It's Ladies First for the Volvo Ocean Race

An all-female effort from Sweden is the first to throw its hat in the ring for the 2014 Volvo Ocean Race. Kersti Strandqvist, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications at SCA, above with project manager Richard Brisius.

Sailing World

Volvo Ocean Race: SCA

Sweden-based SCA will enter an all-female team in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, using the new Volvo 65. Wood veneer on the hull may be optional.Courtesy SCA

In the September 2012 issue of Sailing World, Irish correspondent David Branigan wrote about the new one-design 65-footer to be used for the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, and in his original copy he addressed the possibility of an all-female team (subsequently trimmed from the story due to space constraints). But there's news this morning from Volvo Ocean Race officials that a Swedish all-female team, sponsored by SCA ("the world’s second-largest hygiene company and Europe’s largest private forest owner with sales in more than 100 countries”) would compete. If history is anything in the VOR, it's that the first team on the water has a far higher success rate than those late to the party.

Could this be the year of the ladies?

The move to one-design is about lowering the barrier to entry into the VOR," Branigan wrote. "Frostad cites the Ericsson 3 campaign from the 2008-09 race where 90 per cent of the crew hadn’t crossed the Atlantic before the race. Three of these sailors sailed on Groupama this time so indications are positive looking towards youth teams. This also applies to an all-female crew and discussions are already under way with a potential entry.

"It’s not jut about the size of the boat, it’s about the complexity of the (current) boat and this is a barrier to good sailors,” maintains Frostad.

"However, the issue of involving women, either on co-ed or as an exclusively female team isn’t so straightforward.

“Former Whitbread race and America’s Cup skipper Dawn Riley has reservations and points to the 2001-02 Volvo Ocean Race as having damaged the women in sailing agenda. In that scenario, a two boat-team is entered with the A-Team (the men) getting the pick of the boats and preference in everything while the B-Team receives the hand-me-downs. The same applies to youth squads.

"Breaking the mindset that only men are capable of handling these boats is a myth that only women can bust according to Riley. But women must first want to do that and at present, there aren't significant numbers of women pursuing this option, thereby perpetuating the myth.
As for Riley herself, she has ruled out any sailing role herself though is keen to promote US involvement through the Oakcliff Sailing Center in New York."

According to an SCA news release, about 80 percent of its consumers globally are women.

“SCA’s participation in the Volvo Ocean Race is important in our continued journey of change,” says a corporate statement. “As a Group, SCA invests in global growth, particularly in the hygiene area. The Volvo Ocean Race will increase awareness of the SCA brand and create stronger links to product brands such as TENA, Tork, Lotus, Tempo, Saba and Libero.”

SCA’s participation will be managed by a team headed by Richard Brisius, co-founder of Atlant Ocean Racing, which has managed five Volvo Ocean Race projects and won twice: in 1998 with EF Language and in 2009 with Ericsson Racing Team.

“SCA’s investment in an all-female crew is unique. Competing for nine months in the world’s toughest offshore sailing race is a challenge that deserves respect. The new boat design lends itself to an all-female crew, and our aim is to create a strong team that will have the best possible platform to undertake the challenge," says Richard Brisius, of Atlant.