Paving the Way for Women in Sailing

Paving the Way for Women in Sailing

Paving the Way for Women in Sailing ...

... some of the inspirational helms joining the inaugural Irish Sailing Pathfinder Women at the Helm this August.

The Irish Sailing Pathfinder Women at the Helm event encourages women to embrace a role of leadership on the water, and set an example for future female sailors so that helming becomes the norm. Despite boys and girls competing against each other in single-handed dinghies, it’s still uncommon to see women leading their own crew. Yet there are many strong women quietly pursuing their passion for sailing. This new event provides the opportunity to sail alongside some inspiring and influential women such as former Whitbread Ocean Race competitor Angela Heath, and regular Dun Laoghaire helms Jean Mitton and Alison Clarke.

Unusual for a woman

When Jean Mitton of the Royal St George YC started, it was rare to see a woman sailing outside of occasional family outings on the water – it wasn’t unusual for them to be the only female in the crew.  Jean admits that she felt slightly intimidated of helming but this soon changed thanks to her experiences from both racing and delivering boats. Overcoming her initial fear of taking the helm has given Jean more confidence not only on the water, but in her everyday life – she says “Facing challenges while on the boat has given me the full sailing experience and made me confident in my ability to be at the helm." Now after twelve years at the helm, Jean is looking forward to getting back on the water with her crew on her boat “Levana” in August.

Life is like sailing around the world

Angela Heath, who is known for her part in the first all-female team lead by Tracy Edwards to sail around the world in the Whitbread Round the World Race (now the Volvo Ocean Race), shares a similar view of sailing and how it has affected her life. Heath comments that “life is like sailing around the world”, comparing trials in life to storms, hurricanes, or people falling overboard. Her philosophy is that while there may be challenges, “the sun always comes out again and the wind will always shift.” Beyond Angela’s many accomplishments as a sailor, it is her positive outlook on life and her ability to take lessons learned on the water and adapt them to her everyday life that make her a great role model for all women in sport. Angela will be helming the Beneteau 31.7 “Crazy Horse” owned by Frank Heath and Ivan Schuster.

Women are the future of sailing

The goal of the Irish Sailing Pathfinder Women at the Helm event is to encourage women as leaders. Paul Colton (Royal Irish YC) is a firm advocate of the event, stating that “women are the future of sailing – in terms of participation, time and enthusiasm”. Paul is lending his boat “Cri Cri” to one of his regular crew, Alison Clarke, who will lead a team of six women, including two novices. Alison believes it is a good opportunity for women of different levels of sailing to come together and try different positions on the boat. She claims that “sailing has given me a sense of independence and self-reliance, by figuring out how to get out of tough situations on the water. Sailing has taught me things about leadership that you can’t learn in a classroom or from a textbook”.

Inspired to take part ?

For women like Jean, Angela and Alison, helming now comes naturally. By sharing their stories and providing opportunities for women to be the next leaders on the water through events like Irish Sailing Pathfinder Women at the Helm, we hope that women who need that extra bit of encouragement will be inspired to get on the water.

To register go to

Join us for a Q&A with Angela Heath, and showing of the film “Maiden”

To kick off the Irish Sailing Pathfinder Women at the Helm, we’ll be showing the film “Maiden” on Friday 16 August at the National Yacht Club (6.30pm). This award winning documentary is the story of the Tracy Edwards and her all-female crew who competed in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World race. Angela Heath was the only Irish woman and will be doing a Q&A session afterwards. Come and join us !