In a year that has seen explosive growth in the interest and investment of women’s sport, the Women’s Sports Group (WSG) is joining forces with SailGP, the world’s most exciting racing on water, to supercharge its game-changing Women’s Pathway.
The Women’s Pathway is a transformative program breaking boundaries, driving gender equity and reinventing the sport of sailing. It was pioneered in 2021 as part of SailGP’s Better Sport strategy to accelerate inclusion, inspire change and provide more opportunities for women at the elite level of sailing.
The Women’s Pathway fast-tracks the development of its female athletes through world-class training and development opportunities, racing at the top level, creating role models for the next generation and elite talent identification.
WSG, co-founded by the English Football Association’s first female non-executive director and former chair of the FA inclusion advisory board, Dame Heather Rabbatts, will provide advisory services on commercial partnerships for the purpose-driven sports league to accelerate the progress of its Women’s Pathway and drive sustainable growth for SailGP.
WSG was founded in 2021 to drive profile and value in women’s sports and ensure women’s sport becomes its own economic driver. Working across all sport but with a focus on women’s sport’s exponential growth, WSG advises clients across the sport landscape on partnership development, media rights and broadcast and content.
The past few years has witnessed a huge momentum shift in investment in women’s sport as commercial partners have begun to recognise its unique value. Increased coverage is enabling more fans to engage with women’s sport than ever before with this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand captivating record audiences, including a new UK women’s football record of 14.8 million tuning into England’s final against Spain.
Together, SailGP and WSG want to capitalise on this surge in engagement and investment to support SailGP’s ambition of creating a gender equitable league where the best athletes can compete together on a hydrofoiling F50.
While fast foiling boats are now at the centre of all high-performance racing, the majority of racing has been predominantly male-driven, resulting in an extensive experience gap. All genders can, and should, be equal in sailing, and SailGP wants to provide opportunities to close that gap.
The Spain Sail Grand Prix in October 2021 was a watershed moment in SailGP’s Women’s Pathway. As a way to fast-track gender equity in our championship, it was the first time SailGP’s nine national teams competed with a female athlete onboard during racing. Since then, female athletes have been onboard in 100 percent of races - providing a visible example for those wanting to pursue a career in sailing and inspiring the next generation.
29 female athletes have now raced onboard the F50, including the most successful female sailor in Olympic history, Hannah Mills OBE, Danish Olympic heroes Anne-Marie Rindom and Katja Salskov-Iversen, and Brazilian sailor Kahena Kunze.
However commercial investment and the right partners are needed to supercharge the program’s growth and provide opportunities for further training time on and off the water, including simulator sessions and bespoke camps for female athletes to close the gap.
SailGP’s goal is to have a female driver win a SailGP event by Season 6, with half of the F50s in the fleet having at least two females onboard during racing.
Dame Heather Rabbatts, co-founder at the Women's Sports Group said: "We are delighted to be working with SailGP to secure authentic partnerships that not only increase investment in the sport but also amplify the work SailGP and its teams have done to drive equity and inclusion.
“SailGP is a championship that places sustainability and gender equity at its core, and through commercial partnerships, we aim to accelerate and enhance the opportunities for female sailors, providing a platform for these incredible athletes and inspiring the next generation.”
Fiona Morgan, Chief Purpose Officer at SailGP, said: "Sports fans around the world have been captivated by this summer’s Women’s Football World Cup, Wimbledon and the Women’s Ashes and it’s been fantastic to see more commercial investment propelling these sports to new heights and reaching new audiences.
“Through the Women’s Pathway, SailGP has one of the best opportunities in sport to break existing boundaries, change culture and have a gender equitable league which I’m incredibly excited about. It’s great to be working with WSG, who share our vision of creating a sustainable, inclusive competition, and together, we will secure further commercial partners to drive this vision forward.”
Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team strategist and SailGP Purpose Ambassador Hannah Mills, said: "We’ve made some fantastic progress with the Women’s Pathway and Season 4 is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever, but we need commercial backing and funding to take the program to new heights and fast-track the ambition of getting a woman driver. For someone to own that and be responsible for creating the first female driver in SailGP would be huge, so this partnership with SailGP and WSG is incredibly exciting.”