Living in the Scuttlebutt World

Published on October 19th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
As the SailGP sports league approaches the mid-point of its fourth season, the product appears to have all the elements for success. The league has been underwritten though five seasons, and while there are sponsors and team owners still needed to secure sustainability, it has an elite cast onboard sizzling boats. If this doesn’t work, what will?

I can’t help to wonder, though, whether it is altruistic motives or attention seeking acts of earth-saving and female empowerment, as the league also uses its platform to save the planet (or uses the planet to promote its platform). The messaging can get tiring, but as long as it’s a win-win, then why not?

But there are those times I shake my head. While league rules require for a woman to be in the crew, this opportunity has yet to offer a significant onboard role. Still, it is a step forward … until the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time, Hannah Mills OBE, overstates the progress.

“SailGP is one of the only sports where you can have men and women competing on an equal footing,” she said. “What that showcases to the rest of the world is amazing.”

I was certain that she must have meant ‘sailing’ and not ‘SailGP’ but her Great Britain SailGP Team did not reply to my inquiry for clarification. There are countless better examples in sailing where men and women compete on an equal footing. What about when Hannah finished fifth overall at the 2003 Optimist World Championship?

After two years of this rule, there has been little advancement for women other than as a rider, and given the current plea that SailGP’s Women’s Pathway Program needs additional funding to further the cause, progress may be limited. I hope not… standing by.

Elsewhere, the world governing body for the sport of sailing – World Sailing – will utilize an online vote in awarding its highest honor to sailors. Rather than solely rely on a committee of experts to determine the most deserving of the Rolex World Sailor of the Year award, they have given equal weight to the results of a popularity contest to make the decision.

While public contribution is a brilliant way to create awareness for Rolex, it is hardly the methodology to reward individual sailors for outstanding achievements in the sport. But apparently the committee gets half a vote and the nominee’s Q-Rating gets the other half. Hmm!

For my mental health, I’ll be at the 41st running of the International Masters Regatta on October 20-22. I’m joining Gary Jobson as we face off against 11 other ‘elder’ teams in J/105s on South San Diego Bay. While there is nothing leisurely about this round-robin format, the event vibe reinforces what is good about the sport, and what matters. Sail on!

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