QCYC’S webinar kicks off sailing program for women

Victoria: Here at Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club (QCYC), under the helm of a new Chair, Lee Renfree, we don’t shy from asking ourselves the tough questions and putting in the hard yards to achieve real change.

We aim to be the change we want to see in the world of life on the water. We walk the walk, talk the talk, and sail the boat.

And when it comes to sailing boats and expanding a membership it didn’t take Einstein to figure out as a club, a growth opportunity was staring us in the face.

One word – women.

Commodore Lee Renfree's boat PipeDream moored at QCYC's wharf at sunset.
Commodore Lee Renfree’s boat PipeDream moored at QCYC’s wharf.

What would it take to get more women involved, more women racing, cruising, becoming an active part of our vibrant community; what would it take to get more women curious about boats?

And from this the KISS Program (Keelboat Introduction for Sailing Savvy) was born. KISS is a program designed by women for women. Comprising of six webinars, one hands on radio workshop and a Passage Race or Rally Option, KISS aims to propel women from being passive passengers towards the opportunities to become active participants running the boat.

It’s a simple equation – KISS is where sea knowledge = boat empowerment

And how do we aim to accomplish such a transformation? Via an inclusive environment of education, ideas, and experience exchange.

With the KISS program direction and online platform supported by a grant from The Change Our Game program from the Victorian Office for Women in Sport and Recreation, KISS kicked off on May 17.

The first program has found 24 women signing up, ready to learn and expand their knowledge, representing 11 clubs around Port Phillip with 7 boats already committed for the Passage Race / Rally event on 30 July.

The key theme of Webinar One – ‘Facing Your Fears’ – was led by Commodore Lee Renfree with six panellists from newbies to experienced female sailors sharing their journeys and offering inspiring take home tips.

Leading off, Ocean Racing Club of Victoria marketing and events volunteer, Delma Dunoon questioned “To go or not to go?” Her answer? “Get more involved and see what’s coming so (you’re) informed and have a voice in the decision making.”

Hobsons Bay Yacht Club sailor and ORCV Secretary Edel Doyle followed with, “Perseverance pays off. As a sail trainer, I strongly recommend that all sailors complete formal training to give you the confidence that you are doing things properly. Racing is not the best environment to learn in.”

“I have found my tribe!” was the catchcry from Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron’s Narelle ‘Nelly’ Kudnig. “To have a go is the way to go,” Kudnig said. “For my family, sailing has become a lifestyle – life and work revolves around it. I look forward to my days on the water where I learn more each time and make new friends and nurture existing friendships”.

Robyn Brooke from Sandringham Yacht Club, veteran ocean racer, who declared years ago after being shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef “that no man is going to put me on the rocks again”. “Sea Survival and Safety (SSSC) training is not just about disaster but gaining skills, confidence, trust in the team. A must do even if you never leave the bay. The experience will teach you so much about preparation and prevention of mishap,” Brooke said.

Catherine North(third from the right) with her all female crew aboard DuXelle.
Catherine North(third from the right) with her all female crew aboard DuXelle.

And then from boat owners. Catherine North, owner of X-yacht Duxelle from Royal Yacht Club of Victoria – “I want to enable more women in this sport, love that we can compete on the same level as the boys, great to participate in something where gender doesn’t matter. I believe there are huge benefits to mental health when a group of us are solving problems that we may normally step back from. Sailing success is more a matter of doing things smarter, not just with brute strength. It is empowering.”

Out of ‘No Man’s Land’, owner, skipper, coach Sal Balharrie concluded, “I am passionate about getting more women involved in the world’s greatest team sport. I am involved in the KISS program because I believe in being the change I want to see.”

It was an inspiring engaging and diverse journey through the possibilities and opportunities to dream and live the dream, while offering a roadmap to make boat dreams achievable.

The second KISS webinar takes place on Tuesday 21 June with the topic ‘Personal and Boat Preparation’ a guide to what you need to know to be safe and prepared on the water.

Three female boat owners will present with QCYC Commodore Lee Renfree back at the helm with Sal Balharrie and Catherine North sharing their vast and varied experiences.

It’s not too late to be involved! For further information about the KISS program and the KISS Webinar schedule on the QCYC website. If you have any further queries, email us at kiss@qcyc.org.au. COME ON GIVE IT A GO!

By Sal Balharrie, KISS media

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