as its guest racer.
“She’s a really good sailor in her own right, she has sailed with me on foiling boats as well and we’re expecting a little bit of extra help,” Sir Ben said ahead of the race.
He escorted the Duchess as she spoke enthusiastically to members of both teams, eventually intervening to remind her: “Come on, we’ve got a race to do, mate.”
The young Kate Middleton learned to sail as a child, and the sport has been one of her passions, with races against Prince William becoming a feature of foreign royal tours including the couple’s recent visit to the Caribbean.
The Duchess met Sir Ben, 45, at the 2012 London Olympics where he won his fourth gold medal in successive Games.
They became friends and after his appointment as team principal and chief executive of the Great Britain SailGP team she accepted his request to become Royal Patron of its official charity, the 1851 Trust.
The Trust aims to improve children’s understanding of science and climate change by linking environmental projects to elite sport.
Before taking to the waves, the Duchess also met youngsters working on the Trust’s Protect Our Future initiative, making seagrass mats to be planted off Plymouth Sound.
She was shown how to sew the endangered plants by Ben Carnegie-Bedlow, a 12-year-old Jersey schoolboy, and followed his instructions while working on a mat.
“She did it exactly right,” said Ben. “It was a good job.”
The Duchess’s mat will form part of an ambitious National Marine Aquarium (NMA) scheme to restore four hectares of lost seagrass meadows, equivalent to 10 football pitches.
The NMA says seagrass is crucial to the health of British waters, providing a haven both for commercial fish stocks and rare marine animals such as seahorses and stalked jellyfish.