All sports need diversity to make themselves relevant to the widest number of people. Sailing is often seen as a sport for old white men in blue blazers and striped ties, but sailing is one sport where women can compete at the top level, in the same class as men and win.
In the UK, women like Ellen MacArthur and Tracey Edwards have inspired the likes of Sam Davies, who this week won the 2009 Ladies Day Trophy award at Cowes Week.
The award, now in its fourth year, celebrates the achievements and contribution of women in sailing, and at a special ceremony at the G.H. Champagne Mumm bar in Cowes Yacht Haven, Sam Davies was announced the overall winner from all the nominations received.
Sam’s acheivement in the Vendee Globe aboard Roxy, finishing fourth over all was the second fastest time ever for a female Vendée Globe skipper, narrowly missing out on Ellen MacArthur’s record of 94 days and four hours.
During the race, Sam built up a base of loyal fans, many of whom are young girls, inspired by her acheivements aboard the distinctive pink open60 Roxy. While on the face of it, swapping a young surf brand for an investment company might alienate some of these followers, the symbol painted onto the sails of Sam’s new boat and embroidered onto her offshore gear is Artemis, a Hellenic goddess.
And Sam Davies is not on her own. Other nominees for the Cowes Week award this year included Dee Caffari, Pip Hildesley, Hilary Lister, Jane Lofts, Natalie Jobling, and Heleen Wester.
Christina Ioannidis, Managing Director of Aquitude, a leadership development company specialising in diversity, commented on the increasing numbers of women at the top levels of sailing saying:
It’s great to recognise the contributions of women in sailing in this way. This week Harriet Harman suggested that the city’s boardrooms might not have made the same decisions if there had been more women in leadership roles because women approach decision making differently to men.
A huge part of sailing is the ability to make informed decisions and women like Shirley Roberston in the iShares Cup and Sam Davies in the Vendee Globe are an inspiration for those who want to get into sailing as well as those who want to achieve in business.
The future looks bright too. Women like Hannah White, Hannah Jenner and Katie Miller are following in the footsteps of current stars, with the latter pairing up to compete in the Fastnet race starting on Sunday.
Image: Sam Davies, Zara Phillips, Ellen MacArthur and Dee Caffari before the 2009 Artemis Challenge. Photo by Mark Lloyd.