Women on the Water

by Coral Payne | photo by Janice Tremblay – 

We are so privileged to live on this beautiful Peninsula surrounded by water! Looking at the water is one thing, but have you ever stood on the shore and longed to be out there on a sailboat? There are many local opportunities for all levels of women sailors to get out on the water.

If you are thinking of taking up this amazing sport, a good place to start is to sign up for some hands-on lessons. Many yacht clubs offer learn to sail classes, and some even cater to women sailors. Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club (SNSYC) has a couple of options for this summer. On offer is a two-day weekend course on one of the larger club boats, focusing on the basics of sailing (how to rig a boat; how to stay safe on the water; general terminology and knots; and the fundamentals of the theory of sailing). Another course takes place on three consecutive Saturdays and is geared towards building a base of sailing knowledge. Women will go out on the smaller boats in pairs and get hands-on experience with boat handling techniques and an introduction to reading the winds and currents. Visit their website for more information (https://sidneynorthsaanichyachtclub.wildapricot.org/) or email manager@snsyc.ca

If you have some sailing experience and are interested in racing, here are a few tips to get you started. SNSYC has a vibrant racing scene and skippers are usually on the lookout for new crew. Contact the Race Captain at racing-captain@snsyc.ca to get your name on the crew bank list. Be honest about your level of experience and be clear about what kind of a team you would like to join.

Once you find a boat to go out on, be a good crew member. Show up on time; be reliable (skippers love consistent and dedicated crew); be a good listener and a fast learner; remember how the skipper likes his boat rigged; be observant; and always, always bring good snacks to share.

One of the advantages of living on the West Coast is that we can race all winter long, so having the right gear is imperative. Some race days we are out on the water for five to six hours and we can get hit with all kinds of weather. Wind (hopefully), rain (pretty much guaranteed), sun (a bonus) and yes, even the odd snow flurry. The key is to layer it up and be ready for every kind of weather. A good set of thermal underwear, warm pants and a fleece jacket or wool sweater and waterproof overpants and jacket are the basics. Avoid cotton and down at all costs (they both absorb and retain water). A good windproof hat, sunscreen and a quality pair of UV protection sunglasses are also a must. Buying and maintaining a good lifejacket ensures that your safety is in your control. Non-marking, non-skid, waterproof footwear is also a must. Make sure you have water and food and snacks enough to take care of yourself – something that you can put in a pocket, hold in one hand and consume on the fly. Well hydrated and fueled up crew are the happiest and safest.

Whether you are just starting out or are itching to challenge yourself on a racing sailboat, there is room for everyone in this amazing sport. Hope to see you out on the water, my sailing sisters! PS – if you are an avid woman racer looking for a ride – get in touch! Coral Payne, skipper of Prairie Sun – coralpayne@shaw.ca.

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