Rules prohibit women from motherhood

Published on February 2nd, 2023

Completing the 2020-21 Vendée Globe – the single-handed, solo, non-stop round the world yacht race – is a major accomplishment, but Clarisse Crémer (FRA), one of only six women in the 2021 field of 33 starters, shattered the women’s record in both the solo and open categories set in 2001 by Ellen MacArthur (GBR) in the same race.

The accomplishment earned her consideration for the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award, with Crémer’s offshore career now fully launched. Except apparently for one thing … she’s still a woman.

In a Facebook post, she shares how she has been dropped by her sponsor, a tale in which double Olympic medalist Shirley Robertson remarked, “I can’t really believe that I’m reading this in 2023.”

Crémer’s translation is a little rough but the facts are clear:

I gave birth to a baby girl November 2022 While nothing obliged me, I had informed my sponsor Banque Populaire as of February 2021 of my child’s project. They still chose me for this new Vendée Globe and communicated our mutual commitment in fall 2021.

Clarisse Crémer

I learned last Friday (Jan. 27, 2023) that Banque Populaire had finally decided to replace me. By their decision, and despite my constant will, I will not be part of the Vendée Globe 2024-25.

Vendée Globe rules for the 2024 edition require all skippers to compete based on race miles. On this note, I of course fell behind the other competitors at the start, this maternity left me out of qualifying for a year.

Today Banque Populaire decides that it represents for them a “risk” that they ultimately do not want to take.

I am in shock. Other projects launched much more recently are still going on without an eyebrow. Two full seasons left and four transatlantic to get back on the level I was on the edge to finish my rehab asap.

But for Banque Populaire, it would be “let fate choose in their place”, while they “must” be at the start of the Vendée Globe. They’re willing to take on the risk of a giant trimaran, and all the natural, technical and human hazards of racing offshore, but obviously not motherhood.

If offshore racing exists today, it is because sponsors choose it as a communication lever and use it to tell beautiful sporting stories and therefore, a priori, human. I am totally confused with the story this sponsor is choosing to tell today: “The Globe Vendée, at all costs.”

The organization Vendée Globe, on the other hand, is content with being “sorry to me” but “can’t do anything”. She writes the rules though. Let’s recall that four years ago I would have been selected automatically as a finisher of the previous edition. Reminder that 13 new boats (1/3 of the fleet) have a discount to be officially selected at the next Vendée Globe to support innovation.

The rules of a competition are supposed to ensure fairness and sportsmanship. Today, the rules chosen by the Vendée Globe prohibit a woman from having a child, even though she would be a well-known athlete, already finishing the previous edition. In the 21st century, who do we want to believe that such rules would be fair? We have a nice game of deplorable, then, the small number of women on the starting lines.

I want to thank the people who have supported me and will recognize themselves. I am determined to sail again, under the colors of a trusted partner with whom I will share human convictions. My passion for sailing remains intact, and I will quickly overcome the disappointment I live today.

Thinking especially of all women, athletes and others, who go through similar struggles without having this opportunity to speak. What does equality mean to women?

To behave just like men and therefore especially not to be pregnant? If I speak out today, it is not out of revenge, to gain attention or to complain, but to provoke thought, and in hopes of advancing our society.

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