Charlie Enright reflects on the importance of mixed gender crews.

New for this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, we have the opportunity to expand the numbers of our crew by having female sailors on board.  There has been a lot of focus put on the change by the external forces in the media and whatnot; this is not a real change except for a few new faces that bring exceptional talent to the crew. 

Sailing has always been a co-ed sport for me; I grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island competing against guys and girls. In college, I was part of a co-ed sailing team which is where I met my wife, Meris, an excellent sailor herself.  When Mark and I had the opportunity from Disney to sail the Transpac and make the movie, Morning Light, we had a few women onboard with us then. So this is nothing new for us, just new for the Volvo Ocean Race.

What I appreciate is that Volvo incentivized this change instead of mandating it. Crews could still sail with only men, but they would sail with seven instead of nine. Early on in our Transatlantic training and based upon our experience from the previous race, we knew it would be an advantage to sail with more, so we took the opportunity to add more eyes, hands, and brains to our crew. Volvo also allows for racing with ten if it’s a 50/50 split in gender, but for the list of sailors we knew we wanted on board and balancing the extra weight in gear, food, and people, we decided to go with racing with nine.

We have three women sailing with us this race. As we have the option to swap out the crew for each leg, we are taking "squad" approach, with 12 sailors total on our roster. You will see both guys and girls switching out between legs to keep the crew fresh and chance to recover between legs.

Our three women sailors come from all over the world, and each brings different skills to the boat. Jena Mai Hansen - an Olympic bronze medalist hails from Denmark - and Hannah Diamond - a Nacra World Champion from the UK - have a unique perspective as dinghy sailors when it comes to trimming and communication onboard. Stacey Jackson, from Australia,  sailed with SCA in the last go-around and her experience as bowman and sailmaker are huge assets.

We are just arriving in Cape Town, South Africa and I look forward to embarking on the next leg to Melbourne, Australia. This is a new leg for the Volvo Ocean Race, and I am looking forward to the adventure of sailing in a new direction, much like I know Sunsail readers are doing on their charters.

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