New pathways for young female sailors

By David Pendered

Jan. 21 – New routes into professional sailing may be emerging for young women, judging by experiences of sailors in The Ocean Race.

Two striking examples are represented by Annie Lush, a British Olympian in match racing, and Rosalin Kuiper, a Dutch blue water racer with no Olympic experience.

The first leg of The Ocean Race ended with downwind finish that rivaled the dual in the Strait of Gibraltar. (Credit:

The routes they have followed to secure berths in one of the world’s renown round-the-world sailboat races are as different as their generation.

Lush, 41, came up through the Olympics, a traditional path to blue-water racing.

Kuiper, 26, bypassed the Olympics and focused on blue-water sailing, covering 55,000 miles offshore to secure her berth in The Ocean Race.

Lush’s perspective of the Olympics as a necessary step in a sailing career is evident in a conversation reported by Ben Snowball in a story posted on Lush observed in the report:

  • “Most of my female Olympic friends are still either Olympic sailing or have become coaches. The male sailors all progress from an Olympics into professional sailing. There’s no clear pathway for us yet.”

Lush’s comment underscores her own background and start with the Olympics.

Lush campaigned for a slot on the 2008 British Olympic yachting team. She fell short. In 2012 Lush clinched a seat on the three-handed Elliott 6m and the team finished 7th.

With that win in her pocket, Lush secured a slot on the all-female Team SCA for the 2014 Volvo Ocean Race. Lush helped fellow Brit Sam Davies, the skipper, clinch 7th place.

Kuiper’s resume is completely different from that of Lush. This is the description provided by her page on the website, operated by organization of these go-fast ocean racers, the International Monohull Open Class Association:

  • “After setting her goal to compete in The Ocean Race seven years ago, Rosalin Kuiper has done everything to be ready for the toughest crewed sailing race. She has competed multiple times in iconic races like the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, The Fastnet Race, Middle Sea Race and the Caribbean 600 and has worked with a multitude of sailing champions like Chris Nicholson, Stu Bannatyne und Xabi Fernandez.
  • “During The Ocean Race Europe 2021 she sailed onboard the Volvo 65 AkzoNobel as a trimmer. She is now an experienced offshore sailor with expertise in various areas and has sailed over 55.000 miles – that’s like sailing around the world twice.”

For its part, The Ocean Race associates itself with two iconic sailing contests:

  • “The Ocean Race is often described as the longest and toughest professional sporting event in the world, sailing’s toughest team challenge and one of the sport’s Big Three events, alongside the Olympic Games and America’s Cup.”

The fleet has completed the first leg of The Ocean Race and is resting in Cabo Verde. The second leg is to start Jan. 25 with Cape Town as the destination.

Just 15 years apart in age, Rosalin Kuiper (right) and Annie Lush followed different routes into the realm of professional sailing. (Credit: Kuiper,; Lush, Volvo Ocean Race; David Pendered)