WOW – Top tips to get women on the water

The percentage of female club members in the Midlands grew from 33% last year to 36% last year. But that still means 64% of regular sailors in our region are male. So how do we get this closer to 50-50?

More clubs are running female-focused programmes, and one of these, Manor Park SC added 14 regulars to their club sessions last year after running a successful Women on the Water project, part-funded by their County Sport Partnership. You can read all about that project here – This Girl Can As Sailing Delivers ‘Wow’ Factor At Manor Park.

Are you running or could you organise activities to encourage more women to get afloat this season?

Emma Dodd, Manor Park’s female participation lead, said: “I’d say to clubs it’s definitely worth considering. We increased our profile, introduced a lot of people to the sport and a good percentage stayed with us for the season. All this from free advertising using local papers, village email groups and Facebook sites.”

Here are Manor Park’s top tips to getting women on the water.

Don’t assume anything

Before we ran last year’s project I didn’t consider a women’s-only focus would make any difference. I was wrong! Some women saw it as a way of ticking off that ‘once in a lifetime’ experience and others saw it as a means off exploring a new sport/pastime.

There were clear benefits of groups starting from scratch at the same time and everyone learning together, both in practical delivery and the women having a ready-made network to provide encouragement and motivation. Many came in small groups or pairs to begin with, showing the importance of social support.

Think about your age group

We specifically targeted women over 40, but particularly those aged 50-60 who were doing less than 30 minutes activity a week. While sailing may not be the first activity inactive women think of when looking to increase their activity levels, as most of our WOWs were over 40, this project has shown this is an age group interested in doing something different.

Understand what women want

We found learning new skills and group camaraderie were the biggest motivators for women to sail regularly, but shift patterns were the biggest barrier to regular participation.

Ensuring a familiar face can do meet and greets for each session is important, as is grouping new sailors together, looking at buddy systems with more experienced sailors and getting the group to explore what they want to do and what support they may need.

We need to look at if there are other groups we should focus on this year, and we will again run a flexible training system to give the women options to use different sessions so shift patterns shouldn’t be a barrier.

* This is a useful research document produced by Women In Sport with Sport England – Understanding Women’s Lives

Look at what you’ve already got

There are plenty of women who already come to clubs and don’t sail that could be considered ‘low hanging fruit’. This year we aren’t running a specific women’s project rather encouraging ‘patio’ participants – mums and partners who sit and watch their youngsters and other halves sail – to take part in our Push The Boat Out Open Day. Because we are also focusing on consolidating what we did last year, they will see more women on the water, and we know from experience now women often need reassurance they can do it too.


Manor Park joined Rudyard Lake, Rutland and Carsington in running notable female participation projects last year. It was these case studies that formed the focus of the ‘Growing Female Membership And Activity at Your Club’ workshop, run by Midlands Sailing Development Officer Tricia Ordsmith, at the Affiliated Clubs Conference in November. If you weren’t able to make the conference or that session you can check out the slides here – Growing Female Membership And Activity at Your Club

This story is from the RYA.

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