SailGP joins forces with Women’s Sports Group on fast-track programme

Hannah Mills, strategist of Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team, at the wheel alongside Giles Scott of Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team and Iain Jensen, wing trimmer of Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team, during a practice session ahead of the Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix at the Port of Los Angeles, in California, USA. 20th July 2023. Photo: Ricardo Pinto for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

The Women’s Sports Group (WSG) is joining forces with global racing league SailGP to supercharge its Women’s Pathway.

The Women’s Pathway is a programme designed to drive gender equity within the sport of sailing. It was pioneered in 2021 as part of SailGP’s Better Sport strategy to accelerate inclusion and provide more opportunities for women at the elite level of sailing.

SailGP says its goal is to have a female driver win a SailGP event by Season 6, with half of the F50s in the fleet having at least two females onboard during racing.

The Women’s Pathway fast-tracks the development of its female athletes through world-class training and development opportunities, racing at the top level, creating role models for the next generation and elite talent identification.

WSG, co-founded by the English Football Association’s first female non-executive director and former chair of the FA inclusion advisory board, Dame Heather Rabbatts, will provide advisory services on commercial partnerships for the purpose-driven sports league to accelerate the progress of its Women’s Pathway and drive sustainable growth for SailGP.

WSG was founded in 2021 to drive the profile and value of women’s sports and ensure women’s sport becomes its own economic driver. Working across all sports but with a focus on women’s sport’s exponential growth, WSG advises clients across the sports landscape on partnership development, media rights and broadcast and content.

The SailGP fleet in action on Race Day 1 of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch - photo © David Gray SailGP

The SailGP fleet in action. Photo courtesy of David Gray/SailGP

The past few years have witnessed a huge momentum shift in investment in women’s sport. Increased coverage is enabling more fans to engage with women’s sports than ever before, with this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand attracting a UK women’s football record of 14.8 million people tuning into England’s final against Spain.

Together, SailGP and WSG say they want to capitalise on this surge in engagement and investment to support SailGP’s ambition of creating a gender-equitable league where the best athletes can compete together on a hydrofoiling F50.

While fast-foiling boats are now at the centre of all high-performance racing, the majority of racing has been predominantly male-driven, resulting in an extensive experience gap.

The Spain Sail Grand Prix in October 2021 was a watershed moment in SailGP’s Women’s Pathway. As a way to fast-track gender equity in the championship, it was the first time SailGP’s nine national teams competed with a female athlete onboard during racing. Since then, female athletes have been onboard in 100 per cent of races — providing a visible example for those wanting to pursue a career in sailing and inspiring the next generation.

A total of 29 female athletes have now raced onboard the F50, including the most successful female sailor in Olympic history, Hannah Mills OBE, Danish Olympic heroes Anne-Marie Rindom and Katja Salskov-Iversen, and Brazilian sailor Kahena Kunze.

However, commercial investment and the right partners are needed to supercharge the programme’s growth and provide opportunities for further training time on and off the water, including simulator sessions and bespoke camps for female athletes to close the gap.

We are delighted to be working with SailGP to secure authentic partnerships that not only increase investment in the sport but also amplify the work SailGP and its teams have done to drive equity and inclusion,” says Dame Heather Rabbatts, co-founder at the Women’s Sports Group.

“SailGP is a championship that places sustainability and gender equity at its core, and through commercial partnerships, we aim to accelerate and enhance the opportunities for female sailors, providing a platform for these incredible athletes and inspiring the next generation.”

Canada SailGP Team in action on Race Day 2 of the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch, New Zealand - photo © Bob Martin SailGP

Canada SailGP Team in action. Photo courtesy of Bob Martin/SailGP

Fiona Morgan, chief purpose officer at SailGP, adds: “Sports fans around the world have been captivated by this summer’s Women’s Football World Cup, Wimbledon and the Women’s Ashes, and it’s been fantastic to see more commercial investment propelling these sports to new heights and reaching new audiences.

“Through the Women’s Pathway, SailGP has one of the best opportunities in sport to break existing boundaries, change culture and have a gender-equitable league which I’m incredibly excited about. It’s great to be working with WSG, who share our vision of creating a sustainable, inclusive competition, and together, we will secure further commercial partners to drive this vision forward.”

Earlier this year, SailGP announced a new structure as it approached the end of its third season. SailGP will be split into different business units, including SailGP League, covering commercial, marketing, events, technology and strategy. SailGP Productions covers broadcast and content, while SailGP Technologies becomes the boatbuilding, design and applied technologies division of the company.

Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team strategist and SailGP Purpose Ambassador Hannah Mills, comments: “We’ve made some fantastic progress with the Women’s Pathway, and Season 4 is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever, but we need commercial backing and funding to take the program to new heights and fast-track the ambition of getting a woman driver. For someone to own that and be responsible for creating the first female driver in SailGP would be huge, so this partnership with SailGP and WSG is incredibly exciting.”

Main image: Hannah Mills, strategist of Emirates Great Britain SailGP, at the wheel alongside Giles Scott of Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team and Iain Jensen, wing trimmer of Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team. Image courtesy of SailGP.

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