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The Challenge of Equality in the Gran Canaria SSL Gold Cup: “There is a Place for Women on the Water”

SSL Gold Cup


Ocean sailor Emily Nagel from Bermuda, Bulgarian Ina Ilieva, and Cuban Sanlay Castro are three prominent female names in the 1/32 Finals. This Saturday, the 16 countries vying for a spot in the next round faced off again on the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria race course.

“There is a place for women on the water”, asserts Ina Ilieva. She is among the estimated 50 women sailors striving for victory in the SSL Gold Cup. The first edition of this ‘football world cup in sailing ’, runs until December 3rd in the bay of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, with a focus on promoting gender equality.

The regatta’s website features Olympic sailors including Spanish Silvia Mas, Brazilian Olympic double champions Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, as well as Bermudian Emily Nagel, one of the youngest ever participants in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Ina Ilieva has spent 25 of her 37 years sailing all kinds of sailboats, from Optimists to Melges 32s and is currently competing on the SSL47 monohull, unique to this competition, which is celebrating its inaugural edition in Gran Canaria. On yachts, her regular position is that of pit, meaning she is responsible for managing the halyards. She plays this crucial role for SSL Team Bulgaria, one of the 16 contenders striving to reach the 1/16 Finals in this first phase of the regatta.

Sporting her team’s pink jersey — mirroring the Football World Cup’s style — the Bermudian sailor reflects on the role of women in yacht sailing:

“It’s definitely challenging to be a woman in this class; often, I’m the only female sailor on board.”

In the ‘fantastic’ Gran Canaria, Emily Nagel also takes up the pit role for her team:

“Sailing on the SSL47s is an amazing opportunity for me, and I take great pride in my physically demanding role on the boat.”

Nuraisyah Jamil is the main trimmer for SSL Team Malaysia.The Oman team includes two female sailors, Ibtisam Al Salmi and Marwa Al Khaifi, while Lithuania is captained by Gintare Scheidt. SSL Team Cuba features Sanlay Castro, who feels a sense of homecoming, having trained in early 2022 at the Centro de Vela Manolo Pazo Díaz – CETDV, which is now the Race Village of the Gran Canaria SSL Gold Cup.

Sanlay, a member of the national team since she was 14, also applauds the opportunity to participate in this innovative regatta:

“he SSL Gold Cup means a lot to Cuba; we’re here to do our best.”

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