An interview with CJ Perez to kick off the SailGP NZL event in Christchurch

Can you share with us your journey from starting sailing in Hawaii to becoming a competitive moth sailor and competing in high-profile events like SailGP?

I began sailing when I was 13 at a small boat club near my home called Hawaii Kai Boat Club. From the moment I stepped foot on a sailboat, I was addicted. Being the competitive person I am, I began to compete at National and World level competitions very quickly and went on to win three North American Championships as well as one World Championship. One of my biggest accomplishments was getting selected to race with the USA SailGP team, led by Jimmy Spithill.

As one of the youngest SailGP sailors ever, how does it feel to achieve such success at a young age?

I was selected as a sailor for the USA SailGP team when I was 17 years old. It was initially a strange feeling being the youngest in the league, especially when other athletes were easily twice my age. However, I knew I brought something unique to the table, and I knew my value as a champion sailor. 

You're part of the SailGP USA team and participated in trials for the Women's and Youth American Cup with American Magic. What advice would you give to young sailors aspiring to follow in your footsteps?

My advice is to be open to any opportunities that come your way. Opportunities arrive in our life from time to time, and it's up to us to be mindful of them and make the best out of it! 

How has Vakaros technology helped you in your sailing, particularly in the competitive moth class?

Vakaros has played a major part in my racing as it gives very accurate data on boat speed, angles, how close I am to the start line, and other information which allows me to sail in the most efficient way possible.

You've used RaceSense with the 69F class. What are your thoughts on how technology like RaceSense is shaping the future of sailing?

I think RaceSense is the future of technology within sailing. Using it in the 69F class was a good example of seeing these super fast foiling boats rapidly reaching a starting line, and a piece of technology being able to determine who is a millisecond over.

With such a demanding schedule and competitive environment, what inspires you to keep pushing yourself every day?

What inspires me the most is knowing that I have a lot to give to the sport. I come from a unique place in the world, Hawaii, and I grew up sailing some really fast, foiling boats. I have a different perspective being so young and having been thrown into the top level of our sport. I see the opportunity for sailing to grow and reach much bigger audiences, and I know that I can play a big part in that.

You are not just sailor, but you also filled in the role as TV presenter at SailGP. Can you give us a preview of what's to expect in Christchurch?

Next week, I'll be heading to the New Zealand SailGP in Christchurch, and it's shaping up to be a fantastic event. If you've been to New Zealand, you know how passionate the kiwis are about sailing. There's going to be so many spectators, a few live performances, and it's going to be a spectacle you're not going to want to miss!