• Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Rhode Island USA Team SCA finish in 6th place into Newport, May 7 2015 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
When a team of women took part in the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race, it turned out to be just the first leg of a long journey.
Erin Byrnes

30 Mar 2016 - 7:33 AM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2016 - 11:24 AM

When the all-female crew of Team SCA set sail in the 2014/2015 Volvo Ocean Race, of course they knew where they were headed – maps and directions are their forte, after all – but they likely had no idea where the journey would really take them.

That race was merely the first step.

When they raised their anchors in October 2014, the first women-only crew to take part in the prestigious race in 12 years knew they’d be in for a rough time – the 38,000 mile, nine-leg nine-month Volvo is widely known as the toughest race in the world.

But they also knew it didn’t matter in the slightest that they were all women.

The 11-strong Team SCA, featuring sailors from across the world, went on to become the first all female team in 25 years to win a leg of the race, securing third place in the process.

And they soon realised they had an opportunity to leave a legacy that would last longer than any record.

The Magenta Project

After more than earning their place for the next instalment of the Volvo in 2017-2018, the team hit a snag, with SCA cutting its sponsorship. Thankfully, due to corporate reasons and nothing else. 

On the back of resounding public support, a group of former SCA members last year created The Magenta Project, in order to continue the team’s legacy and help create a professional pathway for female sailors.

Along the way, they’ve been able to push the message that gender is no barrier to sailing success.

“Sailing’s a fantastic vehicle to inspire people; to demonstrate that women can compete on a level playing field with men. It’s one of the few sports where that’s actually possible,” Libby Greenhalgh, The Magenta Project said

All hands on deck

“At the youth level of sailing, it’s equal numbers of men and women… but once you look at the more professional level of sailing, quickly the numbers drop off," Annie Lush, The Magenta Project said. 

The Magenta Project not only provides a vehicle and a platform for its founders to continue competing at a high level, but aims to inspire more girls and women to take up the sport. 

The goal is to open up pathways in sailing, while they also aim to support and encourage women in all sports, with their Twitter account and Facebook page full of re-tweets and messages of support of female athletes around the world.

Just as refreshing as their support of their peers is how The Magenta Project members welcome the responsibility of being role models, rather than shying away from it.

“I am proud that we transcended the aspect of being ‘females in a sailing race’ to become representatives of female empowerment in general. I was most often affected by it when fathers would bring their daughters to the race villages and talk about how great it was for their daughters to have positive role models and tell us they had our poster on their walls," said Sara Hastreiter, Team SCA sailor. 

For sail

In March, members of the Magenta Project were given a Tour Card to compete in the World Match Racing Tour. It was the first time in its 22-year history that the WMRT has given a place to an all-female team, and they’ve already shown they deserve to be competing at that level, with a win in the Hamilton Match Racing Event.

“We’re incredibly excited and honoured to be awarded a Tour card for the 2016 season,” skipper Sally Barkow said.

“It’s been a dream of ours to race on the World Match Race Tour for over a decade. Now finally, the time is right. We have built a strong international team and after racing around the world, we can’t wait to get back out on the water.”

Looking ahead, the team is seeking to again enter Volvo, and are on the hunt for a new corporate partner.

“In the last Volvo Ocean Race we started behind the other teams but through a lot of hard work and learning from our mistakes we proved, towards the end of the race, that an all-female team can be competitive,” 2014/15 Team SCA skipper Sam Davies said.

“The last race was the beginning of something big, but for this to continue to develop we must not stop. We need to keep racing at top level throughout the sport and encourage other women to get out there too.”