At the start of Season 3, professional sailor and ‘data nerd’ Emily Nagel was unveiled as SailGP’s newest international commentator. But her journey to the mic was anything but straightforward.
It began in 2016, when Nagel, who is originally from Bermuda, was part of the country’s Youth America’s Cup campaign. Keen to get involved with America’s Cup, Nagel successfully lobbied Canada wing trimmer and SailGP veteran Chris Draper for an internship with Cup challenger Softbank Team Japan and spent her time split between the ‘design side and the shore team’.
After the Cup, Nagel competed in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race with the AkzoNobel team, counting Denmark Driver Nicolai Sehested among her teammates and New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and Australia’s Kyle Langford among her competitors. Following the race, Nagel began to hear ‘chatter’ of a new racing league named SailGP and remained ‘100% committed to chasing sailing on a professional level’.
After ‘sending out feelers’ to get involved in the league but ‘getting little back’, Nagel decided to start her own sailing-focused data analysis company. Her passion to get involved with SailGP remained and, ahead of the Championship starting in February 2019, she offered up her data services for free. “I decided the only way to make an opportunity happen was to make it myself,” she says. “So I flew out to Sydney and offered to work for free for two weeks - they probably thought I was mental but I just wanted to learn and get involved.”
“I’m trying to combine the two worlds of what people are seeing on the screen and what is happening with the data,” she says. “I guess I’m doing the data analysis but talking out loud at the same time”. The aim is to unlock the audience’s understanding of the data and ensure that even ‘an audience with nothing to do with sailing can tune in and start to understand the technical side,’ Nagel says. “It’s not that an audience can’t understand these concepts, it’s just that no-one has ever explained them before.”
Behind the scenes though, it’s not as simple as Nagel suggests. While watching the racing from SailGP’s remote broadcasting studio in Ealing, London, Nagel must also talk to the producers about which data graphics she’d like to appear on the screen before ‘jumping in and explaining why those numbers are important’. “There’s a whole lot more going on than I ever imagined,” she says. The most challenging thing, she says, is the ‘amount of voices’ she hears while commentating. “I imagined that I’d have a microphone in front of me and I’d just talk”.