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The International Olympic Committee is actively working towards ensuring equal opportunities in the sailing world for women and men. Since the committee has shown increased interest in gender equality, sporting federations around the world have indicated that they are motivated to make it a reality.
What this means for sailing at the Olympic Games
Observing gender equality in any sport has several practical applications in competitions. This includes equal participation by both female and male athletes as well as the same amount of medals awarded to both genders. Furthermore, the gender balance should extend to other parties involved in the competition, including race officials and team support members. In addition to these obvious practical changes made in the sport, it is expected to cause a deeper shift in international sailing. Currently, the sport is male dominated at all levels. With the changes happening at this level, more women will be encouraged to participate in the sport, which will also result in overall growth for international sailing.
Looking at New Zealand for inspiration
Pioneers in gender equality in sport, the New Zealand sailing federation has been more proactive than most in this area. They launched a six-month project with the goal of learning how to bring more females to the sport – and how to keep them there. Successful sailor and Tanner Cup-winner Erica Dawson heads the project which was launched at a recent regatta in Auckland. At the regatta, Dawson spoke to female competitors with the aim of finding out what attracts them to sailing. She spoke to several young sailors, coaches and parents, as well as former high performance sailors. Dawson also spoke to coaches from other sporting disciplines who have done similar research and have successfully implemented projects that improve gender equality.
Although it’s still early days, it has already been discovered that females need a strong support group and that they place value on the social aspect of sailing. It is hoped and believed that this project will lead to more female involvement in international sailing events.