The opportunity to put her engineering skills to use with SoftBank Team Japan’s design team was one that Emily Nagel just could not refuse.
The 22-year-old sailor gave up her place on Team BDA, Bermuda’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup squad to pursue a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to work full-time behind the scenes with the America’s Cup challenger.
“I was approached with a job offer and it’s kind of too good to refuse,” Nagel said.
“I love sailing for Team BDA and being part of that and learning as much as I can. But thinking towards the future this is the sensible thing to do, and it’s an incredible chance to meet some amazing sailors and work with some of the best designers in the world.”
Nagel comes highly qualified for the job having graduated with a Master’s degree in Engineering with Naval Architecture from the University of Southampton last year.
“I went to university to study naval architecture and I’ve got a Masters in engineering that I’ve been trying to put to use, so this is an excellent chance actually to put some of my skills to work and be useful and play my part in the America’s Cup,” Nagel added.
“I’m getting to see all sorts of designs and it’s everything I’ve ever dreamt about the past four years in university. Seeing this stuff is pretty awesome.”
The transition to Team Japan’s design team has been a seamless one for Nagel, having initially come on board as an intern.
“I have been working with SoftBank Team Japan since September as an intern just learning as much as I can and it’s been pretty incredible,” Nagel said.
“I have been involved with the design team here doing all sorts of jobs ranging from tiny parts on the boat to shore side jobs, washing the boats down — anything and everything unpaid until they offered me a paid job and a chance to become part of the team.
“It was a long time coming and I worked pretty hard so its nice to be a part of everything.
“Having a chance to be around this calibre of talent is incredible and I had lunch with Dean Barker [Team Japan skipper and chief executive].
“I was watching these guys in the last America’s Cup on TV and was thinking how incredible it was, so to actually be able to say I know them and can learn some stuff from them is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Nagel’s departure has deprived Team BDA of one of their most decorated and experienced sailors.
She competed in the 2015 ISAF Team Racing World Championships as well as other world and European championships and in 2014 won the International University Sports Federation Women’s Match Racing World Championships in Italy as a member of Team Vose-Glamour Racing.
Nagel, whose career began at age ten sailing in the developmental optimist dinghy out of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, admits her decision to leave Team BDA and join Team Japan was not an easy one to make.
“It was an incredibly hard decision for me to make,” she said. “I’ve always had two dreams; one to be a professional sailor, and two to be a professional designer, so having to choose between them was pretty hard.”
Laura Cutler, the Team BDA manager, added: “It was obviously a gut-wrenching decision for Emily, she’s a competitor and loves to race.
“This is such an amazing opportunity for Emily and the team completely understands and supports her decision. We’ll miss her but wish her all the best on pursuing her dream.
“The mission of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup is to provide a pathway into the highest level of international sailing and that is exactly what’s happened for Emily. It also illustrates how big an opportunity Team BDA has presented for all the sailors.”
Joining Team Japan has also not come without sacrifice for the sailor.
“Here I definitely won’t be out on the water,” Nagel said. “I will be in the design office most of the time, which is going to be tough.
“But, I’m having such a great time here it’s hard to be upset about it, and it doesn’t mean I won’t be sailing in the future. You can count on the fact I’m going to be back out on the water as much as possible and still going to be racing and still dream of racing in the America’s Cup.”
Nagel experienced the ultimate sailing adventure in November last year when she sailed from New York to Bermuda in an offshore 46ft foiling catamaran with Oracle Team USA duo Jimmy Spithill and Rome Kirby and Team Japan communications director and Volvo Ocean Race winner Matt Knighton.
“That’s awesome news,” Oracle skipper Spithill said of Nagel’s move to America’s Cup rivals Team Japan. “Having worked with her on the New York to Bermuda Red Bull foiling project I’m not surprised.
“She’s got a lot of drive and talent and isn’t afraid of hard work. But more importantly she has a great attitude that works in a team.”
Team BDA have no plans on replacing Nagel as there is ample cover in the positions she has been training for on the boat.