Woman sailors are joining professional men-only racing teams after organizations such SailGP, the Ocean Race and the America’s Cup force the change with new rules
“Our women’s pathway program integrates the female athletes into teams this season and involves them onboard during every training session, experiencing the different roles on the boat. Our recent rules change paves the way for more significant female involvement in the racing calendar,” said Sasha Kemp, head of SailGP public relations.
“We acknowledge that there is work to be done in order to make our organization and this sport more inclusive, and we are fully committed to addressing the need to accelerate change. Fast, foiling boats, including our F50 catamarans, are now rightfully at the center of high-performance sail racing, however, the majority of that racing has been predominantly male-driven, resulting in an experience gap among genders,” said SailGP CEO Russell Coutts. “All genders can, and should, be equal in this sport, and we must therefore provide the opportunity necessary to close that gap.”
This is the second year of competition for the high-powered F50 SailGP fleet. This season, there are eight teams vying for the season’s $1 million prize. All of the teams have at least one woman listed on their rosters. The women train with the men aboard the boats in a variety of roles. The addition of one woman aboard each of the SailGP boats during the regatta in Cadiz marked the start of a new era of competition within the SailGP circuit.
Some SailGP teams held formal tryouts for the coveted developmental spots. Others surveyed the available top female sailors and extended invitations based on sailing credentials alone. Team Great Britain, for example, conducted an extensive on-site trial program, integrating prospective female sailors into the training regimen in each of the first three SailGP events. British sailor Hannah Mills trained with Ben Ainslie and crewed in Bermuda.
“Sailing, like many other sports, has a long way to go to become fully inclusive,” Mills said. “It is a sport, however, as SailGP is now starting to show, that is in a good position to lead the change as there are many roles within sailing teams where female athletes can perform exceptionally well given the opportunity. I really believe that the steps SailGP is making could be the beginning of a whole new era for women in sailing. I feel incredibly excited for young female sailors and the opportunities they might gain.”
Fresh from her gold medal win in the 470 class at the Tokyo Olympics, Mills was excited to finally put her expertise to work as a crewmember during Cadiz races.
“It’s a really great step forward for the female athletes to be in the thick of it, witnessing it all, getting in and helping wherever we can such as tactics, strategy, and communications. I am really excited for that. The adrenaline rush is going to be massive. Sailing these F50s is insane.”
In addition to CJ Perez, two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Daniela Moroz was also part of the U.S. SailGP team.
At 20, Moroz has a long list of sailing credentials earned while competing worldwide in a variety of kiteboarding championships. She has four kitefoil world championships to her credit in addition to having logged serious time aboard Nacra’s, 49ers, J/105s, WASZPs and 440s.
“My foiling creds are what got me here. Hundreds of hours foiling with the kiteboards. Really good training to get a feel for these massive cats,” she said.
Moroz applied to become a member of U.S. SailGP team in January 2021.
“Quite frankly, I forgot about it. Then, one day I get a call from a number I didn’t recognize. ‘Daniella, this is Jimmy. I’m calling to offer you a spot on our crew,’” Moroz said. “You could have knocked me over with a feather. Of course, I said yes and I haven’t regretted a minute of my time with the team.”
Moroz joined the team for the circuit’s events in spring while Perez joined in the fall.
“On a training day, we’d start early, getting the boat ready. If all went well, I’d have a couple of hours on the boat performing a number of functions,” Moroz said. “I’m most comfortable as a flight controller, but as a junior member, I’d only get less than half an hour a day actually flying the boat.”
Time on the water is tightly controlled by SailGP rules, so every minute spent is critical to further the crew’s understanding of how to sail the boat.