SailGP’s road to creating a more inclusive championship reaches another milestone this weekend at the Spain Sail Grand Prix taking place in Cádiz-Andalusia. The sixth event of the season will now include six athletes onboard all F50s for racing – a first for the global league – resulting in the league’s Women’s Pathway Program athletes racing onboard for the first time in SailGP.
SailGP introduced the WPP at the start of Season 2 as part of its better sport strategy to promote inclusion, inspire change and provide opportunities across all levels of the sport. With the addition of a new crew member as a new standard and light-wind configuration, WPP athletes are now able to gain the valuable experience needed to race the high-flying, high speed F50s.
Great Britain SailGP Team athlete and the world’s most successful female Olympic sailor Hannah Mills said: “I’m incredibly excited to be racing this weekend, it’s a really great step forward for the female athletes to be in the thick of it, witnessing it all, getting in and helping wherever we can – tactics, strategy, and communications – I am really excited for that. The adrenaline rush is going to be massive, it already is when we do the practice racing.
“It’s also awesome for SailGP to have a strong vision and commitment going forward for the future of women’s involvement in the league, it’s very exciting and I can’t wait to figure out how we can make it all happen, how we can make it a success and how I can help drive it forward.”
Looking ahead to future seasons, the new six-crew configuration (or four in light winds) is a major step forward to reducing the disparity between genders in the sport. With the exception of the event in Sydney, Australia, December 17-18 – owing to limitations presented by the pandemic – fans can expect to see more female athletes taking to the race course.
WPP athletes gearing up for adrenaline-fuelled racing in Cádiz include: Nina Curtis (AUS), Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN), Amelie Riou (FRA), Hannah Mills (GBR), Sena Takano (JPN), Erica Dawson (NZL), Andrea Emone (ESP) and CJ Perez (USA).
In June 2020 a DE+I committee was established at SailGP comprising representatives across the whole organisation including Japan SailGP Team driver Nathan Outteridge, U.S SailGP Team athlete CJ Perez and France SailGP Team CEO Bruno Dubois, working alongside a cross-organisation group at SailGP, under the chair of Global People Director Jon Massie, to work on the overall inclusion strategy.
Outerridge said: “It’s a big step for women’s sailing and we are proud to be pushing this forward. We are really excited to have Sena on board for racing at this event. She has sailed with us for all of our training sessions this season and in Saint-Tropez was driving the boat during the sessions, so we are looking forward to the contribution she will make to racing this weekend.”
Still in its first year, SailGP teams have been active in their recruitment, training and development of female athletes. Each of the eight-nation fleet currently has at least one female team member embedded within the teams – gaining insight, data, and onboard experience – lending to their future success racing at the top of the sport.
SailGP CEO Russell Coutts said: “It is our responsibility as a global league to ensure we create a culture and sporting championship that has gender equity. It is no secret that there is currently an experience gap among women at the top of the sport and so far this season we have embedded female athletes in each of our teams to gain vital experience.
“But, we recognise we have to go further to close the gap and work quicker to accelerate change, which is why we are taking this next step. It is imperative to break existing boundaries and create a more inclusive environment.”
Main image © SailGP