Teen Sailor Sues Over Yacht Race Ban
Published on April 10th, 2017
A continuing saga of events in Australia have left us bewildered. Here’s a quick summary:
• Daughter-Father try to compete in the Men’s Skiff class at the Sailing World Cup, an event for Olympic campaigners. They are disqualified for not both being male per event documentation.
• The daughter launches an online petition to halt the discrimination and breach of human rights which she claimed to have occurred.
• The father is banned from the sport for one year due to his horrific behavior during the jury hearing.
• The daughter files a sex discrimination case against the regional sailing authority.
Some things you can’t make up. Here’s the latest update courtesy of the Herald Sun:
A teenage sailor has launched a sex discrimination case against Yachting Victoria, a regional sailing organization for the state in southeast Australia, claiming she was abused and humiliated after being barred from racing with her father in a men’s yacht race at the Sailing World Cup.
Stephanie Coady claims she was a promising young sailor before the regatta but felt intimidated and suffered “profound distress” by her treatment and has not sailed since.
Ms Coady told the Federal Circuit Court she lost all “motivation and enjoyment” in sailing and even had difficulty concentrating in her final year of secondary school to the detriment on her academic results.
Ms Coady was 16 when her father Paul Coady entered her to sail with him at the ISAF Sailing World Cup organised by Yachting Victoria in Melbourne in December 2014.
Mr Coady registered them for the “men’s 49er class”, a two person, high-performance dingy, with points from the races counting towards Olympic selection.
In an online petition shortly after the event Ms Coady said she entered into the men’s 49er class because “because my crew is male”.
“The 49er class had always been open to mixed crews and ISAF made no announcement that the gender rules had been changed,” she said.
According to Ms Coady’s court claim, the pair participated in the first race but retired due to a broken spinnaker pole. The following day, Ms Coady claims the regatta’s principal race officer told her and her dad that they were in violation of the Olympic gender requirements and should not participate further.
However, the pair participated in three more races that day but Ms Coady says their boat was followed by officials and their results were not recorded.
The World Sailing International Jury then disqualified them from the remaining regatta races and at a later hearing annulled their scores.
Ms Coady told the court she felt publicly singled out, identified and shamed for participating in the regatta and she was verbally abused by other competitors in the sight and hearing of officials, which added to her distress and humiliation.
She claims her personal sail number was published by the respondent in the summary report of the jury finding and displayed on a public noticeboard at the regatta office.
Further, as the helm of her boat, Ms Coady says she was responsible for the jury’s findings against her dad.
Ms Coady said she feared a return to sailing would lead to further online bullying and vilification and that she feels that she is disliked and rejected by her sport.
She claims that by its actions Yachting Victoria discriminated against her in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act.
Yachting Victoria sought a summary dismissal of the case arguing Ms Coady’s claim had no reasonable prospects of success.
It said it was the boat and not Ms Coady that was excluded and she could have continued in either a mixed or women’s class race; that the actions complained of were all contemplated by the race rules which Ms Coady agreed to abide by as a participant and which were set by the ISAF and not Yachting Victoria.
Judge Alister McNab dismissed Ms Coady’s claims about the jury’s findings against her father, saying it was appointed and worked independently of Yachting Victoria and the was no reasonable prospect of her proving its findings against Mr Coady could constitute sexual discrimination against her. He also ruled Yachting Victoria could not be held responsible for the conduct of other competitors.
However, Judge McNab found Ms Coady’s claim that her boat was excluded because she was a woman was not without reasonable prospects of success, saying the complex question of whether she had consented to that treatment under the rules or whether the rules themselves were discriminatory was a matter for trial.
Judge McNab ordered the parties file an agreed statement of facts and outline of the issues to be determined ahead of a hearing in August.
He said it would be a matter for Yachting Victoria, if it so chooses, to defend the proceeding by proving that Section 42 (1) of the Sex Discrimination Act applies. That section says that it is not unlawful to “discriminate on the ground of sex, gender identity or intersex status by excluding persons from participation in any competitive sporting activity in which the strength, stamina or physique of competitors is relevant”.
“It will then be a matter for the respondent, by credible evidence, to make good the proposition that there is a difference between the men’s event and the women’s event in terms of the type of boats used and the role that strength, stamina and physique of competitors has or is relevant to those activities,” Judge McNab said.