Tuesday, October 8, 2013
For several years Exe Sailing club has sought to widen its appeal to a bigger cross section of sailors and with a view to encouraging more ladies, the changing rooms were extended several years ago and a series of afternoons called ‘Girls go Sailing’ were held throughout the summer months, writes Rex Frost.
For these, the then club coach, Jen Miller acted as safety boat crew and organised the group for a supervised sail up the river, or conducted some skills coaching as needed. This year in parallel with that, a yachting initiative advertised as a ‘crew training’ weekend, was held at the beginning of the season. Four yachts were made available for crew training and after basic shore safety briefs, sailing drills were conducted out in the bay. The days were received enthusiastically by the members and resulted in more members joining the cruiser fleet and a significant increase in girls. Several of the boats then had one third of their crew as female during the summer and a significant representation at key times like Dartmouth Regatta.
Last year, the J80 Jammin, entered the World Championship with an all girl crew and competed in a very breezy set of races. This year their helm Donna Best unfortunately broke her leg and their season was reduced rather significantly. The annual Damsel Race is an occasion where all the cruisers are helmed by ladies and last year Jammin completed with their four girl crew. Determined to do better this year, the First 31.7 Exehibitionist appeared on the course with an all-girl crew of eight. The Torbay Channel week saw six yachts off to Brittany with Jess Blick joining Electra as crew and Vela Fresca having two-thirds of the crew as ladies.
Dartmouth Regatta is a focus for the end of season competition and five boats competed this year. Exehib managed to have two girls and Electra had three or four, Speculator 2 had one and Red Fox one. Two ladies guest crewed for another club and Caragh Martineau was offered a crew spot in a yacht from the Solent.
Girls go Yachting was a new offering in September and was received well, having a waiting list for the first outing and enthusiastic reports from those who sailed. Unfortunately, the second date was cancelled due to thunderstorms and mist.
Victoria Upton has been working her way up the junior, RS Feva Zone squad with attendances at meetings all over the South and was recently awarded a commendation for most improved and dedicated helm this season.
Significantly juniors have begun to appear in the other club fleets as well, with George Melbourne, Charlie King and Josh Geare (amongst others) regularly turning out in their Lasers to race in the main handicap class on Wednesdays. They and others like Ellie Geare, Harry Douglas, Freddie Jones, Shaun Spring and the Nicholson brothers have also jumped into cruisers and are regularly making up a good percentage of the crew for a number of boats.
All this bodes well for the future of Exe SC and we hope to report in the future again on how well the sport has responded to the needs of the younger and less traditional participants in our part of the river.