Tokyo 2020

Hannah Mills sets sail on a mission to save oceans

Her gold medal-winning performance on the water in Tokyo has inspired the next generation of Team GB Olympians – but sailing ace Hannah Mills is also helping educate the sporting world about sustainability.

Hannah became Great Britain’s most successful female Olympic sailor when she and teammate Eilidh McIntyre won gold in the 470 sailing class at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Hannah won silver at London 2012 and gold in Rio five years ago.

As well as her sailing prowess, Hannah is helping inform and inspire youngsters about environmental issues thanks to a new RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Sailing Sustainability initiative.

Growing up in Cardiff, Hannah always had an interest in the health of the ocean. She helped launch the ‘Big Plastic Pledge’ last year, an initiative aiming to unite the sporting world to help tackle single use plastic. She is also involved in ‘Challenge 6000’ – an attempt to remove 6000 pieces of litter from the sea during the Olympics.

Hannah has also supported RYA’s Sailing Sustainability campaign. It seeks to address international concerns about the environment by harnessing the power of sport as a platform for social and environmental good.

National Development Officer of RYA, Cymru Wales, Ruth Iliffe, has been an integral part of the campaign and thinks the sport of sailing could help drive big changes.

Ruth said, “Young people today are very switched on to environmental issues so as a sport, we have something they could be part of and help to change. Sailing is a great way to get the message out and take responsibility for the environment and Hannah has played a massive role in that.

“When our sailors are doing well, and we’re part of the Olympics, it inspires people to do something different.”

Team GB windsurfer and triple Olympian Bryony Shaw agrees with Ruth. She said, “I certainly witnessed first-hand a new level of awareness about sustainability in sailing and I know that Hannah has been passionate about the Big Plastic Pledge. We’re out there on the oceans and we see rubbish and polluted marinas across the world – it’s heartbreaking.

“The Olympics is a great movement and the fact that in the UK, sailing gets supported by National Lottery funding means athletes have a solid career and can help inspire the next generation.”

Hannah’s training partner Amy Seabright said, “I think the more we can link sailing and sport to initiatives like the Big Plastic Pledge, the better.”

Hannah’s brother and Cardiff Bay Yacht Club coach, Richard, has also supported the campaigns and is passionate about using sailing to influence the next generation in sport and for the environment.

He said, “I think it’s great for kids to see people who they idolise, like Hannah, actually trying to take the lead and show the right way forward. We have kids here who are all trying to do more because they’ve seen these idol athletes talk about the environment and it inspires the next generation to do something as well."

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6th August 2021

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