SailGP to have at least 1 woman on each crew in 2021 season

LONDON -- The SailGP global league plans to have at least one woman on every crew during the 2021 season.

It is the first major diversity, equity and inclusion initiative for SailGP, which staged its first championship in 2019 before postponing its second season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"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,'' SailGP co-founder Russell Coutts said in a statement. "As we have quickly progressed to become the pinnacle global league for the sport, it has also become abundantly clear that this opportunity should be afforded to as wide a group of athletes as possible.''

Coutts, a five-time winner of the America's Cup, said high-performance racing such as SailGP, which is contested in foiling, 50-foot catamarans, has been predominantly dominated by men, resulting in an experience gap among genders.

"All genders can, and should, be equal in this sport, and we must therefore provide the opportunity necessary to close that gap,'' Coutts said. "It is imperative that we break existing boundaries in the sport to create a more inclusive environment overall.''

Beginning in early November, SailGP will host the first in a series of women's invitational camps that will eventually be conducted in each team market -- Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.

From there, 16 women will be invited to participate in SailGP's preseason training camp early next year. Ultimately, at least one woman will be selected to train and be immersed within each team for the second season, which is set to begin April 17-18 in San Francisco.

The program will aim to train top female sailors to be competitive in the positions of helm, flight controller or wing trimmer.

SailGP said some teams might transition to racing with the female crew member sooner than others but that at some point it will be required.

It's a big step forward for women in professional sailing, said SailGP Women's Committee member Carolijn Brouwer, a three-time Olympian who also has competed in The Ocean Race three times and been named World Sailor of the Year twice.

"SailGP is accelerating the inclusion and creating the opportunity for high-performance female sailors to compete alongside their male peers in the world's most advanced sailing league,'' she said. "This type of initiative will allow us to achieve true gender equity in the future.''