CARDIFF, Wales (Reuters) - For some of the crew members battling it out in the Volvo Ocean Race there is an additional motivation, they are in the running to become the first women to win the round-the-world event.
A change in the rules for the current edition which encourages mixed crews has ensured an end to the male domination of the gruelling round-the-world race, which began in the 1970s, with women on board each of the seven competing yachts.
“To be able to say that you are the first woman to win the Volvo Ocean Race is obviously something very special... it would be a long-time dream come true,” Dongfeng Race Team’s Carolijn Brouwer told Reuters ahead of the penultimate leg.
Brouwer, 44, competed in the last race in 2014-15 with the all-female Team SCA and thinks the “ball is rolling” towards women achieving parity with men in sailing, although the sport still has some way to go.
“This (Volvo Ocean Race) mixed rule, I see it as a step in the right direction. I’d probably rather see two all-female boats in the race... and then have mixed crews as well, then you might be closer to reaching a tipping point,” she said.
“We don’t just want to see girls in the boats, we want to see girls in the shore crew, in all the areas of the Volvo Ocean Race. It is not just about sailing the boat,” she added.
Although Brouwer is optimistic about changes from the new management team who will lead the next round-the-world race, she still thinks it could take two or three editions for women to be equally represented in it.
And while the Dutch sailor says Team SCA was “huge” for getting women more established and it was a first-class, well prepared and funded campaign, the crew ultimately lacked the experience and knowledge needed to win.
She is now in a different position with Dongfeng, which is leading as the 2017-18 event approaches the finish in The Hague.
“We are in the best position we have ever been in, we want to stay there but we have to give it our everything for the last two stages,” she said, adding that Dongfeng’s mix of backgrounds and personalities has proved to be its strength.
“I am very much a team player, I can adapt to situations quite easily. I am very competitive but at the same time I stay calm... I love the pressure of racing and of competition and I rub that off on other people,” the former Olympic sailor added following this week’s practice race in Cardiff.
Brouwer is not sure whether she will embark on another Volvo Ocean Race after this one. However, if she does, she says her ultimate goal is to be skipper, preferably of a mixed crew.
Editing by Christian Radnedge