Thursday, September 28, 2023

Coronado Native, Hans Henken, Sailing Toward the 2020 Olympics

Photo Courtesy of SailGP

Hans Henken graduated from CHS in 2011, and is now preparing to compete in the San Francisco SailGP next month with the U.S. SailGP team. Hans fell in love with sailing at an early age. His mom is a sailor and that passion weaved throughout their family. His two younger siblings are also sailors. Paris Henken and her sailing partner, Helena Scutt, were the youngest team in their sailing fleet to compete in Rio in 2016.

As a family, Hans recalls growing up in San Clemente and commuting to Coronado during the summers and weekends. After years of that commute, Hans shares, “My parents are awesome, and as a family we made the decision to move to Coronado.” Along with crediting his parents, he also said, “Coronado had a huge impact on my life.”

Hans Henken SailGP
Hans Henken, Photo Courtesy of SailGP

Hans has been competing at the highest levels of the sport since he was a junior sailor racing 470s, 29ers and 49ers. He won the bronze medal at the 2008 Youth World Championships in the 29er class and went on to become the Moth youth world champion in 2009. When asked what keeps sailing fun over the last 15 years, he suggests that the fun has evolved over the years. When Hans was younger, he explains that the fun was the “joy over controlling your own craft. I was fascinated with how it all worked.” He compares it to the rush and freedom you seek when you want to learn to drive a car.

Now, Hans finds much of the joy in sailing in his competitive nature. One way he demonstrates this is by best optimizing the sail and explains that sailing led him to become an engineer. A graduate of Stanford University, Hans earned a master’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Hans enjoys the unique opportunity SailGP gives him to blend his engineering with his sailing, given the league’s focus on technology and data.

Speaking eloquently and technical about his sailing, it is nice to also hear him speak simply about his passion: “I love to sail, be out on the water, and in the ocean.” At such a competitive level, hearing the peacefulness most people associate with sailing, is comforting.

Han’s list of achievements is long and impressive. When asked what makes him successful, he inquired if the question was related to him personally or his team, demonstrating the importance to him of his U.S. SailGP Team. According to Hans, what makes him successful personally is the focus to “have myself be my best self.” His strategy is holistic but devoted, focusing on “exercise, recovery, nutrition. Coming home at the end of the day, if it’s in a hotel or gym, to get myself ready for the next day.”

Hans with Teammates
U.S. SailGP Team. Photo Courtesy of SailGP

On the U.S. SailGP Team, Hans emphasizes communication being the key to success. “It’s all about working together and communication. Everyone on the team has sailed different boats and brings different experiences to the table. You need to fill in the gaps.” He credits his own unique skills including hydrofoil and knowledge of springs to his engineering background.

In addition to the U.S. SailGP Team, Hans is a member of the US Sailing Team and is currently campaigning for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on the 49er.

SailGP launched in 2018 by Larry Ellison and sailing legend Sir Russell Coutts. Its signature competition style is synonymous with high-speed, advanced technology and elite athleticism. In its inaugural year, SailGP will host five races around the world. The league is currently comprised of six teams total, each representing one nation: the United States, Australia, China, France, Great Britain, and Japan. Each team will race in identical, supercharged 50-foot foiling catamarans – the F50 – capable of breaking on-water speeds of 60 MPH.


Alyssa K. Burns
Alyssa K. Burns
Alyssa is a graduate of Coronado High School and was in the founding broadcast journalism class at CHS. She earned her BA in Communication from CSU East Bay and completed her MBA from CSU San Marcos. Her passion for writing and interest in the behind the scenes of business, leads her to write frequently about Coronado businesses. You can find Alyssa walking around the ferry landing with her husband and shih-tzu terrier or enjoying a cup of coffee at one of Coronado's favorite cafes.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]