The final On the Horizon panel session will be held in Genova on 30th June. These panel sessions, focusing on diversity and inclusion in sailing, have been organised and supported by GAC Pindar in collaboration with The Magenta Project, World Sailing Trust and The Ocean Race.
The third in the series was held at The Ocean Race Newport stopover, and the discussion focused around developing pathways for women not just as sailors, but also in technical and support roles.
The event saw a lively discussion with panellists from across the world of sailing including Sofia Truchanowicz, International Judge and Managing Director of Harken Poland, Marie Rogers, Vice President of US Sailing, Bill O’Hara, Principal Race Officer, The Ocean Race, Abby Ehler, Team Holcim PRB and founder of The Magenta Project, Imogen Dinham-Price, IMOCA and Chelsea Freas, Meteorologist and The Magenta Project mentor.
Jeremy Troughton, General Manager at GAC Pindar, opened the event by highlighting how GAC is working at local company level to improve equal opportunities for those pursuing a career in marine logistics and shipping. “The logistics team who support The Ocean Race at our HQ in Southampton, UK is fifty-fifty male-female split which is pretty much unheard of in the logistics world.” He went on to share that another part of GAC’s global business is ship agency. “As members of Maritime UK’s Diversity in Maritime Charter, we are working hard to close the diversity gap in the maritime sector. We have working groups in the UK looking at how we can bring more females into these roles.
“It’s great to see people’s mindsets changing as far as diversity goes but this change is far too slow. GAC Pindar, together with The Magenta Project, The Ocean Race and World Sailing Trust are united in keeping this topic front and centre for all of us.”
The panel covered subjects as diverse as enabling rule changes to encourage more women to become involved in sailing, and the need for stakeholders from local communities to be involved in tailoring pathways into the sport. A key underlying message was the importance of having female mentors who understand the challenges that women face in the sport and support them to speak out against discrimination.
Bill O’Hara, Principal Race Officer, The Ocean Race, who is responsible for the selection of International Jury commented, “It is sure that women have less chance to be asked to join a Jury but both World Sailing and The Ocean Race are working hard to get more women involved in this event particularly.
“In the past it has generally been men. But some of our top judges are women and on the International Jury Panel for Newport we had six women and five men, so we are beginning to see a change. However, some countries have no women at all involved in Race Official work and this can be quite tricky, so when we go to stopovers, we bring on observers, people who would not normally be involved and try to focus this on youth and women, where possible.”
Abby Ehler, one of the founders of The Magenta Project and a sailor who has enjoyed a high-profile professional sailing career commented, “I sailed from a very young age, and probably had the blinkers on to any barriers. But now that I have progressed to the professional side, there is a lot of unconscious bias as men naturally will employ people that look like them.
“We need to encourage pathways, and opportunities to greater inclusion. However, mandates on crews can be a difficult one, it is chicken and egg, you don’t want to see that rule, but the sport demands it. It is about growing female talent through the female rule, and until there is a bigger professional talent pool of women. Then I would hope that people will be hired on their talent rather than their gender.”
But Sofia Truchanovicz, International Judge and MD of Harken Poland, has a slightly different view. She applauds the work of The Ocean Race and sees the event as an example for greater equality proving that women are as equally capable as men and are now a fundamental part of teams. However, she urges that by nature, there are less women in sailing, so by creating an artificial rule may not necessarily create opportunities, but it is important to show that there is a pathway.
“The women that are currently sailing at a professional level are there because they are good sailors. Having women there only because they are women is not the message that any woman would want to hear. Are people looking for a sailor or a race official because they are a woman or are they looking for them because they are good at their job? That is the balance. But showing that that there is a pathway to achieve that goal is critical.”
For Marie Rogers, the Vice President of US Sailing that pathway starts at the very beginning with access to a boat. “Community sailing programmes are absolutely the answer to help sailing become a more diverse sport and ensure that people of colour, women and those from marginalised communities do feel that they can be part of it. Through these programmes there are a lot more people who now have access, but while it is much more open, there is a lot of room for improvement and getting people to trust that these spaces are safe, is an important part of helping the sport to develop.”
The final On the Horizon panel will be held at The Ocean Race stopover in Genova, Italy on the 30th June 2023 at 0930h on the Sailors Terrace. Please register to attend the event by using this link.