If you think about sailing a yacht round the world, what image comes into your mind? Fantastic sunsets, calm seas, whales and dolphins appearing intermittently, and balmy days in a bikini? Yep, me too. The reality of round-the-world ocean racing is somewhat different: I’m sure the wildlife encounters can be pretty special and there are no doubt some spectacular sunsets, but yachts sail 24/7 during their legs at sea and the Volvo Ocean Race is well-known to be one of the toughest sporting events in the world. It is certainly the longest, and involving 9 months at sea, enormous physical and mental human challenge and a daily battle against the elements. Yacht racing is also one of the few sports where men and women compete alongside one another, although it has traditionally been a male-only domain, and for centuries it was considered bad luck to take a woman to sea on your boat.
Times are fortunately changing, and my guest this week is Abby Ehler, now veteran of 3 Volvo Ocean Races, including this year’s voyage, where she was part of Team Brunel that placed third overall after a gruelling 9 months of sailing. Abby was previously the boat captain for Team SCA, the first all-female team to compete for 12 years when they took part in the Volvo Ocean Race in the 2014-15 competition. Over 250 women applied for 15 spots on that boat, so clearly there is an appetite for women to compete at the very highest levels within the sport. Off the back of Team SCA, the Magenta Project was founded to promote and encourage women at the top end of sailing. Abby is now their Director of Media and Events. in addition to being a mum to her son and racing regularly both at home and abroad.
In this interview we disuss:
-How Abby got into sailing
- What the Volvo Ocean Race entails
- Her hairiest and scariest adventures
- How changes to the rules of sailing this year helped more women to be involved at the highest levels
- The establishment of the Magenta Project and their support of women in elite sailing
- The future of the sport, including the Volvo Ocean Race and Abby's hopes for women in sailing in the years to come
Abby is on Twitter @trimore and Instagram @abbyehler and you can find the Magenta Project on social media @themagentaproj. Their website is www.themagentaproject.org
More info on the Volvo Ocean Race can be found at www.volvooceanrace.com and if you're interested in getting started in sailing then the best place to go is the RYA website www.rya.org.uk