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Womens Sailing - Equality

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It's time we updated those responsible for our fantastic sport.
This report below is a travesty in this day and age, and is also likely illegal! ISAF, get with the century!


The Coady family were members of Sandringham Yacht Club (SYC) in Melbourne, Australia. Atanosios Papantonio was the Boating Manager of SYC. He had previously made comments that Stephanie Coady should not be sailing a 49er. One week prior to the Sailing World Cup - Sail Melbourne 2014, he verbally abused Stephanie's father Paul Coady, while preparing Stephanie's boat and ordered her boat removed from SYC permanently. Atanosios was also the Professional Race Officer (PRO) for SWC Sail Melbourne 2014. Stephanie had previously completed an SYC form for boat storage and had been notified of approval for storage that year. She was training along with other Sail Melbourne competitors and, no other competitor was told to remove their boat.


Stephanie entered the SWC Sail Melbourne 2014 in the Olympic Class 49er. She completed all required paperwork and presented at registration and measuring as helm of the boat. Stephanie was known well by the PRO, the 49er IRO and 49er race officials. It was known that Stephanie had been training in the 49er for the SWC 2014. World Sailing also published on their website, sailing.org, an article on the event highlighting Stephanie competing against the men as an example of the diversity of the competitors.


Stephanie sailed the first day of racing and retired early due to a damaged spinnaker pole. Before the second day racing she and Paul were approached by the PRO (Atanosios) and told they were in violation of the gender rules in the Notice of Race (NOR). Paul explained that this was in violation of discrimination law. The PRO subsequently verbally abused Paul and Stephanie. The PRO was later joined by a member of the International Jury (IJ). Paul requested that a protest be lodged in accordance with the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) before any action was taken. This was agreed by the PRO. Paul also explained they would not sail if a protest was lodged. An email was immediately sent to the event organisers asserting Stephanie's rights under discrimination law.


After waiting for 2 hours, no protest was lodged, so Stephanie sailed to the race area. She was followed by members of the IJ in a boat. Stephanie was verbally abused by other competitors with foul language and yelled at to get of the course. The IJ were laughing at the abuse directed at Stephanie. Stephanie was 16 years old at the time. Upon returning from the days racing Paul was informed by race officials that Stephanie had been disqualified from the regatta.


Paul met with the Director of Sail Melbourne, Mark Turnbull, who suggested Stephanie continue to sail but without earning ISAF/World Sailing points. Paul agreed on the condition that results be recorded to ensure points could be earned in the event the decision to disqualify was unlawful. Mark agreed and stated he would just need to get approval from the IJ and Yachting Victoria.


The PRO and IJ organised a meeting that night with representatives from Yachting Victoria and Sandringham Yacht Club and race officials. Stephanie and Paul were not invited. Mark Turnbull was also not invited.


Paul was contacted that night and told that a meeting had been convened with the PRO, IJ, YV and SYC and, that all parties were in agreement and confident the matter would be resolved. Paul was also informed that a protest had been lodged as he had requested and that he was required to attend a meeting that night. Paul was subsequently ambushed, on his own, in a blatant kangaroo court. The IJ decided that by competing in a men's event with a female helm, he committed gross misconduct and brought the sport into disrepute. They also decided that the assertion of legal rights was a violation of rule 3 ("not to resort to any court of law or tribunal") of the RRS. Stephanie's boat was disqualified from the entire event.


Paul requested of SYC that Stephanie be allowed to sail her 49er free of discrimination in club sailing and be allowed to keep her boat at the club, as agreed. At the time approximately 100 boats were kept at the yard. All requests were denied and the Coady family were forced to cancel their membership.


Stephanie and Paul started federal legal action early 2014. World Sailing threatened that if Stephanie's case were to proceed they would cease Olympic class sailing in Australia. The Coadys stated their intention, if the threat was executed, to pursue World Sailing for the exclusion of women from the 49er class at SWC Sail Weymouth and Portland UK under similar provisions in UK legislation for discrimination in the supply of services. World Sailing stated by email that Stephanie was excluded from the 49er class at SWC Weymouth and Portland 2015 on the basis of her gender.


The case of discrimination is currently with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.


World Sailing recently announced SWC events will no longer be held in Australia. Sail Melbourne has conducted Olympic class sailing under the Olympic sailing format for over a decade. World Sailing also announced a similar decision for Sail Weymouth and Portland UK. Australia is the #1 ranked country in the SWC for 2015/16 with 28 medals and Great Britain is the #2 ranked country with 22 medals.


