America’s Cup: dear Elodie, your problem is money, not gender equality

Swiss yachtswoman Elodie-Jane Mettraux renounces her “Alinghi Red Bull Racing” engagement to compete in the “America’s Cup Women” and gratuitously and somewhat panderingly makes it about gender equality. This is the opinion of our own David Ingiosi. Do you agree with him? Read his article and let us know what you think.

L’Affaire (?) Mettraux

The issue of gender equality once again shakes the sailing world. After the “Clarisse Crémer” affair, the French sailor who reported that she was dumped by her sponsor, Banque Populaire, when she became a mother ahead of the solo round-the-world race, now it is the turn of Swiss sailor Elodie-Jane Mettraux, and the context is even more prestigious: the America’s Cup. The arguments of this new male vs. female “casus belli” however are less centered and more pandering.

A 39-year-old professional sailor, Elodie-Jane Mettraux three weeks ago had been selected by “Alinghi Red Bull Racing,” the Swiss team in the running for the America’s Cup. Together with five other female colleagues, she was to make up the team that will participate in the “America’s Cup Women,” the first all-female edition of the trophy. This is a side event to the America’s Cup proper, combined moreover with the “Youth America’s Cup,” a competition reserved for young people under 25 already held in 2013 and 2017.

But where is the America’s Cup disparate?

In short, a great opportunity and a nice limelight for Mettraux, good certainly, but not so famous so far. But no. Once the details of the expected compensation were known, the Swiss sailor decided to take a step back and quit. He explained his reasons in a post shared on his social profile that immediately, needless to say, raised a big media fuss.

Here is the text: “I am leaving the America’s Cup because I am underpaid. The compensation per day is one-tenth of what I usually receive as a professional sailor in other projects. I cannot afford it financially.” And so far the sincere confession of an entirely legitimate economic need for a sailor of her level and experience. But then comes the real bombshell: “I also hope, however, to make people think in this way about the need for equal treatment of athletes and female athletes.” In short, Elodie-Jane Mettraux publicly accuses America’s Cup teams and organizers of treating female athletes differently and disparately from men.

America's Cup

On the bandwagon of “political correctness” you always win easily

Her announcement in addition to causing a stir received solidarity from several professional female sailors, including Alexia Barrier who said, “Bravo to Elodie for bringing this message for gender equality in our sport.” And again Samantha Davies wrote: “Full support from me Elodie. Thank you for standing up for the rights of future generations of female sailors.” In short, waving the flag of gender equality is a nice towing and always offers a good image payoff in these times that reward “Political Correctness” all the time.

Except that Elodie-Jane Mettraux’s real problem is money and gender equality in the America’s Cup has nothing to do with it. The issue of low fees in side events has its own rational and legitimate rationale, as clarified by the organizers themselves. The America’s Cup Women is a fledgling event, absolutely complementary, marginal and not even remotely comparable to the real America’s Cup. In short, it lasts little and matters little, which is why managers and teams also invest less in it in terms of economic wages for athletes, simple as that.

America's Cup

Young people as unpaid as veterans: it’s the America’s Cup beauty!

Mettraux accuses “Alinghi Red Bull Racing” of recognizing the same compensation for America’s Cup Youth and women like her engaged in the America’s Cup Women. But again, gender equality is not at stake here at all; if anything, the issue is paying a young person as much as a sailor with a 20-year career. But this is regardless of being male or female. As “Alinghi Red Bull Racing” well points out, “The Youth America’s Cup and the Women America’s Cup are stepping stones to a future where the team treats everyone as equals.”

Mettraux is a career sailor; she has been the queen of the Tour de France in Sailing, has already participated in two round-the-world crewed races in stages, and was the first woman to arrive in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2023 with Frenchman François Gabart’s 32-meter maxi trimaran. It is fine for him to aspire to compensation in line with his experience, but it is precisely a question of salary between young and long-time sailors, not gender. Being part of the America’s Cup brand is still prestigious at any age and regardless of the money you collect. Then everyone decides as they wish, but why point fingers by bragging about male-female disparate behaviors that do not exist?

America's Cup

More women in America’s Cup yes, false controversy no

In short, it seems that Elodie-Jane Mettraux’s “j’accuse” is a soap bubble fired more to shift the focus and arbitrarily and slyly substantiate a decision that remains entirely personal and, in our opinion, probably venal. Different discussion would have been to be hired by a team to compete in the real America’s Cup, as Dawn Riley and Leslie Egnot were in their time, and to receive effectively different financial treatment from male sailors. At the time, the two female sailors did not complain, most likely because they had no reason to. But for Mettraux this was not the case.

That the America’s Cup will host more and more women among the official crews in the future is certainly desirable, and this is the real issue, since to date it is still virtually an all-male competition as we have already written. Events like the “Women America’s Cup” also serve to shift gears, open ranks and renew. But everything is still in the making. And at the moment there is no doubt that even on the front of compensation to athletes and female athletes, everything is being handled professionally and strictly inspired by “fair play,” as always befits “those of the Cup.” So much for Mettraux and his wallet.

David Ingiosi

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