Ladies first!

The Cannes Stars have a new look and a new mission for the 2024 Global Champions League (GCL) season—and it paid immediate dividends in Doha on Friday.

Under new ownership by the Iron Dames, Cannes Stars are the GCL’s first ever all-female team and by design.

The brainchild of Deborah Mayer, The Iron Dames project was started in 2018 to promote and support women in sports where they compete on equal terms with men. First launched in motorsport (Mayer is a former driver), The Iron Dames driving team became the first all-female team to win a race in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2023.

The initiative has now expanded into equestrian sport with the Cannes Stars. The team is made up of 2012 Olympian Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann (GER) along with countrywomen Sophie Hinners and Katrin Eckermann. The Netherlands’ Sanne Thijssen and Kim Emmen and USA’s Natalie Dean complete the six.

On Friday, they made their pink presence felt in Doha at the GCL 2024 season opener.

Represented by Hinners on Iron Dames Singclair, Meyer-Zimmermann with Messi van’t Ruytershof, and Thijssen and her veteran partner Con Quidam RB in Doha, the Cannes Stars finished on a team total of four faults, stopping the clock two seconds faster than runners up Mexico Amigos.

“As the founder of the Iron Dames project, I am incredibly proud and honored to see our team, Cannes Stars Powered by Iron Dames, clinch the first round of the 2024 GCL,” said team owner Deborah Mayer.

“Being the first all-female team to compete in this prestigious championship makes this achievement even more moving and meaningful. This result is not just about winning; it’s a celebration of the values that each Iron Dame embodies: passion, determination and excellence.

“It’s a truly emotional and historic moment for our project and for the equestrian sport as a whole.”

It was a feeling echoed by the team.

“The team is unbelievably motivated,” said Thijssen. “We support each other and I think we pushed each other to the limit and that’s how we got this result. I had a good feeling already yesterday with Con Quidam and [Friday] we gave it our all. I am looking forward to the following competitions together with the other Iron Dames.”

I am lost for words. We are just so happy. It was great teamwork. We have a huge team around us,” added Meyer-Zimmermann, noting that the Iron Dames racing team is also competing in Qatar this weekend at the FIA World Endurance Championship. “Also this weekend we have the race for the drivers so now we can also give our support to them.”

Fourteen teams are competing in the 2024 GCL season. Under the GCL format, up to four horse and rider combinations per team compete in each League event, with two pairs competing in each round. Round one is a 1.45m course. Round two is set to 1.55m. Unlike the Nations Cup and MLSJ team formats, riders can use on a different horse in each round.

The GCL next heads to Miami Beach April, 3–6.