Ahead of next weekend’s SailGP event in Christchurch Global Head of Media Operations Barbara Sikorski discusses what sets her sport apart.

What makes SailGP different from other sailing events?

I worked on a lot of other sporting events (but never sailing) before I joined SailGP back in 2018 in its inception. Our first Race was in Feb 2019, and no amount of preparation could brace me for what was in store. The day I laid eyes on the F50s flying through the water, it wasn’t a boat; it was a speed demon, more fighter jet than your average yacht. I’m telling you, the thrill was off the charts –And guess what? That heart-pounding excitement? Still kicks in every single time, even after five wild years!


What I think makes SailGP the unicorn of events -first of all the difference between what we are doing and other sports, is that are doing is that our boats are identical. Sure, we’re always throwing in new technology and making upgrades, but, all the teams get exactly the same boats. We run things centrally; teams lease the assets from us, keeping it fair. No secret weapons, just pure skill. It’s about finding the real MVPs in SailGP, a level playing field for elite athletes.

Think speeds hitting almost 100 km/h, cutting-edge technology and innovation both on water and on land, and a global sporting league that delivers high-adrenaline action and entertainment with equal importance given to purpose and environment. There are two podiums – one for racing and one for the planet. We’re talking equal love for our Impact League (our podium for the planet) and our Sports League. We’re not just racing – we’re on a mission

In addition to this – we’re doing our best to inspire the next generation, through our Inspire program, a whopping 19,000 young minds have delved into the nitty-gritty of SailGP, through our three pillars – Careers, Racing and Learning. Candidates take part in a range of activities from crafting boats to tinkering with wing engineering, delving into technology, and exploring all things around the sport like creating content, digital, marketing, and photography. We’re here for all of it!

What can our readers expect from attending a SailGP event live?

The SailGP New Zealand Event holds a special place in my heart. When it comes to the crowds and the electric atmosphere within the race stadium, Lyttelton Harbour surpasses expectations. Witnessing the passionate spectators for the first time on Race Day 1 last year left me with goosebumps. It’s truly an extraordinary experience. This year, we are expecting over 22,000 spectators across the weekend, the event is set to be the world’s largest-ever ticketed sailing event – Kiwi support is amazing!

Beyond the thrilling close-to-shore racing, that truly does keep you on the edge of your seat. The event offers a fantastic array of activities. Attendees can expect partner activations, live music, delectable food, and an overall incredible vibe. Add to that the adrenaline-fuelled on-water racing, and it is a whole new level of excitement. The return of the epic fan experiences includes an expanded Race Stadium grandstand seating area, the luxurious Platinum ‘champagne’ Lawn, and the exclusive Shoreline Villas (our private hospitality offering). All in all, the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix promises an unforgettable blend of close-up racing, entertainment, and premium experiences, you won’t be bored!

Guests on the Platinum Lawn look on as Canada SailGP Team helmed by Phil Robertson, New Zealand SailGP Team helmed by Peter Burling, and Australia SailGP Team helmed by Tom Slingsby sail past during the final race on Race Day 2 of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, New Zealand. Sunday 19th March 2023. Photo: Lynne Cameron for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

When racing kicks off in Lyttleton, Christchurch on Saturday 23 March – what are the stakes for the teams involved? What are they aiming to win?

The teams will be vying for not only the glory and recognition associated with winning the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix event but also crucial points in the overall SailGP Championship. Over the whole season there is a total bonus prize pot of $7M on the line, so stakes are pretty high and the competition is fierce. This will be the ninth event of Season 4, so each team aims not only for immediate success in Christchurch but also to position themselves strategically for a shot at the championship crown at the end of the season.

Many will be turning up to cheer for their home country. How is Team New Zealand fairing at the moment and who is likely to be their biggest competition when they take to the water in March?

The Kiwis (led by the legendary Kiwi athletes – Peter Burling and Blair Tuke) are going strong, they finished 3rd in the KPMG Australia Sail Grand Prix just last week. They are second in the overall season leaderboard (ahead of the ROCKWOOL Denmark SailGP team and just behind the Australia SailGP team). However, racing is tight and one wrong move can sometimes cost a whole race, so it can be anyone’s game… Having said that, a win on home soil is just that little bit sweeter especially with that epic crowd cheering you on so I expect the New Zealand team to push harder than ever to secure the top spot! And also don’t forget that the Canadian team driver is also a home-grown Kiwi – Phil Robertson – so another up-and-coming team to cheer on!

As the Global Head of Media Operations for SailGP, I understand you have made diversity and inclusion a key priority – why was that important for SailGP and yourself?

