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Ocean Elements 2018

South Wales launch of Only Girls Afloat in Cardiff Bay

by Hamish Stuart, RYA Cymru-Wales 29 Sep 2017 20:46 BST 29 September 2017

Around 30 women and girls helped launch a new scheme in South Wales to increase female participation in watersports.

They enjoyed the chance to try dinghy sailing, yachting and powerboating around Cardiff Bay as part of the new RYA Cymru Wales scheme designed to help clubs and training centres get more women and girls out on the water.

"Only Girls Afloat is a participation programme run by RYA Cymru Wales to inspire our clubs and training centres to get women and girls on the water taking part more often," explained RYA Cymru Wales national development officer Ruth Iliffe.

"There are loads of people there who could be volunteers, instructors, or just taking part on a regular basis.

"It is a tool clubs and centres can use in a number of different ways. It can be there to activate and inspire members they have got already, but also it can be used to help them gain more members by running open days, taster sessions that are female specific.

"We want to get as many women and girls out on the water taking part in sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, yachting, because it's great.

"This is the South Wales launch, we have already launched in North and West Wales, so we are really excited to see so many women from different clubs and centres here.

"They can hear more about the programme, but also get out on the water, enjoy some time together and chat about how they get more women and girls out taking part."

The Wales-wide scheme, run by RYA Cymru Wales and funded by Sport Wales, is aimed at getting women and girls into sailing, windsurfing, powerboating and personal watercraft (jet skis), through working with RYA affiliated clubs and training centres.

South Wales Only Girls Afloat ambassador Sian Reynolds added, "Sailing is an amazing sport and it knows no gender boundaries.

"You can do any role and it is such a great team sport or individual sport, there is no reason for women not to do it.

"I was talking to two girls who have just been out on sailing boats and a powerboat, and they love it – their faces just light up. I think that is the most important thing, that people enjoy the sport and have access to it.

"Yacht clubs are very inclusive communities, if you come down then there are people who will help you. We share a passion with each other and are happy to help other people share that."

There is a different emphasis teaching women to sail, according to Only Girls Afloat instructor Amy Harrison Wakelin.

"The difference with instructing women, they instantly want to work together as a team," she said.

"Everybody has their own strengths, I think when women come together as a group they are really good at supporting each other in those areas and they are so keen to get it right.

"They will get taught, really think it through, go out and want to achieve the goal. They like to prove they can do it just as well as the men. "The women and girls I instruct are fun, motivated to learn new skills and there is always laughter."

Female membership of sailing clubs is reasonably high, but it is always an area that can be improved according to Iliffe.

"The response has been really, really positive. A lot of the clubs see it as a tool to inspire people and to make the sport more accessible," she said.

"Our clubs are very good at having female members, around 38 per cent within our clubs – however not all those women sail on a regular basis, they are often found doing the administration so it would be better if we could get them on the start line or just getting out there and having fun.

"Sailing is a sport for life, so lots of the women here have had children or something else happen in life - but want to get back out there."

For further details about Welsh sailing and watersports, please go to http://www.rya.org.uk/rya-regions/rya-cymru-wales or https://www.facebook.com/RYACymruWales or follow on Twitter. You can also keep up to date by following RYA Cymru Wales on Instagram.