At all times the Coady family have ensured that the best of legal advice and representation has been sought. Very thorough legal analysis has been undertaken before any claims have been made. The Coady family have been advised and represented by specialist discrimination lawyers including Peter Hull, James McDougall and Chris Ronalds. Paul Coady also holds a master's degree in commercial law.


Yachting Victoria sought no legal advice before disqualifying Stephanie in response to the formal complaint of discrimination.


The 49er Skiff




The 49er skiff is a high performance two-handed (two person) sailing boat designed for crews weighing around 150 kgs. The 49er was selected as the men’s high performance two-handed boat for the 2000 Olympics. As a result of Olympic selection, the 49er also became a World Sailing (formerly International Sailing Federation) class with a World Championship regatta held every year. A series of Sailing World Cup regattas are also held in a number of Countries. The Sail Melbourne regatta is one of the Sailing World Cup regattas.
The two roles of the competitors on the boat are called the helm (skipper) and the crew. The crew is responsible for hoisting and lowering the spinnaker, controlling the spinnaker sheets (ropes), and balancing the boat. Due to the large sail area and spinnaker size, strength and stamina of the crew is important. The helm is responsible for steering of the boat. Strength and stamina of the helm is not a particular advantage. This has been established in other sports that involve steering for example harness racing, horse racing, monster truck racing, rally car driving etc where women compete with the men.
Stephanie Coady is the helm of a 49er. She sails with male crew due to no female crews being available. They entered into the Sail Melbourne regatta in December 2014 and were disqualified after the second day of sailing due to breach of the Olympic gender requirements for the men’s 49er class.
Mixed (male and female) crews have in the past competed in the Sailing World Cup regattas and the World Championship. One mixed crew was ranked 19 on the World rankings. Mixed crews have always been female helm and male crew.
The FX is a variation of the 49er designed for female crews around 120kgs. It is the same boat with a shorter mast and smaller sail area.


In 2012 a replacement was sought for the Olympic Women's Elliott 6m Match Racing class. The FX was selected as the women’s two-handed skiff for the 2016 Olympic Games replacing women’s match racing (http://www.sailing.o...lider_footer_01). The FX World Sailing class was included in the World Championships and the Sailing World Cup regattas.
No formal announcement or press release has ever been made by World Sailing detailing the exclusion of mixed crews from competing in the men’s 49er class. The World Sailing 49er class rules (http://www.sailing.o...pment/20102.php) do not exclude mixed crews: “The crew shall consist of two persons.”




The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 gives effect to Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (UNCEDAW) and certain aspects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 156.


This case although made under provisions in the same legislation, has two separate components: a civil complaint of sex discrimination and, a criminal complaint of victimisation after the assertion of human rights.




Section 22(1) of the SDA provides:


  • (1) It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person's sex, …:
  • (a) by refusing to provide the other person with those goods or services or to make those facilities available to the other person;
  • B) in the terms or conditions on which the first-mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person; or
  • © in the manner in which the first-mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person.



Yachting Victoria (YV) was the organising authority for SWC Sail Melbourne and responsible for the race officers and the International Jury. YV entered into contract with Stephanie to provide services for her to participate in the Sailing World Cup – Sail Melbourne in the 49er Men’s class. YV subsequently on the advice of the International Jury repudiated the contract without grounds, based on her gender.


Section 5(2) of the SDA details indirect discrimination where:

the discriminator imposes, or proposes to impose, a condition, requirement or practice that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging persons of the same sex as the aggrieved person.


The gender based condition for eligibility to compete in the 49er class was impossible for Stephanie to comply with and, served no reasonable purpose for ensuring competition or served any other reasonable purpose. Stephanie had sought assistance from YV and the International 49er Association and was still unable to find a female crew. In contrast male crews are in abundance.




It is a strategy for discriminators to indirectly attack the victim by targeting others with a relationship with the victim. By doing this the discriminator is able to inflict damage on the victim while at the same time deny discriminating against the victim. Both the SDA and the UNCEDAW have provisions, for both the aggrieved person and third parties, for victimisation after asserting human rights.


Section 94(2) of the SDA sets out the criminal victimisation provisions which include if the Respondent/s subjects or threatens to subject another person to any detriment on the ground that the other person:


has reasonably asserted, or proposes to assert, any rights of the person or the rights of any other person under this Act or the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986.”


