Annie Lush is one of the very great sailors in The Ocean Race, which started in Alicante on Sunday, January 15. Experienced like Abby Ehler and Sam Davies, with whom she sailed around the world in the all-female team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014/15, she is in The Ocean Race as pit responsible for the trim in Team Guyot Environnement – Team Europe of skippers Benjamin Dutreux and Robert Stanjek.
The 42-year-old won last year’s Ocean Race Europe with Offshore Team Germany. In 2017/18, she was part of Team Brunel. This is her third Ocean Race. Kerstin Zillmer spoke to Annie Lush shortly before the race start.
float: Annie, are you well prepared for the race?
Annie Lush: Yes! The team has been together for two weeks and we had good trainings. I’m really excited about the start. My family is here, my four-year-old daughter Giovanna is with me. My parents take care of her when I’m in the race – a whole new experience for me (laughs). Alone it was a little easier, but I’m very happy.
Annie Lush is one of the most famous offshore sailors © Guyot Environnement - Team Europe
The last Ocean Race in 2017/18 was the first time at least one woman had to be on board. Four years ago it was VO65 racing yachts on which the race was sailed, today it is Imocas. In this Ocean Race, a quarter of the crews are women. Is that a big success for women?
I think the most important thing about this race compared to the last one is that there is less hierarchy. It’s not so much about what position the women are in anymore. They have very similar roles. Every woman is equally included.
The problem with the Imocas is more that you can’t take inexperienced women because the crew is smaller. It’s more of a race for the experienced women sailors to come out on top. And there are fantastic women.
VO65 is the platform for young female sailors
When I walk through the harbor, I see a lot of very young women who participated in the Magenta Project as mentees. They are now sailing on the VO65 boats, which are, yes, sailing some legs. This is a great platform for young female sailors to gain experience and push themselves. It’s the best thing young female sailors can do.
Women are just as good sailors as men. What makes sailing different for women?
Not much (laughs). Power was often a reason why women were less in demand. I think that’s becoming less true as more women participate in offshore racing. I don’t think that’s the point either. Many of the men who sail Imoca, solo or doubles, tend to be small. On these boats, offshore is much more about endurance and resilience.
I’ve seen a lot of women who can do that. The only difference is that right now there are fewer women who have a lot of experience. The maneuvers on the Imocas tend to be slow. So it doesn’t make much difference if you’re a 95kg man who can have the sail up in five seconds, or a 60kg woman who is a little slower.
Women have just as much stamina © Guyot Environnement - Team Europe
Hygiene is difficult on board, you pee in a bucket. For that, women have to undress more than men. Do you have some tricks to make it work better?
It’s definitely hard for both of them. I also see the guys struggle a little bit. Everything is difficult when foiling if you’re not in a secured position. To be honest, I haven’t found a convincing solution yet.
A chat group is part of the race
There is a WhatsApp group for female sailors called TOR Chicas. Who set up the group?
There was already a WhatsApp group at the last Volvo Ocean Race. Then I set one up for the Ocean Race Europe. And now another woman has taken it over for this race.
What do you exchange?
Just any useful information. We usually organize a meeting with the girls at every stopover. There we just blow off some steam, talk about what happened on board, and share experiences. That way we have a connection with the other girls.
I think it’s important to support each other, just like the men do. It’s great to get to know the other female sailors in person. When you need a female sailor with a certain skill on the next project, you already know her. Even if you haven’t sailed with her.
The second woman on the team is Támara Echegoyen © Guyot Environnement - Team Europe
So you also found Tamara Echegoyen for the crew. Have you sailed with her on an Imoca before?
Yes, a little bit. I’m a little sad that she’s going to replace me on the legs where I sit out. So we won’t be able to sail together. But I’m pushing for maybe on one of the last legs we’ll be two guys and two gals.