Opening door for women

Published on March 10th, 2024

For the first time in the 173-year history of the America’s Cup, there will be in 2024 a stand-alone women’s event open to all female athletes regardless of age. Alongside teams from the America’s Cup entrants – New Zealand, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, USA and France – there are six yacht clubs entered from Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Australia.

As opportunity is the primary hurdle for women, the women’s event is aimed at bridging the experience-gap in America’s Cup regattas going forward and allows female athletes to upskill on the vagaries of modern foiling monohulls both in dedicated simulators and on the water in the AC40 class yachts.

In the modern America’s Cup, the American sailor Dawn Riley has arguably done more for gender equality than any other. In 1992, she sailed aboard Bill Koch’s America 3 program in the Defender Series and by 1995 was team captain leading the defeated ‘Mighty Mary’ IACC campaign, again backed by Koch, in what was a ground-breaking moment for female athletes in the America’s Cup.

Leslie Egnot, the Olympic silver medalist was appointed as helm with Annie Nelson doing tactics and the ‘Might Mary’ syndicate went deep into the competition taking multiple race wins in the defender selection series.

Throughout the boat, Riley had appointed athletes of the highest caliber bring in Olympic rowers like Amy Baltzell, Marci Porter and Stephanie Maxwell-Pierson, world renowned weight-lifters such as Stephanie Armitage-Johnson and body builders like Shelley Beattie. JJ Fetter, two-time Olympic medalist, came in alongside veterans of Riley’s round the world campaign in 1993-94 such as Merritt Carey.

This was a blueprint being set that proved beyond any doubt that women could compete against the best in the world – and remember these were the days of coffee-grinders and simply enormous rope loads.

The female athletes took it all on, won races and smashed the glass ceiling of the America’s Cup with sponsors ‘proud to be a part of the changing face of sailing’ – one even using that exact phrase in their advertising.

After defeat in the Defender trials of 1995, Riley came back to the 2000 America’s Cup to lead a mixed crew in the America True campaign, and in 2007 was the General Manager of the French Areva Challenge in Valencia, with both Riley and Katie Pettibone on the crew.

As the end of the IACC era came to a close after the Valencia America’s Cup in 2007, the sailing world changed with the arrival of catamarans after the Deed of Gift Challenge in 2010. Almost immediately, by 2013, the boats were flying on foils and again the loadings went up and the gender balance went down.

Shoreside there were still plenty of positions for women throughout the teams but Kiwi leader Grant Dalton and his management team recognized the gender gap on the water, and with the advent of a new design in the AC40 class, the opportunity presented itself to create women’s event in 2024.

Among the 12 teams, the challenge to bridge the gap has been taken up around the world by the very best female athletes with CVs from the foiling and high-performance Olympic classes on the teams.

Emirates Team New Zealand has Gold & Silver medalist Jo Aleh and silver medalist Molly Meech. INEOS Britannia is spearheaded by the double gold and single silver medalist Hannah Mills, silver medalist Anna Burnet and gold medalist Saskia Clark whilst in the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, three-time Olympian Giulia Conti and two-time Olympian Giovanna Micol have been appointed.

The Olympic Games, however, is not the only pathway. Current Waszp International and Moth World Champion Hattie Rogers has made the Youth Team for INEOS Britannia whilst Olivia Mackay, the Red Bull Foiling Generation champ, has made the Emirates Team New Zealand Women’s squad.

The pathway is lit to propel female participation to the next level… as long as the male gatekeepers open the door.

Following the publication of the AC37 Protocol and AC75 Class Rule on November 17, 2021, the AC75 Class Rule and AC Technical Regulations were finalized on March 17, 2022. The entry period opened December 1, 2021 and runs until July 31, 2022, but late entries for the 37th America’s Cup may be accepted until May 31, 2023. The Defender was to announce the Match Venue on September 17, 2021 but postponed the venue reveal, confirming it would be Barcelona on March 30, 2022. The 37th America’s Cup begins October 12, 2024.

Teams revealed to challenge defender Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
INEOS Britannia (GBR)
Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI)
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA)
NYYC American Magic (USA)
Orient Express Racing Team (FRA)

2023-24 Preliminary Regattas
September 14-17, 2023 (AC40): Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain
November 30-December 2 (AC40): Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
August 22-25, 2024 (AC75): Barcelona, Spain

2024 Challenger Selection Series
August 29-September 8: Double Round Robin
September 14-19: Semi Finals (Best of 9)
September 26-October 5: Finals (Best of 13)

2024 America’s Cup
October 12-21: 37th Match (Best of 13)

For more schedule details, click here.
Additionally, 12 teams will compete in the 2024 Youth & Women’s America’s Cup.

Additional details:

Source: ACE

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