Volvo Ocean Race

Gutsy female sailors take on the Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is a race of endurance, danger and hardship, the most grueling challenge on the planet. It attracts world-class sailors that must be emotionally and physically fit to battle gales, the hostility of the Southern Ocean, tropical cyclones and Antarctic storms.

Known as the “Everest of Sailing” the Volvo Ocean Race covers 72,000 kilometers and takes nine months to circumnavigate the globe.

This race commenced on October 4th 2014, and with modern technology you can be there every step of the way.

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Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race

Gutsy female sailors take up the Volvo Ocean Race

You ask, “Who are ‘they?’”

We are the stereotypical “weaker sex.” Can female sailors handle this race? We are talking about one of the toughest yacht races on the planet.

Since it began in 1973 this has been a male domain with physically strong, experienced sailors.

In 2014-15 we had a team of gutsy female sailors taking on these veterans of the Volvo Ocean Race.

These racing yachts are manmed by 8 male sailors and one multimedia reporter on the standard teams.

The all-female team is allowed 11 sailors and one multimedia reporter.

A Swedish veteran sailor said, "People say it's the toughest race there is in the world, but it's much more than that. It’s big waves, icebergs, and it’s incredible team spirit.

You want to win but of course you have bad days and sometimes you hate it. This race is incredibly physical. The stronger you are the better it is... You get an advantage over the others if you are stronger for sure!"

Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race

Skipper Sam Davis, a renowned single-hander competing in two Vendee Globe challenges, believes this is the right time for an all-female crew. She says, "I really believe we have the opportunity to achieve some amazing results in the next race!"

All female team is not made up of ordinary women:

These women are used to living life at the extreme. Some of the crew are famous ocean racers in their own right like Dee Caffari. Others are former Olympic competitors and international world champions.

The all-female team trained hard to build up their strength. Three-time race winner Brad Jackson said, "It's very physical and it's definitely become a lot more physical over the years... the sails are bigger, the boats are going faster... It's just harder work, so the bigger the guys the better."

Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean RaceAdvances in technology have not made it less of a challenge

Better communication, equipment and weather data are now fed to the yachts. They have freeze-dried food with calculated calorie intake and high-tech foul weather gear and off-shore medical connections, just to name a few improvements.

But none of this can take away from the hostile and potentially lethal environment in which they sail, and in which some have lost their lives. 

These gutsy females were throwing any stereotypes overboard. They were in it to win, but whatever the outcome no one could deny that gender should not come into it. We cheered them on in the Volvo Ocean Race.

This is written from a women's point of view because so many men I meet say they cannot get their partners to sail with them, but I have experienced the exact reverse at times. I have been a yacht owner for over 17 years and it truly is a unique lifestyle.

—story and photos by Christine Couch

ED NOTE: Team SCA, the first all-female crew to enter the race in more than a decade, came in 6th place.

Christine Couch was introduced to the joys of sailing and became the proud owner of her yacht Levitation, a Cavalier 32. With a passion for adventure she sailed the Bay of Islands, to Tonga in the Pacific, then across the Tasman to Australia via Lord Howe Island.

From there her adventures took her to the Whitsunday Islands. Some of these adventures can be found on her web site, which she has designed primarily for sailing women.

Christine adds: “My web site is written from a women's point of view, not just my experiences but also of other female sailors. I was a yacht owner for over 17 years and it truly is a unique lifestyle. With much encouragement from ladies fascinated and interested in the life from 'our' perspective I created this site.”

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