420 sailing in dun laoghaire

Girl Power Team Work Is Thriving

Teenage girls are loving sailing together … And are loving sailing FAST

I was recently strolling down Dun Laoghaire pier watching the 420 teenage sailors and noticed that 50% of the teenage sailors were female. Sport Ireland statistics show the number of girls in sport reduce as they reach their teenage years, yet here was a class of boat that has a thriving female participation.

They were speeding across the harbour, hanging out on the trapeze with the salt water spraying in their faces and smiles from ear to ear. It was impressive to see their strength and determination, so I just had to take a stroll round the boat yard while they were rigging the next morning and ask a few of them how they started sailing and what made them tick out there. Gail MacAllister

“It makes me feel powerful”

“I love the power of being in control of the boat” 13 year old Isabella Irwin tells me. Her sailing partner Olivia Curé said “I love beating other people and when I don’t do so well it makes me more determined for next time.” Both girls sail from Galway Bay Sailing Club and they moved from single handed sailing Optimists to double handed sailing because they like the company, but most of all, they enjoy working as a team for decision making and problems solving.

“2 Minds are better than one”

Two sailors from Wexford, Rhianna Deas aged 16 and Sarah Jones aged 15, have also recently moved from single handed sailing. Rhianna started sailing when she was 13 in a Topper and Sarah started in Optimists at the young age of 6. Joining the 420 class to compete in the regional racing events in 2018 is a new challenge for the both. Why did they choose double handed sailing? “We both wanted to learn trapeze and spinnaker for the Irish Sailing certification.” Says Rhianna. Sarah tells us “2 minds are better than one, the teamwork is great and you are not lonely out there.”  They both love the speed and performance of 420 sailing. Rhianna and Sarah plan to swap their roles of helm and crew when racing, so they both learn new skills.

“Smokin along”

Gemma McDowell 17 and Emma Gallagher 16 sail as a team out of Malahide. Gemma told us “Sailing with someone is more fun, I have company and it is great to share successes and problems. On really windy days we encourage and support eachother. I race for fun and I feel free when we do well.” Emma shared  “On windy days we are smokin along and it is a completely different mindset to life on land.”

Big Sister on the Helm

It was good to see a mixed team too, Siofra Collins aged 16 enjoys the challenge and skill of helming with her brother Rory, aged 14, as crew.  So what is it like sailing with your brother? “It is easy to communicate because we understand eachother and we can talk tactics over breakfast.”  Rory says “When we capsize it is like pressing the reset button on any previous disputes and brings us back together again J.”


Leinster coaching organiser and class secretary, Michelle Halpenny, was a 420 sailor herself and now her two daughters are out sailing. Michelle tells us “The 420 has to be the best teenage boat because the spinnaker & trapeze work need teamwork and this is valuable lessons for life.”

If you are interested in teenage Double Handed Sailing there are a few boats to choose from  – 420, Mirror, RS200, 29er, GP14, RS Feva, Topaz and many other double and multi hand dinghies with mixed age groups racing and cruising. Take a look here for links to all the Irish Sailing affiliated classes https://www.sailing.ie/racing/classes/ . Many of the classes have association boats that sailors to try out, so drop them an email to see when you can get out and give it a try.

420 sailing from David McDowell (3)  Siofra and RoryOlivia and Isabella