Panellists at the inaugural 'On the Horizon' networking event held at The Ocean Race Museum, Alicante, on 14th January 2023. Scott Over - World Sailing, Claire Vayer - IMOCA
GAC Pindar champions crucial diversity e inclusion in sailing discussion
On Saturday 25th February, GAC Pindar, in collaboration with The Magenta Project, The Ocean Race & World Sailing Trust, will be presenting the second 'On the Horizon' event to continue the discussion on diversity, equality and inclusion in the sport of sailing. The event will take place during The Ocean Race Cape Town stopover in partnership with BlueCape, a not-for-profit local organisation which supports the ocean economy, and the South African Boat Builders Export Council, an industry association which links companies across South Africa to represent and grow the local boating industry and promote exports.
This follows the inaugural 'On the Horizon' panel discussion held in Alicante, Spain, the day before the start of The Ocean Race 2022-23. These panels, supported by GAC Pindar and organised in collaboration with The Magenta Project, The Ocean Race and World Sailing Trust, aim to continue to spotlight the discussion around gender, diversity, and inclusion in the sport of sailing, against the backdrop of one of the world's most iconic offshore races. The Ocean Race is at the forefront of gender inclusion work in sailing with 136 women competing in the race since 1973.
The title of the series, 'On the Horizon', was not lost on the panel or the audience at The Ocean Race Museum in Alicante. In 2019 following the World Sailing Trust's publication of a Strategic Review into Women in Sailing and its associated nine recommendations, there have been many discussions, more reports and, in some cases, action to continue to move the inclusivity dial. The Alicante forum posed the question whether the course of greater inclusivity in sailing, be that gender or ethnicity, is any clearer.
The Alicante panel included key speakers that were able to showcase progress, but equally prompt discussion on where progress still needs to be made.
Sam Goodchild, crew on Team Holcim PRB and skipper of the Leyton Sailing Team, spoke on the Leyton-Magenta women's sailing events that his team had organised in previous years. These three-day events gave a small group of female sailors the opportunity to experience a Multi50 racing team and critically, sail on the Leyton Sailing trimaran.
"We thought we could help, and we actually helped more than we thought we could. We have now had 40 women through the programme, everything from Olympic sailors to youngsters and professional sailors. For women to get to the level of Annie [Lush] and Abby [Ehler] it doesn't start with SailGP when you are sailing against Pete Burling and Ben Ainslie. You can't just magic up 30 years of experience, which is why you must start much lower down. Experience is time and time takes time," comments Goodchild.
The importance of these opportunities as well as the Magenta Mentoring Programme, were highlighted by panellists Lauren van Veen (Team Jajo) and Ceci Zorzi (Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova), as key factors in progressing their sailing careers. Both have come through the Magenta Mentoring Programme, and both are now crew in The Ocean Race VO65 fleet.
"Everything is about networking, and networking is something you build over time. It's very hard to get into this world. One thing that the Magenta Project did is exactly that, linking professional sailors, with mentors, other girls, other sailors that want to do the same, to inspire you, teach you, and that's incredible," commented Zorzi.
Annie Lush, an experienced offshore sailor and Olympian, echoed the importance of networking, opportunity, and finding your 'group'.
"It's about networks and you bring along your mates. It's about trying to grow that, and it's really, really hard. For me and Sally [Barkow], we match-raced on the World Tour, while we were Olympic sailing, and that was fundamental to get into The Ocean Race, because at least we were familiar with sailing bigger boats...Find your group and take them with you and try to do it together as it will make you stronger," said Lush.
From the governance and events side of the sport Claire Vayer from IMOCA outlined the class's upcoming Diversity, Equality & Inclusion programme, and Luca Rizzotti from Foiling Week reinforced the simplicity of providing opportunities. "At the end of the day my experience is very simple, you just need to say, 'you are welcome' and do initiatives that show it," he stated.
Scott Over, World Sailing's Commercial Director added: "When the Strategic Review of Women in Sailing was conducted, we were at a standing start. In 2019 we didn't have a development director; we didn't have anyone focused on gender at all or the promotion of female sailors."
"We've just gone through a voting process for governance reform and part of that is to evolve the Women's Forum into an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and that will create the Working Party that we need as an International Federation to control the sport."