An all-female sailing team is, as we speak, racing around the world

On January 3, while most of us will be recovering from holiday excess and figuring out how to put our New Year’s resolutions into effect, a team of 14 women (from five different countries) will set sail from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.

It’s a long haul, but it’s nothing compared to their ultimate goal: The women make up the fifth all-female team (their team is called Team SCA) to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race, a trip of 38,789 nautical miles that will take them around the world. They began in Alicante, Spain back in October; by the end of the trip they will have sailed all the way east, stopping in (among other places) New Zealand, Brazil, and Portugal, until finally finishing in Gothenburg, Sweden at the end of June.

The Volvo Ocean Race, formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, has been going on for 40 years, and it’s one of the few contests that allows mixed-gender competition. Unlike previous all-women teams, SCA is not part of a two-boat campaign with one boat of women and one of men, a strategy that often led the all-female boat to be viewed as more of a “B” team — the back-up singers to the male boats lead. This time their team is just the girls, and they’re more than ready to prove that sailing is not just a men’s sport.

“When SCA launched in 2012, women realized that this is not a P.R. stunt,” the team’s managing director Richard Brisius told the New York Times. “This is our chance, and it’s not a ‘B’ team.”

Women jumped at the chance to join the female team: Around 350 applied for the final 14 spots, including several Olympians. The all women’s team is allowed to have three more sailors than the men’s teams to equalize the traditional differences between physical strength in the genders.

Team SCA, which is just now about a third through the race, is out to prove a point — women are world class sailors too. Those on the team are skipper Sam Davies as well as Abby Ehler, Annie Lush, Carolijn Brouwer, Corinna Halloran, Stacey Jackson, Dee Caffari, Elodie-Jane Mettraux, Justine Mettraux, Libby Greenhalgh, Sally Barkow, Liz Wardley, Sophie Ciszek, and Sara Hastreiter. 14 women are on the team but only 11 on board the boat — plus one reporter.

The women each have defined roles, but perhaps one of the most important parts of being at sea together is working as a team.

“No sport, no business will succeed if it’s not open to people of all kinds and gender,” Brisius told the Times. “One day this race will be won by a woman.” Maybe SCA will be the team to do it. 

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