Diversity is a benefit, not a hindrance

Published on March 6th, 2020

Britain’s Abby Ehler has three Volvo Ocean Races under her belt and is currently the only female crew in the 52 SUPER SERIES grand prix inshore fleet. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Abby on Tip & Shaft:

How did you get into the 52 SUPER SERIES on to the Phoenix team?
I was brought in by Adrian Stead last season, partly because I’d run a TP52 about 10 or 15 years ago – Stuart Robinson’s Stay Calm. We ran that campaign for a couple of years. I guess the position they needed and the weight they needed helped, and Ado (Stead) to his credit is pretty keen to help get more women into the sport at this level. So here I am on Tina Plattners’ Phoenix 12 team.

You have a pretty physical key role as mid bow, how is it operating at this high level?
It’s been fantastic, the sailing is phenomenal. It’s so cutthroat that you just cannot make the slightest mistake or it can be a big problem.

How is it being the only female full time professional on the circuit?
I tend think about it from the point of view of how do you not become the only girl or one of a few. I ask myself ‘what are the barriers to getting involved and what can be done to change that?’ But the reality is that you just have to be at this level. It is very physical in most of the roles apart from those that are maybe a bit further back in the boat. You’ve got to be sailing and working at this level. And I think I’ve realized that even considering myself relatively experienced there’s still a lot to learn.

Is it harder on the boat being a girl in your role?
I don’t think so. It is about doing your job. I guess there’s a little bit more pressure because you don’t want to be the one that f#cks up. There’s that fear of someone looking at you and saying ‘oh it’s the girl that made the mistake’ because you get that tag. I think in terms of creating change, with a lot of the sustainability and diversity agreements being signed by classes it’s understanding that it’s about bringing more women into the sport for a sustainable future and understanding that diversity is a benefit it’s not a hindrance.

For the complete interview… click here.

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