Saturday in the event tent of the ORC Worlds 2023 in Kiel, Germany: The chairs on the podium are being adjusted, the control room is checking the microphones, the zoom meeting is being started, and the data line for the livestream is being checked. The women sailors prepare the stage for the presentation of a new cooperation: The German „Offshoreseglerinnen“ initiative want to join forces with the Magenta Project.
It is the first cooperation of the worldwide network for women in sailing with a national project, for which float as the exclusive project partner has created the legal and financial basis with the Magenta Project.
A buzz of excitement spreads, with the women from the various crews taking the front seats in front of the stage. In the back, where the men stand together, it’s still raucous. It takes a few calls from the podium to make the women offshore sailors‘ project heard.
These are moments with symbolic character: Among the nearly 1,000 participants in the World Championship of Sea Sailors, about 16 percent are women. Access for women to this male-dominated sport remains difficult – despite all the initiatives and campaigns in the past.
Female Power to the Race © Christian Beeck
On the panel, Kirsten Harmstorf-Schönwitz, the pioneer of German Offshoreseglerinnen, and Eshana Müller, one of the up-and-coming women offshore sailors, will discuss with international stars Meg Reilly, Annie Lush and Susann Beucke, who will participate online.
Moderated by float editor-in-chief Kerstin Zillmer and Jessica Klingelhöfer from the Offshoreseglerinnen, the focus will be on ways to make it easier for women to enter professional sailing and to ensure more equal opportunities. The cooperation of the Offshoreseglerinnen with the Magenta Project is intended to open doors and has a prominent patron: Annie Lush has agreed to be the patron of this cooperation.
The 43-year-old Briton is the ideal choice, because the three-time Ocean Race participant is not only one of the co-founders of the Magenta Project, she also has deep insights into German sailing as a crew member of Offshore Team Germany and Jens Kuphal’s „Intermezzo“. Annie Lush sees the German sailing sport on the upswing and thus good chances that German women will assert themselves more in the future.
Not quota, but ability
„Germany took a big step forward at the Olympics. There are fantastic women who we will see more of in professional sailing in the future.“ And it won’t just be quotas that are met on board the yachts. Annie Lush herself just had this experience in The Ocean Race aboard „Guyot environnement – Team Europe.“ „I was not part of the crew because I am a woman, but I brought the experience of offshore sailing to the team.“
Annie Lush, patron of the cooperation © The Ocean Race
However, it was a long way to this recognition. With the participation of the all-female team „SCA“ in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014/15, the women attracted attention with a stage victory, among other things. However, this attention quickly faded when the sponsor withdrew. The Magenta Project, whose CEO is Meg Reilly today, was founded out of the crew.
„We established a worldwide network, keep in touch with companies and associations like Imoca Class. We have initiated a foiling project and want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to start a career in sailing. We are pleased to be able to support a national program with the Offshoreseglerinnen project,“ says the New Yorker. She says it’s a good mission to inspire the next generation to get involved in sailing.
Tutima goes, Magenta comes
Eshana Müller makes clear how much this network is in demand: two years ago, an Instagram page was launched to showcase German women in offshore sailing. „From that moment on, we received countless messages from women who wanted such a network. Today, we are more than 90 women in the project of Offshoreseglerinnen. Many dreamed of a campaign but didn’t have access to the resources. Meanwhile, the first projects are underway.“
Kerstin Zillmer on stage with ... © Janis Spurdzins
... Kirsten Harmstorf-Schönwitz ... © Janis Spurdzins
... and Eshana Müller © Janis Spurdzins
The starting signal for the new German network was the withdrawal of the „Tutima“ crew from the regatta circuit about two years ago. For more than eleven years, the women’s crew around Kirsten Harmstorf-Schönwitz on the Tutima formed the crystallization point for the female sailors. „We had the best sponsor in the world, had a free hand and could sail the regattas we wanted. It was important to us that we had 15 characters together that really fit together.
That’s why we sailed together for so long and also chose the time to say goodbye ourselves. Now we have another comeback for this World Cup,“ reported Kirsten, underlining what Kerstin Zillmer clearly formulates: „The women’s teams need more sponsors who trust them. Because often the campaigns simply fail because of money.“
This race is female
German offshoresailor Susann Beucke earned that confidence with her silver medal at the 2021 Olympics. With support from the industry, she has made the leap to the offshore scene. She was tuned in from Lorient, France, where she is currently preparing for the next Solitaire du Figaro races.
Susann Beuckes Campaign is on its way © Kerstin Zillmer
With her campaign „This race is female“ she has the chance to develop: „It’s a big step from Olympic sailing to offshore sailing. I learn something new every day. I am now immersed in the French offshore sailing world and I realize that everything depends on the competence and confidence to start these projects. That’s something you have to work for. That’s why the network is so important, to support each other and show the possibilities.“
The panel discussion is just the start of further events to strengthen the German network. At the get-together afterwards, which was supported by Pantaenius Yachtversicherungen and Tutima Glashütte/SA, the 150 or so guests exchanged ideas.
Two exclusive places for German female offshore sailors in the Magenta Project’s mentoring program mark the start of further activities. One place will go to a „mentee“ who will be accompanied by a mentor for nine months, the second place to a German female sailor who can be trained as a mentor. The application phase starts now!
More projects will be published soon via the website Offshoreseglerinnen, on float and via social media.