In a landmark year for women’s sport across the world, SailGP will celebrate its own milestone in the quest for gender equity this week at the Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía - Cádiz presented by NEAR.
The sixth event on SailGP’s Season 3 calendar, the Spain Sail Grand Prix marks one year since female athletes raced onboard all F50s for the first time as part of SailGP’s Women’s Pathway.
Since then, female athletes have been onboard all teams in 100 per cent of races around the globe, honing their skills and providing a visible example for aspiring professional athletes.
SailGP introduced the Women's Pathway in 2021 as part of its better sport strategy to accelerate inclusion, inspire change and provide opportunities at the elite level of sailing.
SailGP’s goal is achieving gender equity – creating an inclusive sporting championship where the best athletes in the world have equal opportunity to compete on the F50.
SailGP global director of purpose and impact Fiona Morgan said: “This year we’ve seen fans captivated by the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, the Women’s Cricket World Cup and the Beijing Winter Olympics, inspiring a new wave of fans and athletes around the world. We’re proud that this week SailGP is also celebrating a milestone in women’s sport, with our female athletes having been onboard all F50s during racing for the last year.
“Over this time, we’ve made strides in closing the experience gap and providing a visible example for those wanting to pursue a career in professional sailing. We want to inspire the next generation and show anything is possible. We recognise we’ve still got a lot of work to do to make our sport more inclusive, but we’re fully committed to addressing the need to accelerate change. Through the Women’s Pathway, SailGP has one of the best opportunities in sport to really break existing boundaries and have a gender equitable league which I’m incredibly excited about.”
Since the Spain Sail Grand Prix in 2021, 25 female athletes have been onboard during racing, building a strong roster of athletes capable of competing at the highest level of sailing.
Canada SailGP Team athlete Isabella Bertold said: “The Women’s Pathway brought me back to competitive sailing. In 2019 when I stopped Olympic sailing, I finished my university degree and never thought that I would be back racing at an elite level. There were a few women who had managed to jump into professional sailing, but it did not seem like a credible path forward. When SailGP brought in the Women’s Pathway, not only was there now a path into professional sailing, but the support on the skill development side to start playing catch up.”
While SailGP female athletes have typically raced in the role of strategist in 6-crew configuration and in the role of grinder in 4-crew configuration, over time SailGP expects to see more female athletes racing in other roles onboard the F50 as development progresses.
Morgan said: “We want to see more female athletes onboard every season, and we want to see athletes like Hannah Mills driving the F50 for the Great Britain SailGP Team. What a fantastic moment that would be. We’re currently building out a plan to ensure we achieve this, and we want to partner with like-minded brands in driving these ambitious plans forward together.”
In just its first year, the Women’s Pathway is already reaping rewards, with SailGP Season 2 WASZP Inspire Champion Hattie Rogers being involved with the Great Britain SailGP Team – stepping in to train with the team in San Francisco (Season 2), representing the Great Britain SailGP Team as the fleet reserve female athlete in Plymouth (Season 3) and is now involved in the team’s Athena Pathway Program.
Natasha Bryant (AUS) was also an Inspire program participant and is now a part of the Australia SailGP Team in Season 3, competing this week in Cádiz as Australia looks to maintain its position at the top of the season leaderboard.
SailGP Teams New Zealand (through Live Ocean Racing), Great Britain (through the Athena Pathway Program) and the Denmark SailGP Team (through ROCK The Boat) have invested in closing the gender gap in professional sailing by creating their own teams outside of SailGP.
A comparative veteran of the Women’s Pathway, Australia SailGP Team athlete Nina Curtis told SailGP’s Deep Dive podcast she was excited about what the future holds for the Women’s Pathway.
“We don’t know what the Women’s Pathway is going to look like down the road but I think that’s even more exciting – we don’t know if it will look like a female league or more inclusion on the boat as the league develops but what’s great is SailGP is taking time with this decision, and hopefully we’re going to have an outcome where the next generation of female athletes has a visible and very real pathway that drives them into foiling classes. All of a sudden there won’t be this massive skills gap we’re desperately trying to bridge at the moment. It’s only going to get better from here.”
The female athletes racing at the Spain Sail Grand Prix | Andalucía - Cádiz presented by NEAR are (subject to change):
Laurane Mettraux (SUI)
Natasha Bryant (AUS)
Liv Mackay (NZL)
Georgia Lewin-LaFrance (CAN)
Nikki Boniface (GBR)
Paula Barceló (ESP)
Erika Reineke (USA) - first event
Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN)
Manon Audinet (FRA)
You can watch all the action in Spain live all weekend on TV3 from 4pm local time or check out SailGP.com/watch for details of how to watch wherever you are.