Lack of Female Skippers in Vendee Globe

Published on November 9th, 2016


Dee Caffari

by Dee Caffari, The Telegraph
With 29 skippers from 10 different countries, this year’s Vendée Globe boasts the healthiest mix of nationalities we have ever seen in sailing’s greatest single-handed race. Sadly, however – and for the first time in five editions – there were no female sailors departing from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday morning.

It is a huge shame. You think about some of the famous women who have competed in past editions; Isabelle Autissier, Catherine Chabaud, Sam Davies. Most of all Ellen Macarthur, of course, who as a 24 year-old finished second back in 2001, still the best ever result by a British sailor in the Vendée Globe and one that made her a household name on both sides of the Channel, earning her the nickname ‘la petite anglaise’.

So why are there no female sailors in this race?

Rest assured it has nothing to do with the physical nature of the event. In my opinion, the appetite is there, but timing plays an important role. Many of those who might have considered entering were part of Team SCA, the first all-female Volvo Ocean Race Team in over a decade. There simply wasn’t the time to put a challenge together after last year’s Volvo Ocean Race.

I am, though, confident we will see plenty of women in the next edition. There were five female sailors in this year’s La Solitaire du Figaro, which is seen as the feeder series to the Vendée Globe. I think at least three of them could enter in 2020, and I know there are others who would love another crack, including me. Who knows what the future may hold.

It actually feels odd for this Vendée Globe not to feature any women because in many ways female sailing is riding the crest of a wave at the moment. The new CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, Mark Turner, has introduced bold new rules incentivizing teams to sail mixed, while as well as Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race we recently saw the first all-female team compete in the Extreme Sailing Series.

All this is happening at a time when UKSA, the Cowes-based charity, has moved to address a gender imbalance in the sport which sees fewer women taking up its courses than men and still fewer going on to work in the industry.

The Women into Sailing careers initiative was launched during Cowes Week this year and I was delighted to play a part. As a proud UKSA ambassador, and a graduate of one of its professional training courses, I look forward to seeing the next generation of female sailors coming through.

This is a key moment. Women’s sport is taking off and we do not want sailing to be left behind.

About the author: Dee Caffari finished sixth in the 2008-2009 Vendee Globe, becoming in the process the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in both directions.

Source: The Telegraph

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