Brazilian Olympic gold medalist Martine Grael joins team AkzoNobel

New crewmember announcement

Martine Grael, the Brazilian sailing gold medalist from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, has joined the crew of team AkzoNobel – the Dutch ocean racing team backed by global paints, coatings and specialty chemicals company AkzoNobel – for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race around the world.

Grael, 26, from Niterói in Rio de Janeiro is the first Brazilian woman to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race. She joins an experienced international line-up of nine professional sailors, led by double America’s Cup winner and Volvo Ocean Race competitor Simeon Tienpont and including fellow Olympic medallist Annemieke Bes and countryman Joca Signorini.

Grael, along with her crew and childhood friend Kahena Kunze, were a consistently potent force in the women’s International 49erFX class in the four years leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After a second place at the 2013 world championship in France, they became world champions the following year in Spain, and were runners up again in 2015 in Argentina.

Grael and Kunze became the hometown heroes in Rio when they clinched gold by just two seconds at the finish of a thrilling medal race finale on Guanabara Bay. The Brazilian duo being carried shoulder high from the water aboard their skiff dinghy was one of the iconic moments of the Rio Olympics.

“Stepping up from the 49erFX to the Volvo Ocean Race with team AkzoNobel is a very exciting opportunity to expand my sailing skills and my fitness level,” Grael said. “My goal is to as quickly as possible get a good feel for the boat and understand the finesse required to produce the best performance. 

“This is a big journey for me but I’m hoping to enjoy the experience and learn a lot from it. Most of all I want to prove that I belong on this team and I can’t wait to start racing against other boats.”

Although this is her first time competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, Grael is no stranger to the tortuous 83,000-kilometer (45,000-nautical mile) competition. Her father, Torben Grael – as well as being Brazil’s most successful Olympic sailor, with five medals – has taken part in the race three times, and won the 2008-09 edition as skipper of Ericsson 4.

On joining team AkzoNobel, Volvo Ocean Race rookie Grael will be racing alongside three members of her father’s 2008-09 race-winning crew: British navigator Jules Salter; New Zealand watch leader Brad Jackson and Brazilian watch leader Joca Signorini.

Team AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpont said he was pleased to have someone with Grael’s pedigree as part of the crew.

“Martine is one of the world’s most talented young sailors and has proven her ability to perform at the highest level with her Olympic gold medal winning performance,” he said. “She is one of the few individuals who can successfully make the leap from small boat sailing into the professional arena of big boat racing in events like the Volvo Ocean Race. 

“It’s no surprise that she is such a complete talent given the amazing sailing family she grew up in, where she learned from a young age what it takes to compete at the top of this sport. Aside from her sailing ability, Martine also has a great personality – she’s fiercely competitive and great fun to have on board.”

Grael has been training aboard team AkzoNobel’s new Volvo Ocean 65 yacht over recent weeks and will take part in Leg Zero – a mandatory series of four preliminary races for the seven competing Volvo Ocean Race teams prior to the race start on October 22 in Alicante, Spain.

Leg Zero begins on August 2 with a sprint around England’s Isle of Wight, followed by the Rolex Fastnet Race on August 6 - 9 and a longer offshore race from Plymouth, England to Lisbon, Portugal, via a one-day pit stop in the French port of St. Malo.

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