Putting a ring on it

Leap day celebrations and female glory

It might just be the understatement of the (leap) year to say that women have come a long way since the 5th century nun, St Bridget, petitioned to St Patrick for women to be more empowered in choosing their husbands.

Girl Power

But since St Patrick kindly announced that, on the 29th February of a leap year, a woman may propose to the man of their fancies, the fairer sex have embraced the tradition and subverted traditional roles.

So while we celebrate the baton being firmly in the female’s hand for just one day, and with the London 2012 Olympic Sailing events just an anchor’s throw away, why not push the boat out and take a broader look at women’s victories in the Olympic arena throughout the decades?

Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900 and, with the exception of 1904, the sport has appeared at every Olympic Games since. An impressive 90 medals have adorned the necks of females throughout Olympic Sailing’s history, so what’ve been the waypoints en route to such solid female presence at the Games?

  • 1908, London: Frances Rivett-Carnac (GBR) takes the first ever Olympic medal for women sailing in the Olympics. Frances was part of the gold medal winning crew of four, sailing in the 7-metre Class.
  • 1920, Antwerp: Dorothy Wright (GBR) is part of the gold medal winning 7-metre Class crew.
  • 1928, Amsterdam: Virginie Heriot (FRA) is the next female medalist, taking gold as part of a crew of 6 in the 8-metre Class.

    Heriot, aboard Aile VI, the boat that brought home Gold at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

  • 1936, Berlin: Dagmar Salen (SWE) is part of the bronze medal crew of five in the 6-metre Class.

After the break in Olympic Games for World War II there were no women medallists until:

  • 1952, Helsinki: Two women went home with medals. Vibeker Lunde (NOR) won the silver medal as part of the crew of three in the 5.5-metre Class and Emelyn Whiton (USA) was one of six crew members who took the gold medal in the 6-metre Class.
  • 1988, Seoul: First female-only event introduced: the 470 two-person dinghy. *

From 29 July–11 August 2012, the waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour will play host to 10 exhilarating Sailing events during the London 2012 Games, and a substantial 143 women (albeit 237 men) will be competing.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I’ll be rooting for many, many more triumphs for women, come July 2012. And with inspirational tales of sailing success such as that of Omani sailor, Raya Al Habs, leading the way for future fortunes, the outlook for women’s sailing is bright!

* Source of table info

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