Rad­i­cal change for Volvo Ocean Race


Yachting World - - On The Wind -

Araft of changes has been an­nounced for the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race that will make more places avail­able for women and bring more of the ac­tion to our screens.

One of the most con­tro­ver­sial changes in­tro­duced by the race’s new CEO, Mark Turner, has been to make max­i­mum crew num­bers de­pen­dent on the num­ber of women tak­ing part. All-male teams will be able to race with just seven crew mem­bers, one fewer than the last race. That max­i­mum crew limit goes up to eight or nine for teams tak­ing seven men and one or two women, while an evenly mixed team is granted five men, five women. Allfe­male teams can race with 11 sailors.

Teams will be able to change their crew com­bi­na­tions from leg to leg, but must have a con­sis­tent team for the in-port race and ei­ther the pre­vi­ous or sub­se­quent off­shore leg. There is one ex­cep­tion – a team that opts to race off­shore with seven men can take an ad­di­tional fe­male sailor for in-port rac­ing.

There have been in­cen­tives for gen­der­bal­anced teams in pre­vi­ous edi­tions – in the last race mixed teams could race with or nine sailors, in­clud­ing no more than five men, but it was an op­tion no team took up. In Team SCA, the race did, how­ever, see the first all-fe­male in 12 years. But with the SCA’S de­ci­sion not to re­new spon­sor­ship, it looked as if the Volvo Ocean Race would once again re­turn to be­ing an all-male com­pe­ti­tion.

In the an­nounce­ment, Mark Turner com­mented: “I re­ally hope that it’s not or nec­es­sary to have any rule at all in the fu­ture – but it seems it’s the only way to­day to en­sure progress.”

The last edi­tion’s win­ning skip­per,

Ian Walker, says this rule is likely to drive change. “The key thing is forc­ing you to go with just seven if you sail with all guys. If they al­lowed eight, I don’t think many peo­ple would change but you’d have to be pretty nar­row-minded I think to sail with seven and not take any women.

Re­ac­tions have been mixed. The an­nounce­ment was wel­comed by sailors such as Tracy Ed­wards, who skip­pered Maiden to sec­ond in class in 1990. Abby Eh­ler, who was part of Team SCA as well as boat cap­tain and bow­man on Amer Sports Too in 2001-02 says: “I saw the po­ten­tial for fe­male crews to be pi­geon-holed into cer­tain roles. When you look back to the SCA cam­paign, the girls were like sponges want­ing to soak up the in­for­ma­tion and des­per­ately try­ing to make the boat go faster, and that’s what they’d want to be do­ing along­side the guys, be­ing in­volved.

“But the more I’ve talked with col­leagues or peers, I think the re­al­ity is it had to hap­pen to en­sure women are still in the race. If there hadn’t been an­other all-fe­male team in this race is we could

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