I genuinely believe that in any role, big or small, you can make a positive impact and leave a lasting legacy. Every step in the right direction counts, no matter how small it may seem. Diverse perspectives add so much value to both the workplace and society as a whole, and I’m proud to be part of the Inclusion Action Group at SailGP. We’ve got some fantastic communities, including the Women of SailGP and SailGP Pride networks, impactful working groups that cover areas such as accessibility across all aspects of their journey as a member of the SailGP Family.

I strongly believe in addressing power and privilege. It’s crucial to acknowledge how these dynamics play a role in supporting an inclusive culture where everybody is welcome and everybody is valued. Each of us bears the responsibility to speak up for those who may not be as well-represented, be it in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or socio-economic status. By leveraging our privilege, we can contribute to creating a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, both in sports and beyond.

I count myself incredibly fortunate to be part of an organization that not only aligns with my core values but has also ingrained diversity and inclusion into its very DNA. It’s not just a checkbox; it’s a driving force, woven into the fabric of our organization and the excitement of sports and entertainment. SailGP is honest and transparent about this journey and realizes that there is much more to do in this space. Our Chief Purpose Officer and the dedicated Purpose team who oversee the Impact League ensure that SailGP remains at the forefront of promoting diversity and inclusion, contributing to creating not just a Better Sport but a Better Planet. It’s a journey we’re committed to, and it’s great to be part of a team that values making a positive impact every step of the way.

What strategies have SailGP implemented to make sailing a more diverse and inclusive sport? Are there any goals set to help ensure SailGP will be the most diverse and inclusive global touring catamaran race?

SailGP is on a mission to drive diversity and inclusion through our Impact League, with four key pillars: the race to zero waste, accelerating inclusion, climate action, and breaking boundaries specifically relating to gender equity. Our internal Inclusion Action Group is focused on driving the SailGP Inclusion Strategy.

Spectators watch the racing from the shoreline on Race Day 1 of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, New Zealand. Saturday 18th March 2023. Photo: Lynne Cameron for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

Programs like the Women’s Pathway, Inspire, and the Women’s Accelerator in partnership with APEX Group, are dedicated initiatives to support our drive for diversity and inclusion both on and off the water! We will continue to seek opportunities to further drive diversity and inclusion. From technology to leadership, we’re breaking norms.

Sustainability is embedded into the core of SailGP, with all ten national teams championing causes that drive positive change across Better Sport and Better Planet – covering areas such as the environment, youth engagement, and inclusion.

Whilst we are making waves, we acknowledge there’s still a long journey ahead. SailGP is committed to setting higher standards each season, inspiring others to join us on this impactful journey.

(More info on this can be found here.)

You have been involved with the International Paralympic Committee since 2016 – what did these experiences teach you about the importance of diversity and inclusion?

These experiences have been incredibly enlightening. They’ve underscored the profound significance of diversity and inclusion, pushing beyond the traditional understanding of disabilities. In my perspective, it’s not about disabilities; rather, it’s recognizing that people don’t inherently have disabilities, but their environments can be disabling. The focus is on creating a culture and space that not only accommodates diverse abilities but also showcases that everyone has the potential to succeed and we as a society can benefit hugely from this.

One of the most powerful lessons learned is the broader concept of diversity. It’s not just about visible differences; it extends to encompass the diversity of thoughts, experiences, and abilities. Sport can provide a unique platform where individuals can embrace their differences, whether they are internal or external. It serves as a safe space where everyone can be themselves and excel with their unique strengths, whether those strengths are physical, neurodivergent, or related to any other aspect of individuality. This not only sets a powerful example for people across age groups and diverse fields, extending beyond just sports but also emphasizes that perceived limitations might not be as restrictive as one might think. It communicates that individuals are not alone in navigating these experiences and that, as a society, our diversity is a collective strength that fortifies us.

Why should every YOUR EX reader be heading to Lyttleton for SailGP on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March?

1. The Coolest F50’s: Our F50s are the rockstars of the sailing world; a new class of boat – the next generation if you will.
2. The Coolest Athletes: Our athletes aren’t just the best of the best; they’re also super friendly. Get ready for some high-fives and maybe even a selfie or two.
3. Awesome Staff: Our squad is top-notch. Need info? Just ask. Got a question? They’ve got your back and are there to make sure you have the time of your life.
4. Heart-Stopping Racing: Hold onto your hats! The racing is wild, fast, and heart-stopping. It’s like a rollercoaster on the water, and you won’t want to miss it.
5. Entertainment Extravaganza: You don’t have to be a sports buff to have a great time, we’ve got your weekend sorted. Live tunes, cool activities, and a vibe that screams “good times” – it’s more than just a race, it’s a celebration set in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

So, mark it in your calendar, grab your crew and let’s make it a weekend to remember at SailGP in Lyttelton. It’s not just a race; it’s a show, and you’re invited to the front row! See you there!

SailGP takes over Lyttleton Harbour on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March for tickets visit and follow them on Instagram and their New Zealand team here.