It is always good to learn from experience and even better when it comes from fellow Club members. So when Abby Ehler returned from competing with Team Brunel in the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race she volunteered to host a panel discussion, using her skills not only as an elite sailor, but as a founder member of The Magenta Project to bring together a group to discuss women in sailing and the challenges they face, while “inspiring generations of female racing sailors”.
Hannah Snellgrove is a Club member, who used her drive and perseverance to crowd fund a campaign to sail her Laser radial at international level. Her excellent results at recent regattas has led to her selection to the British Sailing Team.
Jenny Bennett is also a Club member, has sailed across the Atlantic multiple times. She explained the different ways the Club is supporting sailing and challenged the audience to test their limits. She wanted to illustrate through her own experiences how meeting new challenges can bring enormous rewards.
Anne-Marijcke Van Boxtel was on the panel due to her work as a psychologist with Team Brunel, where she helped the sailors explore their feelings, behaviour and expectations as individuals and then how to work as a team. She explained single sex teams can be successful, but when a mixed team can work collaboratively they can be greater still. True understanding, respect and empathy can be hard to achieve, but it is worth striving for to unlock the full potential of the team and each individual involved.
Dee Caffari MBE arrived with minutes to spare, but with her passion for the sport intact and with quotes such as “my favourite sailing is the Southern Ocean, it’s the best sailing can get, as well as the worst”. She recounted her response to feeling intimidated during skippers briefing on the Volvo Ocean Race as the only female skipper and how she had to address her own insecurities to allow her to effectively lead the crew of Turn the Tide on Plastic.
The Solent Room was packed with women aged from 7yrs to 70+yrs, including industry veterans and novice sailors. Perhaps the best testament to the evening is in this feedback.… “such an inspiring evening. We were particularly pleased to see not only a full house, but so many youngsters and hope they were equally inspired. There were so few role models when we were growing up.”
And from Hannah, “…it always means a huge amount to me if I can positively affect other sailors in some small way. I’m just a sailor who loves to sail! (who tries to make sure she eats her sandwiches and minds her head!!)”.
This event was always to positively encourage women to sail, to allow them to celebrate female sailing in a supportive atmosphere and to be inspired by female role models. The discussion included the issues of diversity and collaboration, ideas that for the next generation are not such a great leap, and not exclusive to sailing. This event has caused much comment and discussion within the Club and on social media, allowing these concepts to be explored not only within LTSC, but in the light of World Sailing Council decisions. I think progress is being made.
To watch a video of the event please click here.
Rear Commodore House