Just recently, the sport of offshore yacht racing has been thrust into the spotlight with the announcement that a mixed two person keelboat offshore sailing class will feature in the 2024 Paris Olympic games. Both controversial and welcomed in turn by many in the sport of sailing, this will put the offshore racing world firmly on the world sporting stage.
The dinghy classes have been part of the modern Olympics since their inception in 1896 with classes for both male and female sailors and in 2016 it was the first sport to have a compulsory mixed gender class. Offshore yacht racing is a very different landscape to dinghy racing and the Olympic dinghy classes. Currently offshore sailing has one of the lowest percentages of female participants in an open gender sport. So where would the talent come from for this proposed new mixed pairs Olympic class?
The Magenta Project has a clear focus on enabling opportunities and building networks for female sailors, as well as on raising awareness about women in sailing and promoting success stories. This year we have launched our mentoring programme, linking up aspiring sailors with mentors who can help them reach their ambitions.
Over 34 applicants from 12 different nationalities have been matched with mentors across the globe on a six month programme that is now underway. Supported by volunteers the programme will help them transition from dinghy classes into the yacht racing world or climb the inshore or offshore yacht racing routes.
With around two-thirds of mentees under 25 years of age, some are starting out on their journeys after the youth schemes or college sports whilst some are looking for their stepping stone into the top offshore races such as the solo Vendee Globe, the fully crewed Volvo Round the World Race. Some even aspire to the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest sporting contest, which has not seen female sailors in recent history. It seems the sky is the limit for younger female sailors and many harbour a deep passion for using sailing to bring about change on environmental and social issues.
Whatever their ambitions the guidance, learning and opportunities a mentoring relationship can provide will help these women to navigate their career in the sport. Our 28 mentors have significant knowledge of race campaigns and competition at the highest level including the Volvo Ocean Race, Americas Cup, Admiral’s Cup, OSTAR, M32 & Extreme circuits, Olympics, Clipper Round the World Race and Barcelona World Race, among others.
Ultimately with more female sailors entering and staying in the sport, sailing can continue to increase participation, select and showcase the best talent and inspire the millions of supporters and amateurs worldwide.