World Sailing's new transgender policy will affect all international elite competition Photo by: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

The World Sailing Council, the world governing body for the sport of sailing, voted Friday to adopt a new set of restrictions on transgender women in women’s sailing competition to take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

The new policy would only allow transgender women to compete in women’s events and competitions if the athlete has never undergone male puberty past Tanner Stage Two, and able to demonstrate serum testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to competition and continuously there after.

“The priority of World Sailing in formulating this policy has been to ensure fair competition at the elite level, where no participant has an unfair or disproportionate advantage over the rest,” World Sailing CEO David Graham said in a statement Friday to Scuttlebutt Sailing News. “In particular, we have to uphold fairness and integrity in the female and mixed categories of competition.”

The governing body noted that World Sailing received medical expertise and guidance from other world governing bodies, including World Athletics and Union Cycliste Internationale. The World Sailing policy is identical to the UCI’s, while World Athletics has gone further to an outright ban on any transgender women competing as women.

A member of U.S. Sailing’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee was critical of the coming policy. Stephanie Helms is a longtime competitive sailor, a trans woman and a part of U.S. Sailing’s transgender task force. She called the decision “disappointing” and noted the decision doesn’t take a number of facts about the sport into account.

Stephanie Helms noted the success of women, such as Stanford’s mostly women and dominant sailing team, as growth this policy belittles. Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

“I am deeply disappointed by this decision, which adopts a stance most unsuited to a sport like sailing that is deeply equipment-dependent and really not biased toward one sex/gender or another in terms of performance potential at any level,” Helms said.

“Most competition from elite international to scholastic to fun, around-the-cans racing is mixed gender. Only in specialized categories in international and national governing body events that serve as qualifiers for them is gender-segregated competition even offered, and primarily so for historically social reasons.”

She also said the decision diminishes the growth the sport has seen for cisgender women while further pushing transgender women away. Helms noted example of how women sailors have performed at the highest levels against all comers.

“At the collegiate and scholastic levels, in mixed competition, women have won more and more,” she said. “Stanford University’s 2022-2023 sailing team won both the 2023 women’s AND overall national championships. Of the 10 team members, there were two men. The team members who captured the national honors on the water where all women, even in mixed competition.”