Yachting World

Radical change for Volvo Ocean Race



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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