British Columbia

Galzillas all-female sailing team battling sexism at sea

Tired of Vancouver's male-dominated sailing scene, Veronica Owens assembled an all-women team that is winning races and smashing stereotypes at sea.

Women sailors smashing stereotypes in male-dominated sport

The Galzillas aboard the Godzilla. From left: Sarah Rosenthal, Arielle Fraser, Julie Robinson and Miriel Ko. (Bryce Zimmerman)

A Vancouver-based women's sailing team is making waves in the male-dominated world of competitive sailboat racing.

They call themselves the Galzillas and they sail aboard a 29-foot boat called the Godzilla.

The team, which currently has members competing in the VanIsle 360 International Yacht Race, a two-week race around Vancouver Island, was created by sailor Veronica Owens and is featured in a new CBC short film by Bryce Zimmerman.

Owens spoke to CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn from Ucluelet, B.C., in the middle of the race. 

She said she established the Galzillas because was tired of seeing women sailors mocked by some male counterparts and missing out on opportunities to try key crew positions because of their gender.

"We see men in the most important and tactically advantageous positions," said Owens, who knows many female sailors who want to try their hand at the helm steering the boat and other "traditionally male roles".

Sexism at sea

Owens said prejudice against women on the water makes it difficult for them to build up their skillsets because they are rarely given opportunities to helm or trim the main sail. So Owens took it upon herself to rally an all-women crew.

Fellow Galzilla Arielle Fraser said she has experienced "side comments" from many male sailors. 

"It's not appropriate but I don't think it's intentionally harmful," Arielle told Quinn. "I think it's part of the sexism in our broader culture."

Arielle Fraser says it is a co-operative environment on board a boat with an all-woman crew. (Bryce Zimmerman)

Both women agree there are advantages to crewing with other women.

"There is so much co-operation and desire to support each other," said Owens. "The feeling on the boat [is] excitement and joy every time."

There might not be sexism on the boat anymore, but the crew still has the elements to battle.

"There are moments where there could have been a lot more wind," said Fraser, one of the Galzillas currently competing in the VanIsle 360.

The race began in Nanaimo on June 1, with competitors heading north around Cape Scott before navigating south down the island's west coast and then back to Nanaimo. Racers are expected to cross the finish line this Saturday, June 15.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Galzillas were competing as an all-female crew in the VanIsle 360 race. In fact, they are competing in the race as members of different crews.
    Jun 13, 2019 1:17 PM PT

With files from The Early Edition

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