A gender neutral future?
Another issue with the IMOCA 60 plan is that it greatly reduces the number of crew racing at any one time – although sailors would likely be rotated in a squad. This puts one of the biggest legacies of this race, the gender crew rule that saw 22 women sailors racing in mixed crews, in jeopardy.
Walking the dock of the Volvo Ocean Race, it feels noticeably different to walking the dock at a Maxi event or any other pro regatta. There are women in every colour of team kit doing all sorts of jobs: skipper, watch captain, boat captain, navigator. Has a seismic shift been made? Dee Caffari thinks not yet.
“There have been more girls involved across the fleet, which is good, but have the girls all had the same positive experience? I don’t think so. So I don’t think we’ve addressed the underlying problem. Now, having done the Volvo Ocean Race, are the girls being invited to do the deliveries and race with the guys? No.”
Hence why a gender balanced crew rule is still important, and why restricting crew numbers could halt the progress that has been made.