Addressing issues with motherhood and elite sport >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

Sailing took notice when Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award finalist Clarisse Crémer (FRA) lost her sponsorship for the 2024-25 Vendée Globe due to her pregnancy. Following an essay by The Magenta Project, the World Sailing Trust is now following suit.

The World Sailing Trust was established by World Sailing to drive change and support the global sailing community. Here is an update from March 23, 2023:

The World Sailing Trust today published a first set of recommendations and considerations to support better maternity policies in sailing. Project Juno summarizes six initial recommendations to put the sport of sailing on a more inclusive course when it comes to women who want to become mothers and stay in their chosen fields.

“Following our 2019 publication of the Women in Sailing Strategic Review and subsequent research into participation and governance of sport, we are well positioned to understand the challenges faced by athletes and others aspiring to motherhood,” comments Dee Caffari MBE , Chairman of the World Sailing Trust.

“Changing attitudes towards mothers in sailing has been slow. When Clarisse Crémer confirmed on social media that she had been sacked by her sponsor, Banque Populaire, there was an uproar.

“But you don’t have to dig too deep to find similar stories. Olympians Theresa Zabell and Shirley Robertson have both failed because the ‘system’ is not sufficiently flexible or accommodating of pregnant and new mothers, and there are undoubtedly many more.”

“Project Juno addresses four key areas that athletes, teams, organizations and stakeholders should consider when considering how best to support moms and dads. Through them, we are also challenging our sport to remove the ‘mother blinders’ and accept that it can only be its best when it is diverse and inclusive.”

Duncan Truswell, Strategic Lead Talent and Performance at Sport England and Trustee of World Sailing Trust, adds: “The Rules are not intentionally designed to discriminate, but essentially they do. This doesn’t come from a place of prejudice or negativity, but rather from a history of being a male-dominated sport. There is no instant overnight fix and Project Juno is a work-in-progress, a first step to improving and improving things.”

“Critically, this shouldn’t just be relevant for athletes, but for mothers throughout sport. We are a people business and to be successful we need the best people. We hope that from this vantage point we can facilitate positive discussions and help take a first step towards creating a more equitable way of reconciling motherhood and competition.”

In a broader sense, this is not only an issue in sailing. Motherhood and elite sport were uncomfortable bedfellows for a while, and in recent years mountaineering, trail running, elite running and more traditional sports have made great strides.

The World Sailing Trust will also look at how new guidelines can be linked to a better understanding of the health of women athletes in sport. Given the relatively little all-female research on athletes on talent or elite paths, there is a need for myth busting, education and better mentoring and encouragement for the development of female sailors – mothers or not.

It is important that sailing continues to move with the times and meet the expectations of the next generation of athletes and the public for accessibility, diversity and inclusion to keep the sport relevant to its participants, the public and sponsors.

To read the full report, click here.

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