In 2014 a group of women made history by becoming the first all-female sailing team in the prestigious world-renowned Volvo Ocean Race, proving that the term “male-dominated” should be obsolete by now. Setting off the from the Spanish port of Alicante in October 2014, the women embarked on a 9 month journey that, although didn’t win them the major prize, secured a place in history that is worth far more than a just a single sporting accolade.
They were sponsored by Swedish Hygiene brand SCA, but unfortunately after the race ended, the corporation decided to pull their sponsorship, leaving the women to decide their own future and whether they would compete again in the 2017-2018 race. Although on paper that sounds like they were left high and dry, it ended up becoming a blessing in disguise. The 2014-15 race made the women international sporting superstars, inspiring young girls as well as men to know that anything is possible, even that which has not yet been attempted.
And so with a blank slate in front of them, the tam decided to unite once again but this time not just for one race, but to help all female athletes create pathways to success. The new name is The Magenta Project and with thousand of ocean miles under their belt, the team have a tonne of experience and ability that they can share with many more women in sports.
“The Magenta Project objective is to continue the legacy of Team SCA by providing a pathway for professional female athletes to compete at the highest level of sport. We aim to inspire generations and challenge stereotypes through performing in our sports most elite events, with a view to seeing women competing in the Volvo Ocean Race,” says a description of the project.
One of the reasons they knew they had to continue their inspiring mission was the large following they acquired during the Volvo Ocean Race. They regularly sent out social media updates, images and blog posts throughout the 9 months which left their growing fan base coming back for more each time.
“It’s something I became more and more aware of as the race went by. The messages we were getting to encourage us or to give us support when times were tough were truly amazing and I remember we were all very grateful for them. The best part is when you read people’s stories saying we have encouraged them to get out and do whatever it is they had been thinking about trying to do. That’s both humbling and hugely rewarding,” said Australian team member Stacey Jackson to Sailingscuttlebutt.com.
“I remember we got we messages from fathers saying ‘thank you for inspiring my daughter with what you are doing’ and we often met people at stopovers who had used their holiday to come see us. Then, when people like Billie Jean King write letters of support to the team you start to realise the impact you are having,” British navigator Libby Greenhalgh added.
While the women are on the lookout to find another sponsor for the next race as they do plan to compete again in the Volvo Ocean Race, they say it is an imperative for them to see women competing in all types of sports at the highest level possible.
“Our objective is to continue the legacy of Team SCA by providing a pathway for professional female athletes to compete at the highest level of sport. We aim to inspire generations and challenge stereotypes through performing in our sport’s most elite events with a view to seeing women competing again in the Volvo Ocean Race,” Libby outlined.
In a banner year for women in sports globally (Serena Williams dominating in the world of tennis, winning yet another Wimbledon title and being named Sports Illustrated’s ‘Sportsperson Of The Year 2015’, Ronda Rousey proving that men DO want to watch female UFC fighters and that she’s not a “do-nothing b*tch”, and of course the US Women’s National Soccer Team winning their 3rd World Cup Title), there has never been a better time for those who are in the spotlight to extend the opportunities they have to the next generation. Sailing is different to other competitive sports, where normally women are only competing with women.
“It is exciting to start this project and we intend to make a long-term change in this sport for women. Our short term goal is to establish a sailing program that will continue to develop our skill set by taking part in high level events over the next 18 months. The ability to compete directly against men is something that is unique to very few sports and the aim with this interim program is to ensure that we are as competitive as possible for the start of the next Volvo Ocean Race,” said Libby.
With the announcement of the their new project came some good news for the women. Early in December it was announced that the Magenta Project team members had been given a Tour Card to compete in the World Match Racing Tour in 2016. This is the first time in its 22-year history that the WMRT has awarded a Tour Card to an all-female team. It looks like they still may get their chance at their long-awaited history-making win.
Their mission to challenge stereotypes while set new milestones are simultaneously inspiring goals and we are so on board with this. Elsewhere in the sailing world, we are already seeing women take the lead and break down barriers. Four women from the UK, the Coxless Crew, are set to make history by becoming the first all-female crew to row across the Pacific ocean from the coast of California to Cairns in Australia. Their story is going to be the subject of a documentary called ‘Losing Sight of Shore’ from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sarah Moshman who has been following their journey with cameras over the course of the year that they have been on the ocean.
And like the Coxless Crew, the Magenta Team are also the subject of a documentary called ‘No Ordinary Women’ which showcases their Volvo Ocean Race experience, their determination, the friendship of the women, and how they made history by choosing to show up and not be afraid of a challenge.
While we are excited to see their sophomore attempt at the VOR in 2017, we hope that The Magenta Project will be a source of empowerment for many more women who believe they have what it takes to compete at the highest level in sailing and any other sport. The world of athletics and professional sports is gender-blind. Instead it is about courage, passion, determination and hard work, all traits which we have seen the Magenta women exhibit.
Take a look at their promo video for what to expect next from them, and check out their website to keep up with their movements.