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.