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Bridging the gender gap to the America's Cup

by Suzanne McFadden - Newsroom 18 Jun 20:27 NZST
Sea trialling the YDL9 - June 2020 - Auckland © Georgia Schofield

The crews in next summer’s Youth America’s Cup must have two females and two males on board. Is this a step closer to getting more women on board America’s Cup boats?

Celia Willison has grown up on the sea, first sailing on her father’s yacht when she was eight days old.

She's also watched as boys have had more opportunities on boats than she has. But that's done little to deter her.

Willison is now 21, a third-year nursing student, and ranked in the world’s top 10 women’s match race skippers.

She’s now trying out for a place in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s crew to compete in the Youth America’s Cup in Auckland next summer.

“I’ve grown up on the sailing scene watching mostly guys doing the Youth America’s Cup in these really cool boats,” Willison says. “Now it’s at home and there’s the new rule that mandates that girls must be on board – which is really cool and exciting for everyone.

“I never imagined there would be a girls’ rule. Before that there was virtually no chance for girls. Now there’s an equal chance for everyone.”

When the RNZYS, holders of the America’s Cup, drew up the rules around the 2021 Youth America’s Cup regatta, they felt it was important to have an equal gender crew.

So the new AC9F, a radical 9m carbon foiling monohull, will be sailed by two male and two female sailors.

“Sailing is an all-inclusive sport and has a very high percentage of both sexes competing at the highest level,” says RNZYS CEO Hayden Porter.

“Unlike some other sports, it’s also clear that there is no major gap in ability. So for this re-energised Youth America’s Cup event, we felt it was imperative to have a 50 percent split of males and females.

“We want to showcase the best youth male and female sailors the world has to offer, and this event is the perfect platform to do it.”

So far 17 yacht clubs from around the globe have embraced the new rule, entering their mixed crews in the match racing event starting in February. All crew must be aged between 18 and 24.

There are eight crews from Europe: two Swiss, two Dutch, and one each from Russia, Denmark, Germany and Spain. Argentina will have a crew, as well as China and Hong Kong. Teams from Australia and the United States, plus another Kiwi entry from the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, round out the fleet.

The initial stages of the Youth America’s Cup will be raced on the Waitemata Harbour after the Prada Cup challenger series in February, with the finals held during the America’s Cup match in March.

The first AC9F, built in Auckland and christened Kotare (kingfisher), has been out on the harbour testing this week.

For the rest of this story, click here.

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