Gender balance impact in Olympic sailing

Published on October 30th, 2022

The latest chapter in gender equality for sailing at the Olympic Games concluded at the 2022 470 World Championship on October 24-29 in Sdot Yam, Israel. As the boat used for the Men’s and Women’s Two Person Dinghy event since Seoul 1988, the two fleets are now one and rebranded as the Mixed Two Person Dinghy event for Paris 2024.

With no restriction on which gender is to helm or crew, it was female helms on the German and French teams that finished first and third, with a Spanish helm as runner-up. Three of the top ten teams had female helms in the 60-boat fleet.

The initiative by the International Olympic Committee for there to be equal men and women competing for the 2024 Olympics, along with equal medal opportunities for both genders, required significant change in the Sailing Program, with the 470 Class undergoing a massive shift at its events.

But is this all good?

At the 2018 470 World Championship, which is the comparable point in the 4-year Olympic quadrennial, there were 64 male teams and 47 female teams. That’s nearly twice as many people than at the 2022 Worlds, but more so, the 2018 event had over 50% more women competing.

While the situation is likely more complicated, the impact is considerable at this stage of the change.

As for the USA, with all the top competitors leaving the 470 Class after Tokyo 2020, the country is not in a strong position. The top team, Louisa Nordstrom and Trevor Bornarth have some catching up to do, finishing fifth in silver flight, and 35th overall.

With 23 entry slots for this new mixed event at the 2024 Olympics, USA finished as the 16th nation at the Worlds. The good news is there were only four nations behind them, but that begs the question of why only 20 nations care about this event?

Is it the boat, or is it the mixed format? Or possibly it was Israel, as there have been political issues before in that part of the world. A massive qualifying event for Paris 2024 will be next year at the 2023 Sailing World Championships in the Netherlands, and perhaps all the pieces will come together then. Standing by…

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