eSailing....not just for the boys!

19 May 20

“Before lockdown we had around 350-400 daily users but that figures has gone through the roof since lockdown was introduced with around 40,000 players logging in each day”, commented Thomas Gauthier, Virtual Regatta Product Manager.

However of the 600,000 user’s worldwide (6,000 UK users) only around 14% are women. So how can we get more women online and enjoying all the action eSailing has to offer?

We caught up with Saskia Sills, British Sailing Team RS:X windsurfer and Nicola Stockdale, Commodore of Debdale Outdoor Activity Club, to hear about their eSailing experiences and find out their top tips for online success.

How long have you been eSailing and why did you get involved?

Saskia – I started eSailing at the start of the lockdown. Our coach Barrie organises a get together every other day with our windsurfing team mates. We do three races and a medal race. We also have a zoom chat alongside so that we can all chat to each other which is great for learning off each other and discussing tactical and strategic scenarios that play out in the race. We’re all pretty competitive and want to win so there’s naturally a lot of banter too which is good fun.

Nicola - I have been eSailing on and off for over a year now! I first discovered it at the RYA Dinghy Show last year and I actually couldn’t believe that I hadn’t known a game like that existed! I’m an avid gamer both on mobile and other platforms and so this was a perfect game for me to try out.

What are your top tips for getting started?

Nicola - At first I was absolutely terrible at the game, and I found that I was fiddling around with it way too much at the start. A top tip for people who first play is: less is more! Use the buttons on the bottom right to help you, they can do a lot of the work whilst you come to understand the game. Once you’re an expert at that, then you can start to use the controls more manually to see if you can boost your performance.

Saskia - Speak to other people that are doing it well and spend a little bit of time on it. It does get easier once you learn the boat handling and general themes of the game and use your coins(!!). I spent some time doing starts over and over again so that I stopped being OCS on go which really helped me.

How does it differ to being on the water and what things are similar?

Saskia - It’s pretty different to being on the water - there’s no ‘real’ wind, waves and cold water for a start. I’ve also found that it takes a lot less time to get better at. However the tactics and strategy are really similar and it’s a great tool to be able to see scenarios play out slower and from another perspective. I think the shifts are quite realistic too so it’s good to be able to see what happens to the rest of the fleet in the wind shifts.

I find the start gun sound pretty realistic too which is nice because it reminds me of being out on the water racing. I really like that you can change the boat too. For us windsurfers we have a big range in speed and so sometimes we use the J70s which would replicate 10 knots and below and then we can use the 49er or Nacra to replicate 10 knots and above. 

Nicola - I’m not a racer, but the game really helped to introduce the main concepts of racing to me, whilst off the water, like starting lines and what makes a good start (it can make or break your game, just like a race in real life), and racing tactics and how to use them to your advantage (this is used a bit more in team racing than normal racing but it is still good knowledge to have).

Would you encourage other women to get involved and start playing?

Saskia – I’m not one to play online games at all but I have really enjoyed learning this game because I can see that it can help my racing. I really like that it’s keeping me engaged with the tactical and strategic side of racing especially when there isn’t anything that comes closer to replicating it on land.

Don’t be intimidated when there are really good people. It just means that they’ve practiced more than you. I used a username that nobody would know it was me unless I told them so that I can race freely without expectation from others..! I like that we have an opportunity to race against guys. See it as a challenge not something that stops you from playing.

Nicola - It would be great to have a women’s friendly league to get everyone into it, welcoming everyone, young and old, experienced or not! From that you can then develop more competitive players and move them upwards, and just let the social players just play for fun!

Why do you think women are put off playing?

Nicola - Sailing and racing is daunting for anyone, but adding in a gaming aspect is generally a bit tougher for women. I study Digital Media at the University of Leeds and funnily enough I am currently studying a module about Video Games. One big thing that holds women back is the fear of failure and embarrassment when competing against others. As gaming has been ‘male oriented’ for such a long time, it can put a lot of women off. However, the way the Virtual Regatta has been made means that it is such a simple game, that doesn’t require too much interaction between players, making it more welcoming and much more comfortable to play!

How often do you play?

Saskia – I play every other day with the windsurfers and sometimes I play at 9pm. One of our BST team mates has set up a league at 9pm every night which is really popular with the whole sailing community. It’s difficult to get into the racing then once you’re in it’s then really tricky racing which I find fun but also very frustrating sometimes!

If I’m running low on coins I try to win some back by doing the other practice races in the game so that I have enough for the windsurfing racing. We also had a BST championships which was great. It was really cool to be able to race against my other team mates from different classes.

Nicola - As Commodore of a Sailing Club, when it was announced that we could have VIP for our club, I was super excited - I had already been looking into using it for our club. We now have a Facebook group that is growing in members of players who compete at least once a week, and we will be starting formal racing soon for the eSailing Spring Club Championship. Personally I play a lot more often than that, just taking part in a lot of races to pass the time and have a bit of fun.

Why do you think eSailing is a good idea?

Saskia - It’s a good tool to stay engaged with racing when we can’t go on the water at the moment. For me it’s also a great way to stay in touch with my team mates throughout this time. It’s quite fun to see your friends or people you know in the same race as you if you know their username! 

Nicola - eSailing is a great idea for those who are really missing the water! There is never any substitute for the feeling of being out on a boat, but it does manage to fill that little hole during this trying period that we are in. I really hope that even once we are allowed back on the water, that people still use Virtual Regatta, and I know that I will be using it as a resource when it comes to teaching at my club.

As lockdown restrictions are eased, we are sure that eSailing will continue to be a fantastic way to have some racing off the water fun with friends and fellow club members.

So what are you waiting for ladies? Get online today and start showing off your gaming and sailing skills.

To find out more about eSailing, details on how to get started and lots of great videos visit the RYA eSailing hub page.