All female crew to tackle Volvo Ocean Race
Kiwi round-the-world sailor Keryn McMaster is buoyed by the news of an all-women's crew signing up as the first entry in the next Volvo Ocean Race.
McMaster sailed on two women's crews around the world - EF Language in the 1997-98 race, and the Lisa McDonald-skippered Amer Sports Too in 2001-02, the last time a women's team entered the demanding ocean race.
In the race's 38-year history, there have been only four all-female crews tackle the circumnavigation. And now a fifth has entered the 2014-15 race - the first team to have a new one-design Volvo 65 built especially for them.
The new all-women's crew will be backed by SCA, a global hygiene and forest company based in Sweden.
"It's about time we had another women's crew," says McMaster, a mother of two who still sails offshore racing yachts. "It's great to see it's a team that is focused on women sailors, rather than a team tacked on to a campaign that already has a men's crew - like EF Language and Amer Sports Too were."
The new Volvo 65, designed by the office of Kiwi Bruce Farr, was created to be safer and easier to handle, with "less of a premium on physical strength". Race organisers hoped this would draw female sailors back to the race.
It was a sensible move, says McMaster: "We couldn't handle the Volvo Open 70s, they were too difficult." While the number of crew has been cut to eight on the new design, all-women's crews will be allowed 10.
McMaster has heard of a number of New Zealand women interested in tackling the next Volvo Ocean Race, and wouldn't discount a second women's team lining up in Alicante mid-2014. English offshore sailor Dee Caffari is said to be looking for funding to put together her own women's crew for 2014.
"I'm very pleased to see a women's team back in the race," said race CEO Knut Frostad. "The lack of women in the last few editions of the race has meant we haven't been representing half the population of the human race.
"I'm also delighted to welcome back Sweden, which has a rich history in the Volvo Ocean Race. This is extremely good news."
The last woman to sail in the race was Australian Adrienne Cahalan, who was navigator on Brasil 1 for one leg in 2005-06. Before her, four women's crews have competed in the race, starting with Tracy Edwards' Maiden in 1989-90. The 1993-94 race featured the US Women's Challenge, which underwent a change of skippers and name (to Heineken), after the first leg.