Lindsey Vonn, second from right, Olympic skiing champion, rides a...

Lindsey Vonn, second from right, Olympic skiing champion, rides a USA SailGP Team chase boat during racing practice ahead of the New York Sail Grand Prix, Friday, June 21, 2024, in New York. Credit: AP/Julia Nikhinson

Lindsey Vonn went sailing on the Hudson River on Friday aboard a foiling catamaran, enjoying one of the perks of joining the board of directors of the United States SailGP team.

The retired skiing champion was the “sixth sailor” with Team USA for a jaunt off Manhattan before all 10 crews held practice races ahead of this weekend’s Mubadala New York Sail Grand Prix. It's the penultimate regatta in Season 4 of tech billionaire Larry Ellison's global league.

While there certainly will be some boardroom work involved for Vonn — she envisions helping with brand strategy and partnerships — being on the water was the place to be.

“For me, part of the excitement about being on the board is just being involved with another adrenaline sport,” Vonn said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

The wind wasn't strong enough to do much foiling, which is what makes the F50 catamarans among the world's fastest boats.

The wind did pick up just after Vonn got off the boat.

“Just my luck,” she cracked. “It wasn’t what I hoped for. As someone that’s missing speed as a retired athlete, I was really hoping to go fast. But to be actually doing something, or at least they let me feel like I was doing something, was exciting. ... Downhill's a little bit faster. But again, I’m retired so I’ll take what I can get.”

Lindsey Vonn, second from right, Olympic skiing champion, rides a...

Lindsey Vonn, second from right, Olympic skiing champion, rides a USA SailGP Team chase boat during racing practice ahead of the New York Sail Grand Prix, Friday, June 21, 2024, in New York. Credit: AP/Julia Nikhinson

She was thrilled to work alongside grinder Anna Weis, turning the winches that help the wing trimmer do his job.

“It was fun,” Vonn said. “I was grinding with Anna and kind of following their lead. I was a little bit of a fish out of water, to some degree, but it was really fun. Grinding is so hard and what Anna does as a woman, I think, is really, really incredible. I don't think many people know how difficult a role like that really is, so I just have a lot of respect for her and the team. To have a coed team like that, it’s amazing.”

As part of the Women's Pathway program, every SailGP team must have a woman onboard. Weis, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics in the foiling Nacra 17 catamaran class, has done the most races as a grinder of any woman in SailGP, and she also trims the jib. Her job requires strength, cardiovascular endurance and finesse.

“She's such an amazing young woman who's incredibly strong,” Vonn said. “She's a great example for the next generation.”

International SailGP teams practice racing ahead of the New York...

International SailGP teams practice racing ahead of the New York Sail Grand Prix, Friday, June 21, 2024, in New York. Credit: AP/Julia Nikhinson

With women’s sports reaching a tipping point, Vonn mentioned the work Billie Jean King has done over the decades in championing women’s equality in sports, and how current women athletes, including in SailGP, “are showing people what is possible. And again, it’s a combination of the past paving the way for the present and the present really taking the opportunity and maximizing it.”

Vonn was outfitted in full protective gear, including a crash helmet. Team USA had a dramatic capsize in practice racing in Bermuda in early May that was caused by a crew error. While there were no serious injuries, the boat was damaged to the point the team missed the regatta.

“Since the capsize of a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to make sure I actually listened to the safety protocol this time,” said Vonn, who also sailed with an America's Cup crew in 2016 off Manhattan before an exhibition regatta.

“I saw the video of it. It was pretty crazy," she said. "Honestly, I think things like that are really exciting. Obviously, again, it was very expensive, but that’s what makes it exciting. Those are the type of things that make the sport really interesting.”

Vonn retired from skiing in 2019 after winning three Olympic medals, including one gold, and four overall World Cup titles. She was the first woman to win 82 World Cup races.

Team USA was purchased in November by a group of investors from the sports, technology and entertainment worlds. They include former Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings at No. 17 overall; actress/producer Issa Rae; founding Uber engineer Ryan McKillen; and professional sailor Mike Buckley.

On Friday, Team USA announced a multiyear partnership with Tommy Hilfiger starting in 2025 that will include boat branding and crew uniforms.

The Americans are out of the running for the $2 million, winner-take-all season championship race July 14 in San Francisco. New Zealand sits atop the 10-boat fleet with an 11-point lead over Spain, with three-time defending champion Australia another point back in third.

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Bernie Wilson has covered sailing for the AP since 1991.

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