The first festival was held in September 2019 and was a huge success. Around 50 women gathered at Strangford Lough Yacht Club, from first timers to lifelong sailors.

The festival is open to like-minded women who have been involved in sailing from a young age, as part of the recent Women on Water programmes or completely new.

The Women on Water programme runs at clubs across Northern Ireland and sees women taking part in a four-week programme to learn the basics of sailing, as well as making new friends along the way. It is a low cost programme and is open to women of all abilities.

RYA Northern Ireland’s Active Clubs co-ordinator Lisa McCaffrey explains: “It is exciting to now have the date for the next Women on Water Festival marked firmly in the diary. Last year was an uplifting and inspirational day with women coming together to share memories of their times on the water, and to make new ones.  

“It is a fantastic way for women to try out sailing and to get involved in something which is not only good for physical health but also for mental health and for creating a new social circle with like-minded people.”  

Feedback from last year’s festival was positive, with one participant stating: “Women on Water has been a changing point for me and is an amazing project. I’m heading out today with another Women on Water participant and I’m handing my membership papers into my club. I’m definitely at the start of something new.”  

Lisa McCaffrey comments: “Following the feedback from last year’s festival, there was no option but to run another festival this year and we are looking forward to welcoming new and returning participants.  We have decided to run it over summer so that the participants can return to their local club and get some more sailing done before winter.  

“This programme breaks down many barriers and it is so good to learn about our participant’s stories, we are so glad that Women on Water has been an avenue for them to accomplish their goals.”  

Debbie Nelson from Carrickfergus Sailing Club comments: " CSC and BLS are absolutely delighted to be hosting the 2nd WOW festival.  We have always thoroughly enjoyed past WOW sessions.  This will be a fantastic opportunity for like minded women to get together, experience sailing, meet new friends and most importantly laugh until our tummy’s ache!!"

The Women on Water programme is the first step of the sailing pathway for females in Northern Ireland. Previous graduates are now part of their club committees and some are on the pathway to competing at national and world events.  

There are a number of clubs running Women on Water programmes. For more information contact Lisa.mccaffrey@rya.org.uk