BLiSS Training in step to Leave No Woman Behind

by Rosie Colahan

Marnie Irving at the helm of Cavarlo with her BTB graduates
Marnie Irving at the helm of Cavarlo with her BTB graduates
Sue Bumstead on the helm of Beneteau 40 Dry White
Sue Bumstead on the helm of Beneteau 40 Dry White

Royal Brighton Yacht Club’s BLiSS committee are gearing up for the ten year anniversary celebration of the Brighton Lady Skippers Series to be run over the weekend of 28-29 April 2018. The two day racing event provides multiple short course races on Saturday and a single passage race on Sunday, the latter also scoring RBYC female helms for their home club’s Associates Cup female helm trophy (est 1980) and providing the fifth and final race of the sixth Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series 2017-18.

Reflecting on a decade of BLiSS, a keystone in the success of the event has been the provision of pre race training with female focussed training activities building skills and confidence for  female sailors to step up to the helm and other lead roles. For the last three years, AMS Yacht Racing Services, as testament to their support for the progression of females in the sport have generously fully sponsored BLiSS training sessions delivered by renowned coach and World Master Laser Champion Gavin Dagley. With past sessions being a sell out success, Gavin has been again invited to run a one-day intensive off-water theory and on-water practice followed by a video debrief on Sunday 25 March.

Female focussed training and racing events are invaluable in extending the skills and increasing participation for female sailors. However, there is also a need to create more ‘incidental’ learning and training opportunities within existing club activities to build a stronger, more diverse, integrated sailing community, where in the spirit of the UN International Women’s Day 2018 theme, we ‘Leave No Woman Behind’.

Some of these opportunities arise when boats are already on the water, rigged and crewed –on the way to and from start and finish lines or participating in longer passage races, where female crews can step up to try out new roles under the mentorship of regular crews.

The strength and success of a team will only be as good as its weakest link. Females often lack confidence in their knowledge and ability to carry out some activities aboard boats but they highly value being included in all aspects of preparation for participation, including active involvement with maintenance, developing and practising operational and safety procedures, managing weather and navigational challenges and having a sound working knowledge of the rules of racing.

A number of RBYC female keelboat sailors have in recent years sought to broaden their own learning opportunities by signing on and navigating their way through the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria’s (ORCV) Beyond the Bay (BTB) training program. Graduates of the 2017 program have  this season joined owner and helm Marnie Irving on board her Cavalier 395 Cavarlo to compete in various female focussed events on Port Phillip including the ORCV Geelong to Melbourne Women Skippers & Navigators Race, the Women in Sailing Challenge (Sandringham Yacht Club), Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series, Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron) in addition to their home club’s BLiSS regatta.

Along with Marnie, crew members Jodie Rebecchi, Catherine Parsons, Katherine Moorhouse-Perks and Philippa ‘PJ’ Webley, have been waxing lyrical about the BTB program content and the amazing on water experiences provided with the Overnight Bay Challenge and the Latitude Series weekend - a one day foray into Bass Strait and back to Blairgowrie, with a long pursuit race return to Sandringham the following day.

There are also several other notable graduates from the BTB program.

Catherine North completed the course in 2015 and is now racing in the eleven month, 40,000 nautical mile Clipper Round the World Race aboard Team Sanya Serenity Coast skippered by Australian Wendy Tuck.

Sue Bumstead, a 2014 BTB graduate, has a ticket of leave for Sunday 25 March BLiSS training as she will be co-skipper on RBYC member Grant Dunoon’s Moody 54 Blue Water Tracks on the Portsea start line for the 5500 nm Melbourne to Osaka double handed yacht race!  Sue is one of three female co-skippers competing along with Joanna Breen from Tasmania on Morning Star and Annette Hesselmans on Red Jacket from NSW.

In the words of Chay Blyth,founder of the British Steel Challenge - ‘Seize the opportunity in the lifetime of the opportunity’. Get on board and register now for BLiSS training 2018 – you never know where it may lead you!

Further information about the BLiSS Regatta is available from the RBYC website.

Information about the PPWCS  is available on the Women & Girls in Sailing website. 


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