There is no denying that in recent years professional yacht racing’s four top properties – The Ocean Race, America’s Cup, SailGP, and Olympic sailing – have made significant moves towards gender equality.
Although there have been notable all-female teams in the Ocean Race in previous years – such as Maiden and Team SCA – the 2017-18 edition was the first that mandated the inclusion of female sailors in all the teams.
Although only grudgingly accepted by the majority of the male contingent of around the world racers it was a move that gave a talented group of women sailors previously-denied access to precious around-the-world ocean racing experience.
Although there are no female sailors on the rosters of any of the current crop of America’s Cup teams, the ancient event’s contribution to the gender equity movement has been the introduction of a Women’s America’s Cup event scheduled to take place next year in Barcelona, Spain during AC37.
Olympic sailing has followed the International Olympic Committee’s blanket gender equity directive that made Tokyo 2020 the most gender-balanced Olympic Games to date, with women making up 48 per cent of the athletes participating. The IOC is committed to reach full gender equality for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and sailing is playing its part through mixed gender classes like the NACRA 17 catamaran, the 470 two person dinghy, as well as having female only dinghy classes like the Laser Radial and the 49erFX – as well as women only windsurfing and kiteboarding classes.
Although there was only one female sailor in the fleet for SailGP’s first season the global circuit has made plenty of progress towards integrating women sailors through the introduction in 2021 of its Women’s Pathway Programme which included mandating at least one female sailor on each boat while racing.
Since then 29 female athletes have raced onboard the F50, including Olympic sailing’s most successful female history Hannah Mills, as well as the likes of Danish Olympic heroes Anne-Marie Rindom and Katja Salskov-Iversen, and Brazilian Olympic gold medallist Kahena Kunze.
Now the programme is set to get a boost from SailGP’s partnership with the Women’s Sports Group (WSG) which is joining forces with SailGP to supercharge the Women’s Pathway.
WSG, co-founded by the English Football Association’s first female non-executive director and former chair of the FA inclusion advisory board, Dame Heather Rabbatts, will provide advisory services on commercial partnerships for the purpose-driven sports league to accelerate the progress of its Women’s Pathway and drive sustainable growth for SailGP.
WSG was founded in 2021 to drive the profile and value in women’s sports and ensure women’s sport becomes its own economic driver. Working across all sport but with a focus on women’s sport’s exponential growth, WSG advises clients across the sport landscape on partnership development, media rights and broadcast and content.
The partnership is aimed at capitalising on the ongoing increase in interest in women’s sports globally to secure the commercial investment required to accelerate the program’s growth and provide opportunities for further training time on and off the water, including simulator sessions and bespoke camps for female athletes to close the gap.
SailGP’s big bold goal is to have a female driver win a SailGP event by Season 6, with half of the F50s in the fleet having at least two females onboard during racing.
That’s a tantalising prospect and if they can pull it off it will be excellent news for our sport.