BLiSS seeks to Leave No Woman Behind


Team SCA Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 all female team
Team SCA Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 all female team

Calling all sailors! Let’s all get onboard on 8 March for International Women’s Day 2018 and proclaim this year’s theme ‘Leave No Woman Behind’ – an opportune time to reflect on how women in the sport of sailing are faring with their participation goals and leadership aspirations and to look to the future, beyond diversity to inclusion and true integration in our sailing communities.

Back in 2012, the former Yachting Victoria (now Australian Sailing’s Victorian Region) established the only state or national based committee to address the low participation rates and lack of females in leadership roles across the sport of sailing. A then informal Women In Sailing Interest Group (WISIG) was given a breath of life with the awarding of a VicHealth grant which facilitated the creation of the YV Women & Girls in Sailing (WGIS) committee. Since then a wide range of female focussed activities have been delivered for our female sailors, including racing and training activities for both competitive and leadership roles, but there is still a way to go to achieve inclusion and integration

In 2016, Cherry Birch, YV Board member who sat on the inaugural WGIS committee, was elected as the first ever female president of any Australian Sailing state/territory organisation and now leads a board with five females amongst nine board members.

The Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series was established in 2013, combining the Lady Skippers races from the five keelboat clubs at the top of the bay. Now in its sixth edition, the series which started out as a female helm series with any crew mix, now boasts a predominantly female mix with a noticeable increase in skills across the participants.

The PPWC series 2017-18 has provided a range of different race formats and celebrated some significant milestones in women’s keelboat sailing on Port Phillip. Hobson’s Bay Yacht Club (HBYC) lead off the season, celebrating over 100 years of women’s sailing at their club, with High Tea and Pimms on the lawn after a pleasant short passage race, and crowned the success of their women sailors with the unveiling of a new Honour Board.

Sandringham Yacht Club (SYC) followed with their annual Women in Sailing Challenge (WISC) Regatta testing the crews in challenging blustery, lumpy southerly conditions with four short course races in quick succession.

Recovering from their bruising the week before, Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS) turned on sublime conditions for a short passage race around fixed marks for their annual Jennifer Goldsmith Trophy, with the Goldsmith family providing all female helms with bottles of wine and Swarovski crystal for the winner.

The newest race of the series, celebrating its sixth running, the Val Hodge Trophy hosted by Royal Yacht Club of Victoria last weekend, was a demonstration of the improving skills amongst the fleet and saw fierce competition over the two lap short course format with only seconds separating some of the competitors.

With only the fifth and final round to go, Royal Brighton Yacht Club’s annual Brighton Lady Skippers Series (BLiSS) regatta will celebrate a tenth birthday. Over the years, BLiSS has provided a mix of pre regatta training on and off water in the lead up to the two day regatta, all aimed at encouraging women to step up to new roles including helm.

The opportunity for training, acquiring and practising skills, is essential to the future growth of female participation in the sport. Without training, women will never gain the confidence to take on the running of a crew or consider buying their own boat, either alone or as part of a syndicate. Without being part of a team that supports them, they will be left behind.

The theme ‘leave no woman behind’ has struck a chord with the BLiSS Committee and the Brighton girls are thrilled with the support of long time sponsor AMS Racing, in once again providing a single full training day, free to all competitors on Sunday 25 March led by renowned coach Gavin Dagley. The regatta will be held Saturday 28 April with several short course races and a longer passage race on Sunday 29 April which constitutes PPWCS Race 5 and for RBYC female members, the RBYC Associates Cup.

Over recent years, participation in PPWCS has seen an increasing number of women going on to participate in the prestigious Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta hosted by Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS) every Queen’s Birthday weekend, which has attracted steadily increasing numbers of all female crews over recent years, including competitors from interstate and interdominion.

Progress is being made, but there is still much to be done to increase participation and leadership by women in many areas of life. UN Women is the United Nations entity responsible for promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality and was established to accelerate progress to meet the needs of women and girls worldwide.

In Australia, Executive Director of UN Women National Committee Australia, Janelle Weissman, commenting on the IWD theme for 2018 said -

“Leaving no woman behind is more than just a catchy tagline. It’s smart. When we commit ourselves to ensuring that women’s voices are included, listened to, and respected, we give communities the best chance…….”

Let’s do it!


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