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Women get hands-on IMOCA60 team experience at Route du Rhum

by The Magenta Project 5 Nov 2022 08:17 PDT
Women get hands-on IMOCA60 team experience at Route du Rhum © Maite Fernandez Alonso

In a special race-prep experience collaboration programme, the IMOCA60 class and The Magenta Project - an equity and inclusion in sailing charity - have created an exclusive opportunity for women to work with IMOCA60 teams preparing for the Route du Rhum Race, departing St Malo 6 November 2022.

Seven women from The Magenta Project's worldwide network have been matched with 7 different IMOCA60 teams to gain relevant industry and race prep experience. While the Route du Rhum is a solo race, behind each single-handed sailor is a team full of industry experts that prepare and help manage the race boat. Getting involved in shoreside teams is often a pathway to becoming part of a race team, so The Magenta Project and IMOCA class have established this formal programme to help more women along this career pathway.

The IMOCA60 class is already leading the way with gender integration in the class. For this particular race event, over half of all IMOCA60 team managers are women. The number of female skippers is steadily increasing; this year, past Magenta mentor Justine Mattreaux is competing in her first Route du Rhum Race on her new IMOCA60.

Kate Jordan, a young woman from New Zealand who recently moved to the UK to advance her career in the industry, is a Mentee in the annual Magenta Mentoring programme that matches women with experts in the industry to assist with career goals and networking. The IMOCA60 race prep experience was offered to the entire Magenta network, and Kate was of course driven to apply. Kate has been matched with Justine's team, aptly named "Teamwork."

"I was elated to be selected as part of the IMOCA 60 x Magenta Project and to be working with Justine Matteaux and her team onboard TEAMWORK.NET. Immersive experiences like these are the best way to grow and I'm looking forward to learning plenty this week in Saint Malo. Justine's sailing career and professionalism is incredibly inspiring and I'm grateful for the opportunity to see the behind the scenes preparation for Route de Rhum 2022," said Kate Jordan.

Each IMOCA60 team is unique, and offers different opportunities for the Magenta women to experience the race prep process and their team dynamics. One lucky lady, Maite Fernandez Alonso, had the opportunity to join Team Lantana for their delivery to St Malo earlier this week. Maite reports:

"The Team has been amazing with me. They were open to questions and happy to let me be part of all manoeuvring and navigation. Sailing was smooth at the beginning and rocky and humid at the end. I was happy & proud to be able to stand my watches in this amazing beast! Up to 30-35 knots upwind on a Imoca, fast baby!"

Maite aims to start her own Class40 programme with her partner, so this experience has been incredible to have and help prepare her own ocean racing campaign. Other women participating in the IMOCA60 experience are Americans Jane Millman, Lindsay Gimple and Kass Schmitt, French sailor Maïwenn Deffontaines, and Finnish sailor Philippa Rytkönen.

The Magenta Project Chief Coordination & Engagement Officer, Meg Reilly, joined the group in St. Malo to help manage the career development programme. "I was lucky to have exposure at a young age managing my partner's IMOCA60 youth programme Canadian Ocean Racing, and making it to the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015. That experience helped make my career what it is today, and I am very happy to be able to offer a similar experience for these women."

This programme would not be possible without the support of the IMOCA class and all participating teams. A special thanks to Claire Vayer and Imogen Dinham-Price for organising on behalf of IMOCA, and all teams participating: DMG Mori, Lantana, Teamwork.net, Szabi Ocean Racing, Initiative Coeur, Kattan and Bureau Vallée.

"On the question of gender diversity, I think we all have a role to play! IMOCA's role is to be able to promote projects like Magenta to help them grow, to create links between the teams and to promote the profiles of future female sailors on shoreside teams. It's important to diversify the profiles and women are a real asset in our teams. Their presence creates a balance," said Claire Vayer, Sustainability & Partnerships for IMOCA60. "This first collaboration is a real success, and it's the first stone in the building. I hope to make this collaboration grow and evolve by imagining new projects with Magenta very quickly!"

In addition to the team experiences, participants also had the opportunity to network with teams and sailors at the Route du Rhum race village. Kate Jordan had the chance to meet with the 'crazy kiwi' Conrad Coleman, while another Magenta mentee Philippa Rytkönen was able to connect with fellow Finnish sailor Ari Huusela. "Ari is the first Nordic person to have completed the Vendee Globe Race in 2021. It took Ari 22 years to fulfil his dream since he first sailed a 6.5m Class mini across the Atlantic. It was very inspirational meeting him and realising that no dream is too big to achieve when you are willing to work really hard," said Philippa.

Last Friday evening, IMOCA and The Magenta Project hosted a Women's networking event open to all classes, and allies, for all women involved in the Route du Rhum to connect. Over 50 sailors and supporters gathered for a lovely evening to celebrate women in the sport. The race prep experience continues throughout the week, up until race start 6 November, with reporting from the Magenta participants posted daily on @themagentaproj social media channels.

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