SailGP is ‘gearing up’ to evolve into a ‘fully integrated’ league, rather than creating a parallel women’s championship, SailGP boss Russell Coutts has said.
Since the introduction of the Women’s Pathway in Season 2, female athletes have raced on board the F50s in 100% of races, predominantly in the position of strategist. Since the Pathway was launched, a total of 25 female athletes have raced on board.
Speaking to ROCKWOOL’s Into the Depths, Coutts said ‘options’ to evolve the program had been discussed. While the league will continue to ‘monitor’ the Women's Pathway and ‘make adjustments accordingly’, the ultimate aim is to have a ‘fully integrated league' and to do it 'as fast as we possibly can’.
Reflecting on the success of the Pathway, Coutts said he had seen ‘massive change’ even ‘in the last six months’.
“Top male sailors have now really bought into it - they can see the value of it and they understand that the way the sport was operating before wasn’t right,” he said.
Before the introduction of the Women’s Pathway, teams raced with a five-person crew configuration. This meant that existing SailGP teams had to adapt their playbook to include a sixth sailor while Canada and Switzerland, new to the league in Season 3, began racing with six from the get-go.
Coutts added that male athletes are also seeing the benefits of ‘creating greater depth in the team in the long term,’ pointing to newcomer team Canada as a ‘key example’.
“They looked at this as a true six person crew and all the benefits of that,” he said, “the other teams were playing catch up at that point and have since developed a playbook that takes the best out of that role.”
Coutts also revealed more details about the league’s in-progress F50 simulator which, he said, will address the experience imbalance between male and female athletes.
The ‘fully fledged’ simulator, which will be delivered in ‘about 18 months’, will give crews the ability to ‘drill everything’, including crossing sides, remotely and off the water. This means the limited training time available to teams on the F50 will no longer be an issue.
“This will improve not only the Women’s Pathway but the whole talent program will dramatically take a step up,” Coutts said. “Once we get to that stage, the acceleration and learning of the top talent will dramatically improve.”
It comes after Great Britain athlete and SailGP Global Purpose Ambassador Hannah Mills said she hoped SailGP would evolve into a mixed gender league, with a 50/50 split between male and female athletes.