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Wahine Sailors - building a hapori/community

I attended the second of maybe four Wahine Sailors insights sessions last week at Evans Bay. EB had about 25 sailors attend the Waikawa Women's regatta. A massive effort was put in by their members to get their sailors on to boats during the winter series, so they were ready and confident to get down there. How good?!

Anyway, while only a handful of sailors turned up for the session, the themes that came up were very similar to our session at WBBC. Creation of a community, growing confidence and looking at how we support attraction and growth.

Oddly, it’s more the new to sailing ladies attending these sessions, rather than the more weathered of us.

So – why’s that you think? We have all had mixed experiences with Women’s Sailing, let’s be clear here; we are not about ‘women only’ we are about the creation of a hapori a community for our wahine to feel supported when currently, some feel they are not. building a community needs just that - a community! Everyone has a part to play here.

I have added Jane Thomassen’s (Evans Bay Rear Commodore) below for a read, as these capture our session nicely.

Women's Sailing at Evans Bay

In conjunction with Worser Bay and RPNYC, EBYMBC has initiated a series of forums to bring Women in Sailing together to learn how we can better support each other to continue to participate with all aspects of being a member of a yacht club, including but not limited to learning to sail, racing, cruising, race management, participation in events and activities through volunteering.

We have all discovered the love of sailing through a myriad of different entry paths ranging from being thrown in the deep end as a child, learning to sail as an adult, joining a partner in their sport and learning by trial and error, family holidays, seeing others having fun and wanting to join in. First sailing experiences have been in optimists, dinghies, trailer yachts and keelers in both sheltered waters of a harbour and raging waters offshore.

Whichever way we have found sailing, the challenges we face in continuing to participate are similar. As with other Club’s over 50% of participants in Learn To Sail programmes are women, but our women’s membership ratio is significantly lower.

Some of the challenges raised include:

· Confidence in our own knowledge and ability; men are ‘better at faking it until you make it’. Women generally build confidence through learning and feeling supported; this can also hold us back in putting our hand up to help and/or joining in conversations in the Clubhouse after sailing

· Being told what to do without being asked what help we need

· Losing the support of a partner who has traditionally done the ‘men’s stuff’ such as launching and retrieving trailer yachts, boat maintenance, helming

· Not being able to commit to every week due to childcare

What the Club already does well:

· A network of Learn to Sail members that supports finding participants crewing spots on boats (mainly keelers) or pairing up people to charter club boats (thanks Murray)

· A variety of educational classroom sessions including Rules and Sail trim sessions and debriefs of sailing (thanks Phil and Rowdy)

· This season have ‘fun’ events scheduled for the first weekend of the month

Food for thought:

· Developing a buddy system to help with introductions into the Club and making connections

· Make someone’s day by offering assistance – an idea from a UK Club is to fly a yellow ribbon onto boat if welcome assistance/tips on how to sail better while out on the water. Some people learn better from practical guidance on the water rather than classroom/land based sessions, and Club racing does not need to be restricted to a purely competitive environment. Yellow ribbons can also indicate that sailors are less confident and may need to be given extra room

· Have café style debriefs after sailing to allow people to ask questions in a safe environment

· Have a form for new members to find out why they are joining, what support they may like and how they think they could help the Club (ie what are they happy to volunteer to do)

· Run practical courses including launching and retrieving boats, backing boats in trailers into parks, fibre glass skills and other boat maintenance, get to know your boat – these can all form part of the support provided to people looking to buy boats and to provide them with the confidence that they can do it.

· How do we enable part-time sailing where people can’t sail every weekend, maybe this could be alongside the buddy system so that team’s are formed where one member of the team is always available for a boat needing regular crew

A key point to note is that we know there are some supportive and talented men-folk and we need them to continue to be so, we can’t do this alone. The initiatives above should not be limited to women, but we do need our space to do it our way.

What’s next:

· RPNYC session (date to be confirmed – all welcome)

· Following this session, Mel (WBBC), Amanda (RPNYC), Katie Hakes (EBYMBC/RPNYC), Jane Thomassen (EBYMBC) and hopefully Irene Muirhead (LBYC) will debrief and determine next steps

· Jane will also discuss ideas with EBYMBC Mancom

· Look out for more information on the planned Women’s Regatta at Lowry Bay (similar but not the same as Waikawa)

· Feel free to add further ideas and feedback

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