Directed by Tina Carbone
This is a hard film to take to be completely honest. I fear it is about something it doesn’t necessarily know it’s about. In 1992, Bill Koch won the America’s Cup sailing race, the world’s oldest such race. I can remember as a kid being into the race somehow when it was randomly being televised. Truth be told, my brother became more enamored than myself. But what Bill Koch decided to do as a follow up to his win was something nobody saw coming. Koch was an outsider to the boating community. Coming from Kansas, he learned to sail and won the Cup in a matter of years, trying to prove anyone could do it. Taking it one step further, he announced that for the 1995 America’s Cup competition, he would field an all-female crew to compete. This really rocked the boat, as having a woman on board was thought to be bad luck. He was trying to make a point to the community.
Tryouts were held and eventually 23 women were selected to participate on the team. Their performance was shaky, winning some, and losing others in heartbreaking fashion. Ultimately what the film shows us is the male doubt of an all-female team. Eventually the tactician on the boat was replaced with a male. Eventually, with a place in the Finals of the Defender Series on the line, Koch made a deal just before the start of the race, to assure them of a spot, regardless of the outcome. They won that race, only to lose in the finals to the boat they beat in the semis. For a film about changing the establishment, and empowering women, it tells the story of male doubt of this all-female team. Not only that, I struggled with the whole scenario from the beginning. This was Koch’s idea. He was the one with the power to do it. Males empowering females as opposed to females empowering themselves. It just never felt as revolutionary important as it made itself out to be.
From the team members perspective, however, I can totally understand the feeling of accomplishment. It wasn’t their idea, but it was their accomplishment. It may have changed the landscape of the sailing community, it may have proved a small victory in the battle for equal treatment, equal rights, equal opportunities for women. For many of these women, it was the ride of a lifetime, and being part of something so special sent them on different paths, different goals, different outlooks. I don’t want to downplay the impact such an idea had on the world. But the things mentioned above point out to me that at this point in history, the males still took the headlines, took the credit. It was a small victory that could have perhaps been larger if not for the doubt of male.