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The path to progress: Launch of Magenta x IMOCA Female Leadership Development Programme

by Ed Gorman / IMOCA Globe Series 27 May 14:08 BST
Launch of Magenta x IMOCA Female Leadership Development Programme © Marin Le Roux / polaRYSE / IMOCA

The Magenta Project, IMOCA, and 11th Hour Racing announce the launch of the Magenta x IMOCA Female Leadership Development Programme, a joint-initiative aimed at fostering female talent in elite ocean racing.

The Magenta x IMOCA Female Leadership Development (FLD) Programme is a collaborative initiative between The Magenta Project, IMOCA, and 11th Hour Racing, with a strategic focus on social sustainability in the international ocean racing class. The vision and goal is to support the development of more female leaders, who will then ultimately drive more diversity and inclusion across the class. To promote equity, 11th Hour Racing's support will provide subsidized pay for women participating in the programme, ensuring they receive equal pay for their work and time - a core value of The Magenta Project and pledge it requires member teams to make.

The Magenta Project and IMOCA have been working together since 2022 to advance equity and inclusion in international ocean racing. The partnership began with an internship collaboration for women with IMOCA teams at the 2022 Route du Rhum, and continued for two more IMOCA events in 2023: The Ocean Race Newport and the Transat Jacques Vabre. To date, fifteen women from seven different nations have had career-advancing internship experiences through this collaboration.

The Magenta x IMOCA Female Leadership Development Programme powered by 11th Hour Racing is an advancement to this partnership programme, as it aims to accelerate women into leadership positions within the sport. While the IMOCA Class currently has equal representation of women and men in team manager roles, only 15% of skippers are women, and only one boat captain and one technical director within the entire Class are female. This programme combines the Magenta mentorship model with hands-on apprenticeship experiences to prepare women to become future leaders in the sport.

The FLD programme includes one-on-one mentoring between mentors and mentees, typically in the form of monthly meetings or phone calls to discuss mentee career goals, progress, challenges, and triumphs. This mentoring model, which has been The Magenta Project charity's flagship programme since 2018, has helped develop over 200 women and their careers in the industry. In addition to mentoring, the programme offers hands-on experiences for mentees to work and learn with IMOCA teams. Skipper mentees will sail with their skipper mentors, team manager mentees will work with team manager mentors, and boat captain mentees will work with boat captains, all in preparation for this year's Vendée Globe Race.

Cole Brauer, the first American to race solo non-stop around the world, is part of the inaugural Magenta x IMOCA FLD programme, and is paired with Boris Herrmann of Team Malizia as her mentor in the Future Skipper track. Cole is transitioning from her Class40 platform, in which she raced solo around the world earlier this year, to the IMOCA - which is an extra 20 feet long and a whole lot more boat! Cole said she is "shockingly close" to realizing her dream of becoming an IMOCA skipper, and in this mentorship and apprenticeship experience, "I want to learn how the boats work, how the teams work, and how to be fully successful for the Vendée Globe 2028," said Cole.

"The Magenta Project is proud to work with leaders in our sport, such as IMOCA and 11th Hour Racing, to develop strategic programmes that drive real results and impact in social sustainability. The specific approach to focus on development for women as leaders, not just participants, we believe will help accelerate not only female talent, but more diverse talent across the Class as a whole," shared The Magenta Project Executive Director, Meg Reilly, who spearheaded this initiative. "This panel discussion was fantastic to hear from established and rising leaders in our sport on what 'women being in the lead' really means, and what's ahead for the future of female leadership."

"We are very delighted to see our collaboration with the Magenta Project growing and merging with the support of 11th Hour Racing. Sport is one of the most powerful vectors of inclusion we have at our disposal. It is now a priority for the IMOCA Class to put the best efforts in place to play a positive role in the inclusion of women in our sport." Claire Vayer, co-head of sustainability for the IMOCA Class. "This programme is very rich because it allows women to be integrated and trained over the long term in key positions within the teams, benefiting from direct integration into the environment. By feminizing management positions, this will help bring about a change in perspective and open up new avenues for the integration of women into other positions, particularly in technical and sailing roles."

"At 11th Hour Racing, our commitment to sustainability and innovation in marine sports is exemplified through our sponsorship of UpWind by MerConcept, Francesca Clapcich, and IMOCA. These partnerships, along with our support for The Magenta Project's Female Leadership Development Program, push the boundaries by creating opportunities and accelerating the presence of women in competitive sailing. Together, we are ensuring an equitable and sustainable future for the sport," said Lorraine McKenna, sponsorship director of 11th Hour Racing.

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