A breeze of feminization is blowing over the world of ocean racing. Since 2007, a professional sector financed by the Brittany Region and Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne has benefited major names in offshore racing: François Gabart, Sébastien Simon. The scheme is now open to women.
Following a demanding selection process, a female sailor will be able to join the ranks of the excellence sector funded by the Brittany Region and Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne, based on the Finistère Course au Large in Port-la-Forêt in Finistère.
This progress follows an underlying trend for feminisation of offshore racing. The 2024 Paris Olympics will propose (see inset) a mixed crew event. The Transat AG2R, which will leave from Concarneau in April 2020, opens registration for mixed pairs. Favourable winds for women sailors!
INTERVIEW with Christian Le Pape, Director of the “Pôle Finistère Course au large”.
Bretagne Sailing Valley – What is the purpose of this selection?
Christian Le Pape. The selection criteria were designed so that the legitimacy of the winner was indisputable. The sporting level prevails. Following three tests (examination of the application, evaluation in crewed and single-handed situation), we will know which young woman will join us.
BSV – Can you detail the objective criteria that led to the identification of 9 women?
C L-P. There are three decisive criteria: high level, ability to sail offshore and the ability to be a project manager. On this basis, nine women aged 19 to 30 were selected.
What program will the selected sailor follow?
C L-P. We are working within the sector of excellence to understand the profession, the challenges, the stress… Many are paralyzed by the responsibilities that it involves. We are talking about a budget of €300,000. We are therefore looking for young women who can join a team, lead an ambitious project and work with the two skippers in the Hope and Performance division.
Did the decision to create a mixed doubles ocean racing event at the 2024 Paris Olympics encourage the opening of the sector to women?
C L-P. For our partners, the Region of Brittany and the CMB Bretagne, this indeed triggered very rapid interest. Currently, there are not many women who could apply for this selection. So there is a pool of champions to be created.
What is the goal of this excellence sector supported and financed by the Region Bretagne?
C L-P. The major challenge of this sector – and we never forget this – is to create a local economy. And not just to win. To give only one example: François Gabart, after benefitting from the sector of excellence, has become an important player in the local economy by creating his own company. More generally, in 20 years, on the Port-la-Forêt site, we have gone from 50 people employed in the sector to nearly 300! We have 7 Imoca in the port including 3 new-generation boats, so I can retire quietly (laughs).