World Sailing marks International Women’s Day with videos celebrating Olympic sailing heroes

Issued on behalf of: World Sailing

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, on 8 March, World Sailing is releasing a series of videos celebrating female Olympic sailing heroes.  

The first video will be released on Thursday 7 March and will be available to watch on World Sailing’s InstagramFacebook and TikTok channels. New videos will be added daily. The videos include:

  • Countess Hélène de Pourtalès – The first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport.  
  • Hannah Mills OBE – The most successful female Olympian of all time and two-time Rolex World Sailor of the Year. 
  • Lijia Xu – China’s gold-medallist who has overcome numerous challenges to become world and Olympic champion.  
  • Theresa Zabell – Double Olympic champion in the 470 class and founder of Ecomar Foundation, a marine conversation organisation. 
  • Francesca Clapcich – Pioneer of the 49erFX, Olympian, winner of The Ocean Race and skipper of an all-female Ocean Fifty for the next two years. 

These five trailblazers for women’s sailing represent just a few of the sport’s great role models.

When Countess Hélène de Pourtalès competed at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, women were allowed to take part in just five events – golf, tennis, sailing, croquet and equestrian – and just 22 female athletes out of a total of 997 competed. That was just 2.2% of the athlete total. 

Full gender parity will be achieved for the first time as the Games return to Paris in 2024 with half of the 10,500 total athletes being female. This milestone has been a long time in the making and quotas have steadily increased over time.  

Tokyo 2020 hosted 18 mixed events and became the first gender balanced Games in history. Of course, mixed events in sailing have been in place for a lot longer – and sailing will once again be at the forefront of equality at Paris 2024 where there will be four male and four female events, as well as two mixed events, and two of the three ‘chief’ roles will be held by female officials. 

World Sailing continues to pursue an equitable and accessible sport for women and in 2020 launched Steering the Course, a global women’s sailing festival held twice a year. Across the six editions held to date, Member National Authorities and sailing clubs around the world have taken part, providing more opportunities for women of all ages and levels of experience to learn to sail, discover the sport and take the next step as a coach, official or administrator. 

Steering the Course returns in 2024 with the first of two festivals taking place just before the Olympic Games from 17-26 May. Furthermore, World Sailing is prioritising courses in instructing, coaching and race officiating to provide a pathway for women to reach the very top of the sport in all aspects of sailing. 

For more information, please see the World Sailing website.

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