Time to bust up the boy’s club
Published on April 5th, 2021
by Pim Van Hemmen, Soundings
When it comes to diversity, the America’s Cup is still in the dark ages.
This year’s 36th edition featured four boats with 11-man crews. Forty-four men, zero women. That’s not just sad—it’s pathetic. And it needs to change because female sailors have been marginalized for far too long.
It’s been 32 years since Tracy Edwards showed up with an all-female crew for the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race. Male sailors openly mocked Maiden’s 12-woman crew, and many said they would never finish. Then, the women won two of the individual legs of the race and finished the grueling competition second in their class.
Six years later, Mighty Mary showed up in San Diego with an all-female crew for the 1995 America’s Cup with U.S.-born New Zealander Leslie Egnot at the helm. Eventually, Mighty Mary took a man aboard as tactician, and the women were given an insulting name when they did not cover Dennis Conner in a crucial race that would have eliminated him, but along the way the women gave Conner a run for his money and beat Young America’s all-male crew.
Those are just two examples where women proved that they could compete with men at the top echelon of sailing, and yet, more than a quarter century after Mighty Mary, there still are no women aboard any of the America’s Cup AC75s.
That absence should be ended by creating a rule that forces teams to include women on the boats at the next America’s Cup. It’s what the organizers of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race did when they introduced male/female crew ratios to “create a clearer pathway for female sailors to take part in the race.”
For the Volvo competition, skippers were allowed to take extra sailors if they put women on their crews. All-male crews were limited to seven sailors, but if a team included two female sailors, then the total would go up to nine. It would be 10 crew if a team consisted of an even male/female split and go to 11 for an all-female team. – Full report
Editor’s note: The argument that people, regardless of gender, should earn their place on a boat is valid as long as the opportunity to earn that place is equal… and often it is not.