Women in Sailing

by Elisa Mangani – Business Development, Ronstan Denmark

When we talk about women in sailing we can quickly recognize how much has changed in the last couple of years compared to earlier times. 

In many sailing disciplines at highest level is now mandatory to have at least one female crew: this can be seen like a forcing, but I think it represents the start of a growing presence of skilled girls in sailing. In fact, if at the moment is not that easy to find many girls with good skills to compete at top level, thanks to this rule it will be possible to improve the average level being more and more girls who will participate sailing with a high level of responsibility. 

I don’t see any specific reasons why sailing should be a “men sport”, except the muscular force involved in some situations, but we have blocks and winches for that 😊. What mostly is preventing women from covering important roles in sailing has been a matter of statistics: if 100 men start sailing at 12yo, you might find 15-20 good ones who will continue sailing when growing and maybe 5-7 able to compete at good levels. If the girls sailing at 12yo are 20-30 maximum, you will be lucky to find 3-4 who will keep sailing later on, and how many of them will compete at high level? Increasing the number of women from the beginning, even with a specific rule if needed, is the way to equalize the chance of having high skills at high levels. 

Moreover, we have to consider that being a minority implies less self-confidence. This turns into a loop where being less confident makes the sailor declining a role of responsibility, and thus not taking the learning steps that lead to more important roles on board. 

Talking about crewed keel boats, I don’t think there is any aversion or prejudice to women by the crew, actually nobody really cares about that and the only thing that matters is how good the sailor is in her/his role. So we are back to the previous point: the issue of having only few good skilled sailor girls is a consequence of having few sailor girls in general, and it can be improved by increasing commitment and involvement. I will not focus on payroll, but when talking about roles on board keel boats this is always included and needs to go in parallel. 

We need to reach the point where the is no focus on the gender but only on the skills. This is already happening in the business world, where on a global scale the change started already few years ago and we are now reducing the gender gap quickly and effectively. If we feel that more people are needed in sailing overall, a good way to improve that is involving the 50% which is not yet in, starting from early age. Sailing is not a mass sport and it’s often mixed with work: this doesn’t make any improvement quicker, but the gender equity is happening and sailing is involved. 

Thinking about Ronstan, a company producing blocks for purchase systems and winches which scope is alleviate any active loads, it’s really easy to see how involved we are in making sailing easier to everybody including women! We are basically an active player in reducing the gender gap on board 😊. Jokes apart, I can’t say anything than good about the environment of the company. Again, I think the important is not having prejudices and consider the people (employers, sailors) for what they do and the efforts they make. 

Sailing industry is probably prevalently male at the moment but it is very connected with the sport action and with more interest for sailing it’s increasing also the interest of women for sailing industry.