Women Take the Helm in Galway Bay
History is at the heart of the Galway Hooker Sailing Club (GHSC) who are committed to the preservation of our maritime heritage. They’re also paving the way in women’s participation, with attracting female members to the club and getting them out on the water. Irish Sailing asked them to share some of what they’d done.
The club started in 2019 and last year women numbered 61 out of a total 107 members. The high female participation in what was predominantly a male arena is not accidental. The club welcomes anyone with or without sailing experience as long as they have an interest in the boats and are willing to make a contribution at some level towards their use and preservation. For many, their first practical experience is in the workshop sanding, caulking, varnishing and painting an old boat to make it fit for the sea again. It’s here that members learn from master craftsmen how hookers are built. While the work can be hard it presents an opportunity for members to get to know each other. The thrill of launching a restored boat and learning how to sail further strengthens the sense of community.
Currently the club has 14 skippers, 5 of whom are women, and it is prioritising the upskilling of competent crew to this level. Club secretary Tina Concannon says,
‘There is an abundance of skill and competence among the crew and the focus now should be on building confidence on the water and on upskilling in boat maintenance and woodworking’.
The temporary presence of the Irish Sailing Hawk boats on the Corrib last September presented an opportunity to enrol 5 women in a group of 8 into an Instructor training programme. Those 5 women are now qualified instructors and will go onto sharing their knowledge and skills to increase women sailing participation further in Galway Bay. One of those women is Aideen Kelly, from the 2022 Women in Sailing Mentor initiative.
“I am delighted to see the mentorship has really made a difference, not only to Aideen, but to her club and the many other girls and women that will now be going through their training scheme with Aideen and the other instructors at the helm.” - Gail MacAllister, Women in Sailing
‘It’s really cool that other sea-faring folk occasionally are surprised when they see an all-female crew…it’s great to see that our club is at the forefront in promoting female participation. We look forward to continuing to contribute to sailing in Ireland’. - Club Commodore Ciaran Oliver