The sailors, on the rise in The Ocean Race

The Ocean Race is not only committed to driving greater equality and diversity within the event and the sailing industry in general, but translates it into action. The Ocean Race 2022-23 has been the edition that has had the most female sailors in the 50-year history of the regatta. In total, among the five IMOCAs that participated in the round the world race and the six VO65s that competed in The Ocean Race Sprint Cup, there were 39 female sailors, which represented 28% of the total number of participants (a third more than in the previous edition of the regatta). This is a higher proportion than in previous editions and continues with the upward trend in the presence of women in the regatta. In 2014-15, 18% of the participants were women, while in the last edition (2017-18) the figure rose to 21%.

“Making sailing more inclusive is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the future of the sport. We are delighted to have a record percentage of female competitors in the regatta and to see more women taking on roles traditionally dominated by men. We are sailing in the right direction, but more needs to be done to break down barriers and create pathways in sport for women. We have set an industry benchmark by empowering more women to participate in sport, and then we must turn the tide on diversity and leave a legacy where sport is much more accessible to all.”, explained Richard Brisius, president of The Ocean Race.

Although it is mandatory that all IMOCAs have at least one woman among the four sailors on board, and three of the ten VO65 sailors must be women, Biotherm exceeded the quota, with two men and two women in three of the seven stages: in stages 4 and 7, it had Marie Riou (France) and Mariana Lobato (Portugal), and in stage 5 Amélie Grassi (France) and Cub. The French IMOCA class team had an On Board Reporter (OBR) for several stages, as did Team Holcim-PRB, while Viva México had an On Board Reporter for all stages and the Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team on leg 2. This was another record in the regatta, which included just one female OBR in the last edition and two in 2014-15.

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The Ocean Race has also made strides in the fight for greater equality in out-of-water sailing, and other traditionally male-dominated roles have also incorporated greater numbers of women. Following a huge push to bring gender balance to the regatta official roles, this year’s edition featured an equal number of male and female experts on the jury, with female judges on 10 of the 27 judging panels.

Holcim-PRB sailor and co-founder of The Magenta Project, Abby Ehler, highlighted that “I have participated in four editions of this regatta and The Ocean Race 2022-23 has taken a step forward in terms of inclusion. I have really felt part of a team and not as a symbolic gesture to comply with a rule. In my opinion this says a lot and shows that a change is taking place. That men and women compete side by side in a team is something that is becoming normal: we are one more, instead of the first or the only one. I believe the Diversity Crew Rules help increase female participation and inclusion and I hope this continues with pathways and opportunities to ensure Crew Diversity happens organically without the need for a rule.”. The Ocean Race was the first round-the-world regatta with female sailors in its crews, and in the first edition in 1973 there were already 13 female sailors. In the 2017-18 edition, the regatta introduced a rule requiring all teams to include at least one woman in their crew.

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