Women have always played an important role in sailing, evolving from their mythical presence of the siren calling sailors home into port to a formidable force on the water as both as amateurs and professionals. Throughout our sailing history names like Florence Arthaud, Isabelle Autissier, Sharon Sites Adams and Ellen MacArthur have resonated across the world and made us dream big, and today we have the likes of Sam Davies, Dee Caffari, Shirley Robertson, Alexia Barrier, Emma Creighton, Liz Wardley, Genny Tulloch, Paige Railey... and a host of other talented female sailors keeping the dream alive. We love these girls, many of them able to sail circles around their male contemporaries. There is nothing quite like having a chick dance around you on board a boat anticipating the skippers needs before any of the guys are clued in, weaving in and out of the rest of the crew with the focus & confidence of a champion and the agility of a fox.
There is also no comparison to being beaten in a race by a female crew and enjoying a beer together back at the yacht club. It is one of those rare times when elitist men will put their egos in their back pocket for a brief spell and give the ladies their due. The camaraderie we experience with the girls during these moments is great fun and an important lesson for everyone; bonding and communicating in the same language, laughing and clicking at the bar without the pressure of romantic intentions and facades... good healthy competition and rivalry bringing us together on equal footing. The sport of sailing is fortunate to have broken the gender boundary for the most part, girls are able to compete with the dudes in just about every race or record, limitations are defined by their own desires and personal abilities and not by what rest room they use. The reality might be humbling for some of the more prideful macho male types in our little village, but women who sail can be just as strong, just as talented, and just as dedicated to our sport as the men. These sailorettes have everything to prove and much to lose, but from my experience these things are insignificant to them. The girls are motivated by a fierce love for the sport and a deep passion for being on the water. Just like us. If only we could look so well put-together in our foulies.
The global presence of women in sailing doesn't stop at the tiller, every successful campaign is dependent on the talent and efficiency of the team on shore, and the ladies more than often are at the helm of the show. There are also some incredible female sailing photographers out there braving the seas to get the shot, some giving the men a run for their money too... check out the photography of Jen Edney and Nathalie Colloud.
It seems that currently things are only getting better for the female sailing community and that's fantastic news for everyone. I'm excited to see the developments of the all-woman team for the next Volvo Ocean Race.
While I was sorting through my vintage magazine collection for 'sailing-lifestyle' ads to scan, it was not surprising to see a handful featuring women in some context, but it is interesting how women and sailing were portrayed, what we were to assume sailing meant to them, and how we as a culture defined women in general. Have a look at the ads below and see for yourself. While the image of women in advertising today has deteriorated considerably, rife with objectification and sexism, we'll always have that magical era of time-passed to disappear into when we need a little refreshment from (and respect for) the opposite sex as she once was in print media. And for the fine fair ladies of sailing today, despite our current magazines sadly lacking advertising featuring the depiction of female sailors, in the 'real' world you've made a massive impact. Well done.
You've come a long way, babies.
Sail on les filles...
Advertising The Sailing Lifestyle. Part 3: Smoke On The Water
Advertising The Sailing Lifestyle. Part 2: Happy Place
Advertising The Sailing Lifestyle. Part 2: Auto Pilot