STOCKHOLM (AFP) –
An all-female crew will contest offshore sailing’s toughest event, the Volvo Ocean Race, for the first time since 2002 after a switch in boat design effectively re-opened the race to women.
The team’s backers SCA, the Sweden-based manufacturer of hygiene products marketed primarily at women, made the announcement in Stockholm on Tuesday.
Four all-women’s teams have taken part in the marathon race since it started in 1973 but a switch to a 70-foot design for the 2005-06 event made the boats so physically demanding that competing directly with all-male teams became impossible for women.
In June, however, organisers revealed a new, lighter, 65-foot model for the next edition in 2014-15 which will put less of an emphasis on strength.
SCA’s team are the first to be confirmed for the next race and will take the first new one-design boat off the production line in 2013.
“The new boat means that once more women can be competitive in the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Swedish sailor Richard Brisius, who will act as team manager and oversee the selection process.
“The challenge for us now is to put together a team that can win it.”
The 2011-12 race, contested over 39,270 nautical miles, five continents and 10 countries, was the closest in the event’s 39-year history and was won by French skipper Franck Cammas on board Groupama.