The 2017-18 rules for the Volvo Ocean Race will contain a distinction that few other professional sports currently have. Gender integrated sailing teams will not only be allowed— they will be incentified.
The Volvo Ocean Race is often referred to as the longest and toughest sporting event in the world. New gender inclusive rules for 2017-2018 will build on the legacy of the thousands of sailors who have taken part over the years. During the last running of the event, an all-female crew had 11 members to the males’ eight.
Here are the crew configurations which will be permitted for 2017-2018:
7 male + 1 or 2 female;
5 male + 5 female;
7 female + 1 or 2 male;
Ian Walker, Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 winning skipper and Olympic silver medalist, commented: “It would be very hard to compete with only seven people on a Volvo Ocean 65 against teams of eight or nine. This new rule will almost certainly force teams to hire women.”
The race is conducted across four oceans, is adjacent to six continents, has finish lines at twelve host cities, and totals about 46,000 nautical miles. The Volvo Ocean Race round-the-clock series is considered one of the top three global sailing events, alongside the Olympics and America’s Cup.
The All-Female Team in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race
During the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race season, Team SCA, with its all-female crew, finished third in the In-Port Race series and became the first all-female team to win an offshore leg in 25 years. Team SCA was also the first all-female crew to enter the race in more than a decade. Their offshore leg performance did suffer from the crew’s inability to draw upon the experience of sailors who had raced in previous years. Walker noted that the new gender integration rule would “create a great platform for learning.”
Mark Turner, Volvo Ocean Race CEO, explained the decision behind the rule change to foster gender integrated teams.
“This is giving more opportunity to the very best female sailors in the world to compete on equal terms. The Team SCA project in the last race did a great job to restart female participation, after 12 years with just one sailor getting a slot [Adrienne Cahalan, Brasil 1, Leg 1 2005-06]. We’re determined to build on that momentum, and we want to guarantee that the Volvo Ocean Race continues to have the very best sailors competing in the race – both male and female.We’re using the crew rules to incentivise skippers to bring one or more female sailors onboard. I really hope that it’s not necessary to have any rule at all in the future – but it seems it’s the only way today to ensure we can maintain progress.”
Competition for the teams in the Volvo Ocean Race is fierce, as, in the era of One Design racing, the only way to win is by anticipating conditions, navigating keenly, and sailing just a bit harder and smarter than the competitors. And there is no cash prize for victory: the reward comes in seeing one’s name etched into the silver rings of the Volvo Ocean Race Trophy. There’s also the pride and acclaim of achieving what few others have even dared. Indeed, this year’s race will traverse three times as much Southern Ocean sailing as in recent editions, making offshore leg victories all that much more sweet.