A group of about 50 women took to the water on Sunday 3rd April to try their hands at sailing the ISA SailFleet J80 keelboats for an afternoon as part of the ISA Women on the Water (WOW) initiative.

There was an air of excitement and anticipation at the Docks from noon onwards as all our Lady Helms were briefed by Emma McGroarty, the Senior Keelboat Instructor for the day. The crew all assembled with their helms and in turn received their briefing. We were all assigned a boat and in turn were ferried out to the J80s with our goodie bags. A special thanks to Johnny Murphy of Galway Bay Sailing Club for putting his social life on hold and getting up at 5am on Sunday morning to arrange to have all boats to the ready and outside of the Dock gates before they closed. Johnny also provided rescue cover along with Niall McLoughlin of Galway Bay Sailing Club and ensured that each boat arrived safely back to their berths in the Docks on Sunday evening. Thanks lads! You really looked after us well.

Weather conditions were excellent for sailing with winds force 5 gusting to force 6 and a little overwhelming for both the novices and non-sailors at times. Winds were south westerly veering westerly and about 17 knots.  However, our helms and more experienced lady sailors remained calm and in turn kept us calm. Things were going great. The sun shone, the wind was great with the main sail reefed. We had great views of the city and at times a very close up view of the lighthouse at Leverates! We did lots of tacking and adjusting of the main sail. Our very confident and competent helm then decided it was time for us to move out of what was now our comfort zone. It was time to introduce our furling foresail/jib. This now involved extra work and it certainly added power and speed to the boat. Also at this point the wind was picking up and the swell further out on the Bay began to rise and we were tackling huge waves. Needless to say, at this point we had to work harder, there was no time to have tea or a kit kat and we were now getting wet as well. After a little gentle persuasion and what seemed like forever, our helm made the decision to drop the foresail/jib and go back to just using the main sail which was reefed from the start. We returned to our comfort zone and so again we happily sailed around the bay until we received our instructions to sail back into the Harbour with swirling winds and into standing water, we manoeuvred the boats back into their berths on the marina with the assistance of Johnny and Niall.

We were greeted to teas and coffees, cakes, biscuits and lots of treats all supplied by Astrid Comerford who is the Galway Bay Sailing Club PRO and who was the overall organiser of our WOW day. It was the best de-brief ever. Special thanks to Astrid who put so much work into organising what was a fabulous day on the Bay. Also, we all received Green Dragon polo shirts thanks to Johnny Murphy. So in all we had a ball, there was huge camaraderie, fantastic teamwork and no shouting!! Thanks again to Astrid, Emma Johnny and Niall and all our Lady Helms for looking after so well.
Here’s to the next WOW event perhaps in Alicante!

Deirdre McHugh

Photos courtesy of Galway Independent Boyd Challenger
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