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Kirkland Olympian's mission: Sail a tea cup with wings at 30 mph

Helena Scutt of Kirkland is an Olympic sailor. Her boat is tiny but can reach speeds of 30 mph. Photo courtesy of Sunbrella.

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Helena Scutt's event at the Rio games is packed with thrills. You might even call it crazy.

Scutt, 24, of Kirkland, is part of a two-woman team on the 49er FX.

The little boat weighs less than Scutt and her teammate, Paris Hencken, combined. The boats have been described as skiffs or dinghies.

But they can sail at 30 mph. Crews are in trapeze wires.

"It’s a fast boat, and unless it’s going fast it’s unstable. So if you put it in the water by itself, it will just flip over," Scutt said.

If you think it can be dangerous, it is.

In 2013, another boat hit Scutt.

"I broke two ribs, fractured my spine, lacerated my right kidney, so I had a lot of bleeding. So it wasn’t pretty ," she said.

But here we are in 2016, and Scutt is back on that tea cup with wings "because I love it," she said.

"I love the spray in my face, I love it when that rogue wave hits me. I love all those sensation and I wouldn’t change it for anything," Scutt said.

She has come a long way from the beginning sailor in "Sail Sand Point" summer camp.

"So my dad is a sailor - only small boats, we have never owned a big boat. And I would remember he would tell me, 'Helena, so do you want to go to sailing camp next summer?' I was really nervous for it ... I did it, and it was so much fun. Jumping around in Lake Washington with my new friends. But I was obsessed with soccer, and I just stayed on that path and finally I burnt out and my father said, 'Why don’t you give racing a try,' "she recalled.

"So I did that and learned to race. Got better. And then joined the Seattle Yacht Club race team and was really lucky to have some really good mentors. And honestly there is just no better way for me to enjoy the Northwest than being on the water. Maybe in December, it’s a little cold," she said with a chuckle.

When Scutt was 2, her family moved to the United States from Great Britain.

She became a citizen while at Stanford University, from which she graduated in 2014 with a degree in bio-engineering. Her parents became citizens this year.

In addition to the challenges and dangers of her sport, there is also the water quality in Brazil.

Scutt seems unconcerned. She has sailed there before the Olympics.

"We are never trying to drink the water anywhere we are sailing, So we just go and sail," she said.

Editor's note: Allen Schauffler has covered seven Olympic Games, Summer and Winter, reporting from Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Torino, Beijing, Vancouver and London. During the Rio Games he’ll report from Seattle, offering a variety of stories featuring local Olympic athletes and families. They will run on KOMO News at 6 every weeknight.

For more news on the Rio Games, go here.




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