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Motherhood & Matchracing

Motherhood & Matchracing

Becoming a mother is generally a big change in most women’s lives. For the world’s foremost match racing women in particular, the difference may be even bigger. But it doesn’t only mean new challenges. When catching up with three of the WIM Series top skippers, they gladly talk about all the positive effects their motherhood has had on their match racing campaigns.

Sebastian Ostling with baby Vera while mom, Anna, is out racing in Middelfart 2015

In June 2014, just a few weeks after daughter Vera was born, Anna Östling of Sweden won the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship. Behind the scenes a lot of work was going on to make that happen. Not only father Sebastian Östling, a top sailor too – but in the 470 class, was involved. Also the staff of the Royal Cork Yacht Club had to deal with a few challenging situations. How to safely get fresh milk from the mother on the race course, to a hungry baby waiting on shore, was perhaps the most interesting!
“Actually people have been very helpful on all the WIM Series events. Of course I need more support now when bringing Vera to the events, and I’ve had to learn that I’m not top priority myself any longer. Nevertheless, bringing Vera to the events is so encouraging, not only for me personally but for all the girls in the team. No matter how disappointed we are after a bad race, we get happy when meeting a cheering and laughing Vera at the dock” Anna smiles, continuing:
“Being a mother certainly means that you have to prioritize your time even harder. I’ve got less time to reflect about sailing nowadays, but I think it’s a positive effect being forced to talk and think of something else. I also value my time on the water more now, and my feeling is that the sailing isn’t as important to me as it was before Vera.”

Katie Spithill Pellew with husband, Grant Pellew, and baby Chloe in Busan 2013

Aussie skipper Katie Spithill has subscribed to a top spot on the ISAF World Match Racing Ranking for a number of years, and she’s still lining up podium finishes when attending the WIM Series events. But 2-years old daughter Chloe has somewhat changed her mother’s attitude to match racing:
“I wouldn’t say that I’m more relaxed, but I do value my time more now. I really enjoy the sailing time with my team, whilst at the same time I try to make sure I don’t waste the time away from my daughter. So I am always keen for good results. The biggest challenge for me is the time and distance it requires to compete away from Australia. If something were to happen with Chloe, it would take me a long time to travel home,” Katie says, pointing out another difference:
“I am more cautious with promising things to sponsors, as my time and availability is now different to what it was before Chloe. My crew are amazing and understanding of my time and commitments, and even helped whence travelled with Chloe to Korea. In the early stages most children need their mothers, and for a female sailor it is harder to be away from home or to compete and manage breastfeeding a small baby.”

Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinky with baby Sofie in Lysekil 2015

World #1 and 2014 WIM Series winner, Dane Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby, knew already a decade ago how she would handle the combination of motherhood and successful match racing, by following the example of Swedish former World #1 Marie Björling Duell:
“I’ve always been impressed on how Marie and her team brought their families for events all around. When my team and I started match racing 10 – 11 years ago, we were sure that we would try to ‘copy’ the Swedes, in combining family life and sailing on a high level. And now we’re here!” she laughs, giving daughter Sofie a loving look.
“At an early stage my husband and my parents committed to join the team at different events to take care of Sofie. When that little detail was solved, practising turned out to be the most challenging part of combining kids and sailing,” she reveals.

Finally Anna, Katie and Camilla all agree that becoming mothers certainly have given them a boost in their match racing careers:
“It’s always daunting when having a child, but it’s been the greatest gift ever and I’m still able to train and sail and compete, and wouldn’t have it any other way,” Katie declares, while Anna sends a piece of advise to coming new mothers on the WIM Series:
“Don’t worry. Move on and keep sailing as long as you like it, and don’t let your family life and your sailing life be two separate plans. Actually, I don’t think I would have been such a good mother if I quit sailing.”

Baby Chloe celebrating mom's prize money in Busan 2013