On Saturday, October 11, 2014, an all-female crew will compete in what’s known as the toughest ocean race in the world, the Volvo Ocean Race. Team SCA are made up of 11 women from England, Australia, USA, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Perhaps it is no coincidence then, that the race also falls on the United Nations’ third annual International Day of the Girl.
The team will spend nine months on the 65 foot boat, covering over 39,000 nautical miles as they sail around the globe starting in Spain, stopping in 10 countries including Portugal, China, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil until they reach their destination in Sweden.
The women have spent the last 16 months training together for the race of a lifetime. They are only the 5th all-female crew in the race’s 41 year history. They are one of seven teams competing in the competition which only happens every four years. So out of nearly 70 crews total in the Volvo Ocean Race history, 5 seems like a pretty dismal number, which Team SCA are hoping to change.
Sure, they want to win and we are rooting for them! But the significance of this team goes beyond just medals and cups. It’s the representation of females competing at the highest level in sailing which sends a loud and clear message to other women “You can do it too!”.
These women aren’t all elite athletes, in fact only 3 of them have competed in the Volvo Ocean Race previously in the 2001-02 race. They are a diverse crew of ladies from all walks of life, who are showing the world that ordinary women can do extraordinary things.
One woman is an engineer, three have children, two are sisters, and one, Dee Caffari is the only woman who has circumnavigated the world solo in both directions.
While they have breaks in between being at sea and arriving at different cities throughout the race, there are stretches where they will be at sea for 20 days straight. This race is not for the faint-hearted, but these women are already proving they have what it takes, being away from family, friends, and sacrificing a lot to potentially make history.
But more than that, they are hoping their presence in the race will encourage more women to take up sailing, and also encourage more mixed-gender teams in the races like this.
We are able to compete in this incredible event on equal footing with men,” said team member Annie Lush. “It’s the first time a that a women’s team has taken part in the race in 12 years so we are making a stand for the empowerment of women everywhere. We will face some challenging times…but one thing is for sure, all of us will be giving 100% and our objective is to be the best performing female team in this race ever.”
The women are sponsored by major hygiene brand SCA (based out of Sweden) whose customer base is 80% women. They manufacture brands such as Tena, Cushelle, Bodyform and Velvet and are the perfect accompaniment to a team of women spending 9 months at sea. There will be no shortage of hygiene products on hand for them, but the company is also on board to share their message of female empowerment.
“SCA supports women’s empowerment and their freedom to participate fully in society – socially, educationally and professionally – across the world by giving them access to and education about hygiene products and solutions,” said Sally Barker, UK managing director of SCA Hygiene.
Another crew member Abby Ehler said it is all about the opportunity which is going to be talked about more than just a number on a scoreboard.
“You would almost never get a chance to do this with a mixed team because [some think] there are just not the girls with the experience or physical strength to be worth a spot on a men’s boat. Since the opportunity hasn’t been there for so many years, it kind of has to be an all-female team. And it has to be run properly to ensure that we can prove ourselves and be competitive,” she said.
They want to be taken seriously as women in the sport.
“It’s just a relief, from a sailor’s point of view, that we’re not just there as media tokens,” she said.
“You almost need to make this huge impact so in the next edition everyone maybe considers a mixed team because we proved we can do it. I think the shock tactic is going to help,” said Dee Caffari.
Team SCA and their sponsors hope this event will be a huge step forward for the sport overall, because Olympic sailing, America’s Cup and The Volvo Ocean Race are largely male dominated. We think it is fantastic to see a major corporation who say they believe in female empowerment literally put their money where their mouth is and bring together an all-female team from scratch.
Along with tracking their progress on the website and getting to know the rigorous routines the women will be undertaking, Team SCA have also launched a campaign called ‘Amazing Women Everywhere’ and are using their presence in this male-dominated arena as an excuse to get fans and followers to share their own stories of amazing women in their life.
They are asking people to upload a photo and a story on their website, and they promise to donate 1 Euro for each upload.
This is not just any ordinary news story. It is a journey of bravery, sacrifice, courage and empowerment on an everyday level. These women want others watching them to know they they can be extraordinary history-makers and world changers simply by going for it.
We will be watching Team SCA closely as they compete around the world for the next nine months in the hope of breaking gender barriers in sailing. While the promo video below calls them ‘No Ordinary Women’, we’re here to claim that ordinary women ARE the ones changing the game and showing other women and girls what is possible.