Training Next Generation of Female Sailors

Published on May 3rd, 2016

Widely known as Australia’s largest woman-only Keelboat event, the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) is back in 2016 and hopes to blow last year’s attendance away. This year’s event will be held from the June 11-13 at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron and aims to attract near 30 boats to the Port Phillip waters.

Not only has this event received the reputation for greatest number of boats but it’s also hailed as the longest living women’s regatta in Australia with 26 years under their belt. Such a long duration allows organisers to ‘iron out the creases’ and give the sailors what they really want – high quality racing with opportunities to mingle with like-minded women. A 4-part lecture series preceding the event provides various social activities to compliment the racing.

“It’s great we can provide an opportunity for women to celebrate the sport of sailing through a nurturing but competitive nature,” notes Dee Mason, chairperson of the AWKR. “We look forward to near 30 boats joining us this season and can’t wait for everyone to put to practice what they learn over the next few weeks. This event empowers women from all over Australia and our New Zealand neighbours to gather and ‘take the helm’ with extra emphasis on seeing the next generation of female sailors coming through.”

This regatta has caught the attention of many world class sailors including that of Victoria’s own Volvo Ocean Race sailor Sophie Ciszek loving the idea but, naturally, is unable to physically attend the event:

“I’m not around for the next 7 months as I will be working for the Volvo Ocean Race with Liz Wardley my team mate from Team SCA as Skipper onboard the Volvo65 Vestas Wind. We have spent a week getting the boat back together in Alicante the VOR headquarters and have just sailed her up to Gothenburg, Sweden the home of Volvo. Over the European summer we will be doing some sailing alongside another VO65 in Sweden and a few other places before sailing back down to Lisbon where the boats will have their refit ready for the next race. It’s a good opportunity for me to gain even more knowledge about the boats as we will be sailing and running the boat, and both Liz and I hope to be competing in the next race or be involved somehow. Wish I could be there to sail with everyone in this year’s AWKR, good luck to all the sailors. Have fun and keep up the sailing so we can see women in the future Volvo Ocean Races.”

This regatta has also attracted the support of local sailing royalty of dual Olympian, Krystal Weir.

“It’s just amazing to see all the girls out there sailing,” said Weir. “I have always been a big promoter of women’s sailing and this event really demonstrates how strong the women are becoming in Victoria. I can’t wait to see how big this event will become in the future. I’ve now set my sights on the Keelboat world and aim to compete in this year’s Sydney to Hobart race with a local team.”

There are many avenues women can take in sailing including the high performance paths of Sophie and Krystal, but this regatta also aims to open the doors to recreational sailing including that of cruising and club racing. To build this knowledge base the lecture series were created and this year have some of the sharpest sailing minds leading them.

Danielle Watkins, recently crowned the World’s youngest female sailing umpire, will be the first guest speaker for this four part series with other big names including Gavin Dagley, Blake Anderson and Matt Setton to follow. These lecture series are sure to have your team ahead of the pack. They will be held every Wednesday in May in the Harbour Room of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron and intend to conclude the series with a Kite packing challenge!

This event is open to women of all ages with the aim to create sailing opportunities for women Australia wide. Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron assistant manager and Race Officer for the AWKR, Lou Hutton has been involved with the event for three years now and believes it creates a great platform for new and experienced sailors to interact and compete:

“We at RMYS are very proud to have run the AWKR for the past 26 years. I’ve had the pleasure of being on the race management team for three years, and in that short time the skill level and performance of competitors has improved significantly. We’ve also attracted a larger number of boats from all over Australia, which has meant we can run divisional racing which is fairer and more fun for everyone. It’s also an incredibly social event, and you can feel the warmth in the presentation room every night!

“The Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series has definitely been a bonus for participation levels in the AWKR, and we’re delighted that more and more women are getting the chance to fill key roles on yachts because of it.”

Most local competitors at this year’s event have used the Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series (PPWCS) as practice regattas and why not? Five races that encourage crews of all female sailors is great preparation for such an event! If you’ve been competing all season and aren’t already involved – why not jump on a boat? If you would like to be involved simply register your details here and the organisers will assist you in finding a team.

The Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta Early Bird entry closes next Friday, 6th May at midnight. If you fail to get your entries in prior to then you’ll have until the 26th May to secure your spot. With trophies in AMS, IRC, EHC and a handful of participation awards available – why not register? The lecture series preceding the event begin this Wednesday and finish the Wednesday prior to the regatta.

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