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World Sailing’s open days for women are a big success around the world

Out of chaos came direction – and World Sailing encouraged women to take the helm in a post-pandemic movement that continues to make an impact at grassroots levels, worldwide. The biannual Steering the Course festival was hosted at the end of May, and will be hosted again at the beginning of October. Both festivals help launch the respective sailing seasons by encouraging and supporting women to join and thrive in the sailing community.

Steering the Course was born from the World Sailing Trust’s Strategic Review into Women in Sailing and its associated recommendations. Recommendation #4 was “Increasing participation and creating space for women to compete” and World Sailing heeded the call to create a movement that would inspire action around the globe.

The international festival was launched off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately provided a strong opportunity to focus locally and kickstart grassroots movements for more women in sailing. While many of the World Sailing Member National Authorities (MNAs) already had their own initiatives in place, the collective Steering the Course Festival provided connection, community, and inspiration from countries all around the world.

Main picture: World Sailing’s first female coach developers. One key goal of the organisation’s new Steering the Course initiative is for women and girls to know there is a path they can take from participation to other areas such as coaching, instructing, administration and race officiating

Since the festival’s launch in 2021, 38 different countries have participated with their own unique activities, and this number continues to increase year over year. In 2023, new countries joined the movement – Estonia, Papua New Guinea, Malta and Morocco – which proves that Steering the Course is headed in the right direction.

‘With the support we could provide, we then hoped to empower programmes, clubs and MNAs to run and deliver activities to suit them, in their areas. We found the range of activities completed incredible, with each participant taking ownership of the activities and seeing some amazing results,’says Catherine Duncan, World Sailing’s training and development executive.

The results are outstanding. Chile saw the participation in their Women’s Nautical Festival increase by more than 50 per cent from 2022 to 2023. St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently held a Women’s Coaching Course to train a group of new women instructors. This then led to 22 new sailors being introduced to the sport through their Steering the Course Vincy Try Sailing event, and a first regatta run solely by women.

‘This has a real lasting impact in a country, where there is now a model of sustainable coaching and race management. World Sailing’s impact will also be if women and girls know there is a path they can take from participation to other areas such as coaching, instructing, administration and race officiating,’ says Duncan.

While all host countries have taken creative freedom and a local application of their ‘Steering the Course ‘ events, the most popular events and formatting has been the open days, also known as Try Sailing. The National Sailing Academy in Antigua reported that they had so many subscribers in 2021, more open sail days needed to be added, and then eventually the NSA started running a weekly women’s session based on demand.

Try Sailing events and opportunities are not only impactful for entry-level and grassroots initiatives, but also successful models for performance sailing. This year at Foiling Week, event organisers teamed up with international sailing charity, The Magenta Project, to offer Try Foiling opportunities to rising female talent in top foiling boats at the event: from WASZPs and ETFs to 69Fs. These higher-level foiling experiences help build talent and confidence in female foilers so that they can reach the top of our sport.

Learn more about Steering the Course on the World Sailing website, and join them and The Magenta Project in the collective mission to make sailing a more inclusive sport. Support The Magenta Project’s worldwide career development programmes for more equity and inclusion by liking, following or donating to the cause @themagentaproj.

Click here for more information on The Magenta Project »

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