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Gail MacAllister, Irish Sailing’s Regional Development Officer and Co-ordinator for the Women on the Water Ireland (WOWI) programme talks to Helen Cooney about how the programme is run at the National Yacht Club.

Irish Sailing launched the WOWI programme in 2011 to create opportunities for women to learn, train and compete on the water together. Since then many women across the country have been introduced to sailing through various WOWI courses and events. One person spearheading WOWI is Helen Cooney, a dedicated volunteer from the National Yacht Club.

Helen Cooney and NYC WOWI Sailors 3Helen Cooney of the National Yacht Club

Helen wasn’t from a sailing family but started sailing at 14 in a Mirror dinghy in Lough Derg Yacht Club. She introduced her husband and children to sailing when they returned home from London. She knew from her own experience that this would be a great family sport. All three girls are still sailing. The youngest, Sarah, was Sailing Captain in UCD last year.

Helen was Junior Organiser (JO) in the National Yacht Club for a number of years, all while working as a physiotherapist and bringing up a young family. But even though Helen had given plenty of her time to sharing the love of sailing to children, she saw a need to encourage more women to sail, and set up her WOWI programme.

“Women sailing together as a group create great friendships and are naturally supportive of each other. Learning to sail in an all women's environment means having fun and takes the intimidation out of starting racing on a busy race course like DBSC. Many have got the bug and gone on to race in other club classes full of confidence in their abilities and what they can contribute to a new boat. We have had many beginners starting inspired by Annalise Murphy's achievements which highlight sailing as a women's sport; parents whose children sail and who want to now know more themselves; and experienced sailors returning to the sport after a break. Women feel comfortable in this inclusive atmosphere and work well as a team with everyone having a role on the boat.”

NYC WOWI Sailors End of season race sept 17 2WOWI sailors prepare to go afloat on NYC 1720 sportsboats for the club's 'End of Season' race

Helen’s team charter two 1720 keelboats from the club to use for their training and racing. There are 25 women on the programme, aged between 30 and 60. An experienced sailor in the group always helms on race night and they share the cost of a coach to help build up their sailing skills and confidence. They mainly race in the Thursday night Dublin Bay racing but have also entered teams in to the Volvo DL Regatta and Cork Week, which brought a new thrill to their achievements as a team. The programme also brings a new social world outside of the sailing with team theatre trips and club dinners or just a walk on the pier, “It is very bonding.” Helen tells us.

The WOWI programme is open to NYC members only but there is an independent crew membership rate available for 3 years to new non-boat owner members, which makes it accessible to a wider audience than the traditional buy a boat and join the club as a whole family. To support the WOWI team, the NYC also has a very successful Adult Training programme which is open to non members and members alike. This year interestingly there are now more women than men on the courses.
The club’s commitment to equality doesn’t stop on the water, the club committee currently has 4 women so there is a good gender balance and awareness of the importance of including women’s programmes.

Helen concludes “sailing is a sport that women and men can step into (or back into at any age) – it really is a sport for all. And if the sporty racing side isn’t for you, then relaxed cruising or adventure cruising is there too – solo or as a team or family. There aren’t many hobbies the whole family can participate in at an equal footing – women, children, grandparents”.

You can read more of Gail’s interview with Helen and more of her sailing colleagues in the Irish Sailing newsletter which goes out at the end of September.

Published in ISA

More than 20 ladies from around Ireland took to the water in Dun Laoghaire last weekend for a women's match racing training weekend, which may result in a ladies' Match Racing nationals taking place later in 2010.

A recent rise in interest in match racing combined with the Irish Sailing Association’s drive towards promoting women on the water resulted in full programme organised by experienced match racer Mary O’Loughlin and held in the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Women’s match racing is a recent introduction to the Summer Olympics in 2012 and has received a strong international following in preparation for the games.

Some participants had already had a taste of match racing in the ISA’s Sail Fleet; others were fresh to the scene. Whilst some sailors were weary after a hectic week down in Cork, all were keen to try out the J80’s and get on the water.

After a comprehensive briefing on boat set up, starting procedures, tactics and rules, the ladies took to the water to put their new found knowledge into practice. Weather conditions were varied, sunshine and gentle breezes right around to a gusty force 4 on Sunday afternoon.

Under the guidance of some of Ireland’s top match racers and umpires, they completed two action packed on the water sessions and rounded it off with a closing briefing on the weekend’s racing.

The weekend was thoroughly enjoyed by all of those who took part. Many of the ladies who attended the weekend are keen to continue on in the match racing scene and plans are underway to hold a Women’s Match Racing Nationals later in the year
Published in Match Racing

The National Yacht Club in partnership with the ISA would like to invite women of all ages and all levels of sailing and other water sports to come sailing on Sunday 11th July  from 13.00 - 17.00 hrs.

This is a great opportunity to join fellow female sailors for an  enjoyable afternoon of sailing in the ISA's fleet of eight J80s, beautiful 8 metre long one-design racing  sailboats. We hope to get as many women as possible out sailing on  11th July, followed by a few drinks up in the bar afterwards.

Each J80 will have 4 or 5 crew on board of whom 2 will be experienced  crew who will explain all to those guests on board. Lifejackets or  buoyancy aids will be supplied and are mandatory for all participants  on the water.

If you are keen to join us and sail in the J80s on Sunday 11th, please  contact Pamela Smithwick at [email protected] or Cathy Mac  Aleavey on 0879480801.

Published in Boating Fixtures