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Women in Marine: Annie Lush, Olympian and Volvo Ocean Race competitor

  • by: Ryan Abbot
  • On: 3, Nov 2017
6 min read

As a former Olympian and proactive campaigner for the rights of women in marine, Annie Lush defies gender stereotypes. Her sailing career grows from strength to strength, competing in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race whilst leading the Magenta Project movement.

Annie Lush: Olympic Sailor

It all started at an early age for Lush, when she was still at a young age she went sailing on her own in an AB dinghy in Poole Harbour, Dorset, where she grew up.

From there she navigated her way up the sailing career ladder. Lush attended Cambridge University, where she joined the rugby, rowing, and sailing clubs, resulting in great achievements and being awarded the Blues award for each sport.

In 2004, although she wasn’t competing, Lush trialled for the Athens Olympics but recognised that she was too young, having only spent a year in the performance squad. Her second attempt came in 2008, when she was a candidate for selection in the Beijing Olympics; Lush has been racing the Olympic circuit since 2002 full-time.

Since 2008, Lush has won a gold medal at the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championships in Newport and another gold medal for the 2011 World Cup event held in France, beating the competition 3-0 in the final.

Come 2012, Lush was selected for team Great Britain in the London Olympics; she competed along side sisters Lucy and Kate Macgregor, together nicknamed the “Match Race Girls”. Following this success, Lush’s career accelerated, having already competed three times in the Women’s Match Race championships, her next career leap was just around the corner; in 2013, Annie Lush was selected for team SCA Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) is an around the world yacht race held every three years.

As a prestigious, world-class performance sailing event, the Volvo Ocean Race is exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavor. 

This year, the contest begins in Alicante, Spain and finishes in the Netherlands in June 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities over 6 continents and will race a maximum of 8 teams.

Some of the cities visited this year will be Alicante, Lisbon, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Newport and Cardiff, plus many more.

The VOR is one of the most challenging and demanding ocean races to date, and Annie Lush has already made her mark. Having already been selected for team SCA in 2013, Lush competed in the 2014-15 race.

38,000 miles, 11 women and 1 boat later, Annie Lush and the team SCA came third in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, making them the first all-female crew in 25 years to win a leg; this result was the beginning of the next chapter in Lush’s sailing career

The Magenta Project

Following the success of team SCA’s win in the Volvo Ocean Race, women in marine began to see advances in equal opportunities.

‘The tide is turning for female sailors” says Lush, who herself co-founded the charity The Magenta Project following the VOR success.

The Magenta Project’s aim is to campaign and tackle diversity issues surrounding women in marine, by accelerating women in sailing. The project offers support and training, as well as guidance to women competing in sailing and working in the marine industry.

As a leading movement across oceans, the Magenta Project’s aims and objectives are to:

  • Enable women to acquire the training/skills needed to narrow the gender gap for career advancement.

  • Increase visibility of the accomplishments of extraordinary women across the globe

  • To drive change in sailing through raising awareness, building a network and influencing policies.

What began as ambition and competition at its highest resulted in providing inspiration to female sailors across the globe. Committed female athletes are now able to showcase sailing as a competitive sport where both women and men can compete on a level playing field.

Since the movement of the ever-growing Magenta Project, key figures in the top of the sports world have changed rules and competition practices to encourage female participation in numerous sailing races and events.

In response to the success of the movement, Lush comments:

"In the past few years the kind of boats that have been developed are incredible, they are very fast but they are also very physical so some of the arguments have been that they require a certain level of strength that maybe girls don't have…We ended up winning a leg of the race and coming third overall so I think we showed it is possible."

In previous years, an all-male crew could reach a maximum of 8 members; however, since the movement the Magenta Project, women in marine are now able to join a mixed-gender crew of up to 10, race an all-female yacht made up of 11 sailors, whilst an all-male crew can only reach a maximum of 7 members.

Team Brunel: Volvo Ocean Race 2017 - 18

This year, Britain’s Annie Lush will compete in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 as part of team Brunel, proving once again, that women in marine are of equal competition to men.

It’s predicted that this year will be a longer and tougher Volvo Ocean Race; the Brunel team consists of skipper Bouwe Bekking and his crew:

Carlo Huisman (NED)

Kyle Langford (AUS)

Alberto Bolzan (ITA)

Maciel Cicchetti (ARG)

Peter Burling (NZL)

Annie Lush (GBR)

Abby Ehler (GBR)

Andrew Cape (AUS)

Back for her second consecutive Volvo Ocean Race, Lush’s new skipper, Bouwe Bekking is more than pleased to have the former Olympian sailor on his team.

"I think all the sailors know how complete she is," he said. "Annie has twelve years of Olympic sailing experience and a Volvo Ocean Race under her belt, so she is a fantastic addition to our team. The way she just established herself with the guys and the way the guys have embraced her is marvellous. We’re all really happy that she is part of Team Brunel right now…We select the best sailors. Annie is one of these and on top of that she is having a great personality."
Women in marine, thanks to professional sailors such as Annie Lush, now accumulate more power and have a stronger voice, representing all women in every sport.

Lush comments, "for sure there are physical differences between men and women, but then not all women are the same size...what we need to do is create opportunities so to that we can close that gap. We don't want to be given it. We need to work for it, but we need the opportunity."

Learn more about other women in marine, like Dame Ellen MacArthur, or Shirley Robertson

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