Breaking New Ground for Girls
Published on May 16th, 2017
When the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup was introduced in 2013, the goal was to provide a clear pathway to a professional sailing career for 18- to 24-year-olds.
The whole experience, from the months of training to the culmination of the competition, is designed to be the ultimate stepping stone into professional sailing, potentially leading to a career on an America’s Cup team.
This year’s edition on June 12 to 21 promises to break more new ground, with the addition of Annabel Vose of Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) and Cecilia Wollmann of Team BDA (Bermuda) — the first two women to be on a Red Bull Youth America’s Cup team.
In the Cup’s 166-year history, only a handful of women have sailed in the America’s Cup. In 1995, there was an all-female team. But in the 22 years since, women have only been a part of two America’s Cup campaigns. Vose, Wollmann and the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup are about to change all of that.
After sailing with an all-female team in the professional Extreme Sailing Series (Thalassa Magenta Racing), Vose became the first woman to be chosen for Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR).
“As a woman, I don’t feel singled out at all,” she said. “Inside the Land Rover BAR Academy I’m just one of the sailors, with no special treatment — and that’s definitely a nice environment.”
All gloves are off in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, as every position on the AC45F catamaran demands peak conditioning and lightning reflexes. The physical training has been intense for all the athletes, yet Vose and Wollmann’s all-around excellence has made them role models while exemplifying hard work and determination for both men and women.
Unlike in 2013, this year the teams are sailing the AC45F catamarans — the same foiling boats used in the America’s Cup World Series. Observes Red Bull Youth America’s Cup’s Hans Peter Steinacher, “On foils, the boats will probably go twice as fast as they did in 2013. More so, they are harder to sail.”
“Foiling has been really awesome,” Wollmann said. “I enjoy the speeds and the technical aspect.”
Vose agreed. “Foiling has also captured the attention of fans from outside of the sport of sailing, which is great news and hopefully will encourage more young sailors to take up this great sport.”
Both women specialize in roles at the helm, as well as in tactics and strategy. “I suppose I like the pressure of making split-second decisions,” acknowledged Vose.
While both girls share a passion for sailing and (now) foiling, they bring very different experience to their teams.
Vose’s sailing résumé resembles that of a sailor twice her age (she’s 22), including four World Championships, and she’s sailed victoriously with both all-female and mixed teams.
“There are some obvious differences,” she remarked. “However, for both teams, the work ethic has always been flawless. It has never mattered whether we were male or female to get the job done.”
While Wollmann is just 19, she’s already considered one of the most decorated youth sailors in Bermuda, having competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I’ve benefited from my Rio experience as I’ve learned how long the days can be, and how hard you have to work to get results,” she said. “It’s also helped me learn how to deal with pressure situations on the race course.”
And pressure will certainly be part of the equation in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup … for all sailors.
After June’s racing is over, both women expect to resume their studies while they continue sailing. But for the moment, their focus is on the task at hand. While there’s no guarantee that either girl will be selected to sail on their team’s boat on any particular day, they still are both pushing hard and are ready to contribute both onboard and onshore.
“I’ve sailed on the Great Sound all of my life,” Wollmann said. “And I can’t wait to welcome all these top international sailors to our home waters so they’re able to see how amazing it is.”