They participate in all the tasks: no difference between men and women when it comes to towing the boat or cleaning it. In the enormous hangar of the French, placed on the edge of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, this is the case every morning and every evening after training or a regatta. On board, on the other hand, the three women of the French team have a well-defined role: they are strategists, in a way the eyes of the boat. « I’m aft of the helmsman in sixth position, says Amélie Riou who joined the French team last season. My role is to give information about the wind and the opponents. There is a great appreciation of speeds to be had. »
If they are confined to this role for the moment, it is a good start, welcomes Manon Audinet. The 30-year-old La Rochelaise discovered this world of Sail GP last spring. « What is interesting is that not all positions are physical. That’s what limits us: you can’t be 100 kilos and have as much strength as a boy. It’s up to us to prove ourselves in positions where there is just need to prove ourselves and where there is no need to be super tough. »
Quotas, « an open door » for women
This small world of Sail GP has made women’s access a priority based on an observation. When it was launched in 2019, there was only one woman on all the teams (a Frenchwoman, Marie Riou). It was therefore necessary to go through the constraint to change mentalities in an environment where places are expensive and very popular. « I’ll be honest, if there were no rules for bringing women into these teams, it would be difficult for us to have our place, assures Amélie Riou. The fact of establishing quotas, even if I don’t like this word, it leaves us an open door and it’s a chance to be able to express ourselves at our level. And I think it also brings a different mindset and perspective. »
For the moment, no woman is yet at the helm of one of the nine boats taking part in the championship. For example, the three sailors in the French team (with Aloïse Retornaz), all from Olympic sailing (they are also preparing for Paris 2024), are tacticians. But ultimately, a female pilot must be possible, hopes Manon Audinet. « It makes you dream of being able to have controllers. It’s already great to be on the boat and help with tactics and strategy. But basically, I also know how to go boating and we also want to be a motor. »
The promoters of this private circuit, led by an American billionaire, are considering going further: creating a 100% female crew, for example. In the meantime, men or women, all are crazy about the sensations these cars provide. » These are incredible feelings, develops Amélie Riou*. At first, when I got on the boat, I was almost sick because the speeds are so high. You have to hold on tight when there is wind. But it’s like everything, you get used to these speeds.* » Adrenaline is not a question of sex!