Feedback, ideas and boats – 2023 Sia Partners Women at the Helm
The sailors at this year’s Sia Partners Irish Sailing Women at the Helm were asked for a little more than the usual feedback. Now we have three events under our belt, we wanted to take stock and hear directly from participants on what they really want from the event and the broader Irish Sailing Take the Helm programme.
Let’s start with the participation stats first, to give you an idea of who was at the event. 67% of participants were female and the highest age profile was 45+. We saw a great turn out from the east coast clubs with National Yacht Club, Royal St George and Royal Irish with the most entries.
When asked to rate the event, 88% of people stated it was a good or excellent event. 70% would be interested in taking part in regional women’s events and training in the future. This feedback is extremely valuable and we can see that supporting training regional events would be worth investigating as feeder events to the main event.
We wanted to know if the participants felt their leadership and goal setting benefited and we can see a positive impact, but not monumental, so we know this is an area we can work more on.
The event kicked off with an open panel talk the Friday night before racing. The panel was made up of five experienced sailors from different backgrounds sharing the challenges they have experienced, goal setting plans and some truly open and honest accounts of their sailing adventures. This was received as inspiring and fantastic, though some would have preferred it was on the Saturday night so more people would attend.
Feed back like “Super day! I’ll be back.” sums up the overall atmosphere of the event. And feedback on lack of white sail category, request for more prizes, avoiding event clashing and cost were all shared and will be taken into account for 2023 onwards.
2023’s Women at the Helm
Looking ahead to next year: there were a number of suggestions and ideas, and some split of opinion (for example, 58% want to keep Women at the Helm to a 2 day event and 42% recommending a 1 day).
There were requests for IRC from more experienced sailors and for a main champion helm prize to recognise the best scored helm at the event, alongside the need to ensure non IRC boats and white sail boats are catered for. More prizes, food on Sunday are all easy fixes. A request to avoid clashing with other events is always difficult, though we hope to have the 2023 dates published soon and that the success of the event means that classes will see the Women at the Helm date as a priority in a women’s sailing calendar and avoid if at all possible.
The number of dinghy entries was extremely low this year, so we had to cancel the dinghy course and recommend those entrants stepped on board keelboats. There is a definite interest in the dinghies being involved, so we certainly hope that we can encourage them to enter in 2023.
Irish Sailing are taking all the feedback and ideas onboard and we have put together a working group of sailors to create an event that gives you the competition, an opportunity to stretch and have the mighty fun we all love to experience.
The Bigger Picture
Irish Sailing want to give you the opportunity to have national representation in women’s sailing, give competition with inclusion, give encouragement and recognition for your achievements, help you progress in your skills sets and offer you support.
One big barrier is boats. Boat ownership amongst women is low and participation in events like this can be difficult as a result. If you have any input or ideas on how we can help, encourage or support women to have access to boats through rental, share or ownership please share your ideas with Gail on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be sending out a survey soon on women sailing participation and boat ownership which we hope you will embrace and complete to help us help grow our sport.
Watch this space for 2023 dates, and we hope you will all talk to your fellow sailors and ask them to mark the event in their calendars to make next year an event to remember.