A recent survey has shown the number of females actively participating in watersports is on the rise1. Often perceived as a male-dominated activity, we’re seeing more and more women take to the water, proving sailing and windsurfing really is for everyone.

Joining your local club and learning or relearning to sail, is a brilliant way to get active, challenge yourself, meet like-minded people and most importantly of all, have a lot of fun!

The RYA’s Push the Boat Out (PTBO) campaign returns this May, offering free or low cost sailing and windsurfing taster sessions across the UK. Why not find out what’s on near you and give it a go?

A sense of achievement

From setting foot in a boat for the first time, to becoming an integral leader at her local club, Vicky Collins has had a rapid transition at Pagham Yacht Club. She commented: “Back in spring 2016 my girls brought home yet another bit of paper from school, our local club were having a ‘try sailing’ day - could they go? It was free, local and sounded fun - so off we went with a couple of friends.”

“All the children had fun and got wet whilst we watched and half wished we were also having a go. We signed the kids up and spent a fun summer watching them learn to sail whilst getting to grips with our new kayaks - first step on the midlife crisis!”

Fast forward and the whole family had now become fully integrated club members. After a year learning to sail, helping out around the club and taking on various RYA courses, Vicky took on a new level of responsibility as ‘Rear Commodore Sailing’.“2018 was a whirlwind of learning. I bought boats, produced a sailing calendar, and learned a lot about organising people and events. In between race duties and helping our youth captain shape our young sailors, I got a bit of time out on the water in club boats, experienced my first capsize and learned to trust my instincts,” explains Vicky.

“I’ve gone from a warm weather beach walker, to out on the water in all weathers! What joining has really brought though, is a sense of achievement, community, resourcefulness, determination and pride - those qualities stay when the wetsuit comes off and are completely reflected by all my sailors from 8-80. Do I recommend joining your local club? Yes, 100% yes.” 

A new chapter

Having lost her husband the year before and given up her job in London, Karen Corley discovered a love of sailing, and a new passion for life after trying the sport for the first time at a PTBO event in 2016.

"I was completely lost and lacking in confidence," she recalls. "But everyone at the club was really friendly and made me feel very welcome. I went out in a Pico dinghy with someone, it was a fairly brisk wind, so we got a bit wet, but I really enjoyed it and had a fabulous day."

It would be the start of a whole new chapter for Karen, who turns 60 this year. She joined the club and learnt how to sail, progressing to dinghy racing and crewing on yachts, and is now in training as a crew member for the Australia-China leg of the 2019-20 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

As a semi-retired freelance consultant, Karen says she is very much sailing on a shoestring but has nevertheless found the sport extremely accessible: "With dinghy sailing especially you don’t have to spend lots of money to do it, and if you want to go yacht sailing, lots of people want crew all the time."

Karen enjoys the independence and decision-making of sailing her one-person Topper dinghy and by contrast, the teamwork of sailing bigger boats as a crew for the club's cruiser-racing fleet of yachts. She refers to the club as her second home but says her three grown up children would argue it's her first home!She concluded: "Sailing is now a huge part of my life and I love being out in the elements. I like to challenge myself and go out in quite lively winds, that’s part of the fun, and I enjoy learning new things. Once you're out in a boat on the water, you have to focus on what you’re doing, so you're just transported somewhere else - it's another world."

Try sailing in May

The RYA’s Push the Boat Out (PTBO) campaign returns this May, with more than 390 venues across the UK offering free or low cost, sailing and windsurfing taster sessions.

The national participation campaign aims to get more people on-the-water, having fun and getting active outdoors. All ages and abilities are welcome, with opportunities for children, families, beginners and lapsed sailors, as well as those with disabilities or special requirements for getting out on-the-water.

Last year, more than 39,000 people across the UK attended a PTBO open day, inspiring thousands of new sailors to join their local club.

Find out more about the RYA Push the Boat Out campaign and events near you at www.rya.org.uk/ptbo.

1. Watersports Participation Survey 2018 - conducted annually by a consortium of leading marine bodies including British Marine, Royal Yachting Association (RYA), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), British Canoeing (BC) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). An executive summary of the report is available here.