The assertion of rights under discrimination law was made both verbally and in writing before disqualification action was taken. So that the allegation could not be levelled against them in the future of discriminating against Stephanie directly, a meeting convened with the PRO, the IJ, SYC and YV, decided to target Paul Coady with a kangaroo court and disciplinary action based upon the gender of Stephanie. Subsequent victimisation consisted of a further 4 blatant kangaroo courts and a 12 month ban recently executed. The kangaroo courts were conducted without any remote consideration for natural justice and were based upon fabricated evidence, lies and exaggerations. More information is detailed in "the facts" section of this site.

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I think the gender test should not be a question of actual anatomy but one of whether the person has the balls to sail those boats in all conditions.


In which case I'd be disallowed even though I pee standing up.

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IT, is your point that there should be no gender-specific sailing competitions under any circumstances? So all Olympic events should be open to all-comers?

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Mark, it is an interesting discussion point as gender bias is illegal. To me it is unclear how you can in fact run a gender specific event - although it is done all the time.

However, what is much more of an issue (to me) in this case, is the appalling way that this has been handled. Very un-PC, and totally unprofessionally. This girl has effectively been kicked out of their sailing club in the most reprehensible way possible. IMO.

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The summary of this story is that Sail Melbourne, and then ISAF (now World Sailing, our governing body) absolutely shafted a 16 year old girl who was competing in a regatta. She had trained for it and had her entry formally accepted.


She was not offered any natural justice, and was not given a fair go. She requested a protest be lodge against her, so they could address the issues in a proper manager. She was just shafted mid-regatta.


Shafted to the point of being verbally abused by club officials, race officers and other competitors, and then instructed to remove her boat from the Club storage, while 100 other boats remained, even though she had paid for, and the Club accepted to store it for that full season.


As I fund this World Body, via compulsory levies paid to YNZ, I have a problem with this, more so that I'm a father of a young girl who loves boats....


I would ask for comment from YNZ, but they are probably too busy building a white elephant Takapuna.

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Opens a can of worms. If events can not be gender specific the that effectively ends the olympics for women in almost all sports, changes all school sport with a dramatic fall off in participation mainly among girls. 

Agree with IT though to treat anybody this way regardless of their age, gender, religion or race is disgusting. 

Hasn't Atanosios Papantonio brought the sport into disrepute and shouldn't he be banned.

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I agree that it has been handled badly, though that may be true of the Coady's as well as SYC and WS. The NOR is extremely clear:



3.5. Olympic gender requirements will apply for each Olympic class event. 


So whether that is reasonable or not, you have to wonder what exactly they thought was going to happen.


And if it's not reasonable and/or legal for an Olympic class to hold gender-specific events then presumably the same logic applies to every other sporting event you can think of. Seems like a can of worms to me, but it is the crux of the issue. Not that it's not worth debating, but it seems like it might be worth a more measured discussion than setting up a whole website to advocate for one side of the argument while also launching federal legal proceedings.


As far as I can tell, their objective is nothing less than the elimination of any and all gender-specific sporting events:


This case has serious ramifications for all Olympic sports, not just sailing and, for countries bidding as host Nation of the Olympic Games. It is unacceptable that a sport's governing body should give preference to Countries with a legal regime that is favourable to discrimination. It is also unacceptable that a sport's governing body should deliberately and maliciously disrespect the human rights laws of the Country in which they are a guest. If Stephanie's case is upheld, it will establish the obligation for all sports to respect the human rights laws under which participants have legal protection.


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Discrimination is rampant everywhere in all areas. Aussies are specialists at sexual and racial discrimination anyway.
YNZ also commonly discriminate even though the laws of this land says that's a no no.


Sad to see its coming from the top down though, what a bunch of arseholes.

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Seems like the fundamentals of this are pretty interesting, but this particular situation appears to have been really badly handled.


It's common to allow divisions for gender/weight/ability or other things across many sports. But generally (as in this case) as long as the person entering isn't at an unfair advantage then what does it hurt to allow them to compete?


If a 60kg kid wants to play rugby in the 80kg division, or a Paralympic swimmer wants to compete against able bodied swimmers, most reasonable people would be ok with it as long as it's safe for everyone. The justification for having a separate class in 49ers for women seems to be that they're on average smaller/not as strong, so what are the organisers worried about?


Can only assume they've decided it's not fair as women will have 2 chances to enter while men wouldn't be able to enter the fx, but that seems like a weak argument to me.


On a similar note, have people here seen the new crewing options for the volvo boats?

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