"If change is not delivered now, then when will it
happen?” This was just one of the messages delivered at Balancing the
Boat: growing female participation and developing pathways in competitive
sailing,the first of two open forums at World Sailing's
2017 Annual Conference in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
the current leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, every boat has a female sailor on
the boat and at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games there will be a 50/50 split of
male and female sailors. However, the consensus amongst the leading
influencers speaking at Balancing the Boat was that more work can be and
needs to be done.
Hosted by sailing broadcaster, Alec Wilkinson, Balancing the Boat strived to
seek solutions and set long term targets for positive change to be brought
With equality in sport and sailing a leading topic of conversation in the
community at the moment, the forum was well attended with committee members
and delegates joining the debate. In addition, the conference was streamed
online and those watching at home were able to engage in the conversation
using #UnitingTheSporton social media.
Watch Balancing The Boat Back In Full
Unable to join the speakers in attendance, Emma Westmacott, a sailor of more
than 30-years' experience with four round the world campaigns under her belt,
delivered a strong message via video link.
"The future of the sport really is at risk without attracting
everybody,” she expressed. "The world at the moment is recognising the
needs for gender equality. The world at the moment is recognising the need
for diversity and equality throughout, for all minorities.
"We need to change the willingness, we need to change the perception of
what a female sailor means and looks like and how useful they are on a boat.
"We need to close the gap of the experience levels between men and women
and we need to get the genders to be closer together and shut down the
feeling of discrimination on either side. World Sailing needs to set an
example. We need more women in the sport for the longevity of the sport. We
need more women in management roles and we need more female athletes.”
Libby Greenhalgh competed on the last Volvo Ocean Race on-board Team SCA. She
now acts as Director of Operations at the Magenta Project. Greenhalgh
explained the importance of creating a clear message, getting everyone behind
it and using it globally at all levels.
"There are four key discussion points,” explained Greenhalgh, "from
rules and incentives, to building a network, initiatives and just raising the
visibility of female sailors so people can be inspired by what women are
"But also, we can look to see what are our outcome goals and what will
success look like.”
Greenhalgh concluded by outlining the Magenta Project's three-year outcome
goals. These included having two female led race teams in the Volvo Ocean
Race and World Match Racing Tour, having a woman on every Youth America's Cup
team and increasing participation at mass participation, national race weeks.
New Zealand's Jo Aleh had targeted following in Greenhalgh's footsteps by
racing in the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Aleh, a two-time
Olympic medallist and 2013 Rolex World Sailor of the Year, explained the
struggles she went through in obtaining a place on a team.
Jo Aleh - Two-time Olympic Medallist & 2013 Rolex World Sailor of the
"I was sailing with a bunch of guys. A few young
ones, a lot less experience in big boats and a lot less experience in
offshore but I was at the bottom of the pile,” Aleh explained. "I
couldn't speak up on things I was annoyed with. I learnt a lot but it was
some of the most frustrating sailing I'd ever done.”
Even though her success in sailing was significant, Aleh was not selected to
sail on a team, "What I had to offer the boat, which was in my head,
just wasn't listened to. I'm just a female Olympic sailor, what do I know?
And I guess that's fair enough, offshore wise but I just wish a male Olympic
sailor who has the same experience way was treated in the same way.”
Greek sailor, Sofia Bekatorou, a two-time Olympic medallist and two-time
Rolex World Sailor of the Year gave the audience an insight into her career
in sailing. Finally, to give a perspective from another sport, Joe Jacobi
(USA), former CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak shared his experience of creating a
high-performance system in Oklahoma and the benefits it had on the community
World Sailing Chief Executive Officer Andy Hunt joined the panel for a
question and answer session, which concluded the session.
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