Volvo Ocean Race: Female sailors to take around-the-world race by storm?

The all-female crew on Team SCA competed in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race.

Story highlights

  • Male crews limited to seven sailors
  • All-female boats can have 11 sailors
  • Mixed crews get numerical advantage

(CNN)All-male crews could be at a significant disadvantage when the next edition of a premier around-the-world race sets sail.

Instead, crews which include women will be allowed a numerical advantage under new rules put in place for the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race.
    To foster the development of women's offshore sailing, all-female crews can number 11 compared to all-male crews which can have a maximum of seven, one fewer than in 2014-2015.
    Mixed teams can comprise five men and five women, seven men and one or two women, or seven women and one or two men.
    All-female crews can have 11 sailors compared to seven on all-male boats.
    In a race where boats will spend more than three weeks at sea on certain legs, having additional crew helps with watch systems for keeping the boat racing 24 hours a day and increases the physical input for changing and stowing heavy sails.
    "It would be very hard to compete with only seven people on a Volvo Ocean 65 against teams of eight or nine," said Ian Walker, Volvo Ocean Race-winning skipper in 2014-2015 and double Olympic silver medallist.
    "This new rule will almost certainly force teams to hire women and that will create a great platform for learning. If female offshore sailors ever want to compete at the same level as the best in the world then they need to train and race with the best."
    In the last edition of the race in 2014-2015, the all-female crew of Team SCA finished third in the In-Port race series and became the first to win an offshore leg in 25 years.
    "We're determined to build on that momentum, and we want to guarantee that the Volvo Ocean Race continues to have the very best sailors competing in the race -- both male and female," said Mark Turner, chief executive of the Volvo Ocean Race.
    The Volvo Ocean Race began as the Whitbread Round-the-World Race in 1973.
    Since the race was launched in 1973 there have been more than 100 female sailors compared with more than 2,000 men.
    The first all-female crew took part on Maiden, skippered by Briton Tracy Edwards, in 1989-1990, winning two legs and finishing second overall in its class.
    "This is fantastic news for elite female athletes, not just in sailing but in sport as a while," said Dee Caffari, who raced on Team SCA and became the first woman to sail non-stop around the world in the "wrong direction" -- westabout against the prevailing wind.
    The 2017-2018 version of the race will begin from Alicante, Spain, and feature stopovers in 10 ports around the world with a finish in The Hague, the Netherlands.