Two new trophies are on the line at the annual Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta from 23-26 January this year. The Yachting New Zealand SheSails NZ Top Female Helm Open Racing and Top Female Helm Island Racing trophies will be awarded to the highest-scoring boat with a female helmsperson in each of the regatta’s two division types.
The new awards will celebrate and promote the achievements of female sailors in the regatta, says Bay of Islands Sailing Week spokesperson Helen Horrocks. It’s hoped this will help boost female participation in the event, and encourage more women to take on the role of helmsperson.
The regatta has joined forces with Yachting New Zealand’s SheSails NZ initiative, becoming the naming sponsors for the new trophies. This collaboration aligns with the national governing body’s strategy to champion and encourage the participation of women and girls in sailing.
“We’re really pleased to be able to work with Yachting New Zealand to boost female participation in yacht racing at the highest levels”, says Horrocks. “It’s something that’s really important to both YNZ and Bay of Islands Sailing Week, and we look forward to seeing more women take up the helm in the regatta and competing for these new trophies.”
Horrocks says the regatta has witnessed a significant increase in the number of female sailors participating within the last few years.
“There aren’t many boats taking part these days that wouldn’t have at least one female crew member”, says Horrocks.
“We’re also seeing a lot more women taking the helm, and all-female crews taking part too.”
Last year an all-female team from Whangarei Cruising Club took part in the regatta, despite most of them being relatively new to keelboat racing. Rum Jungle – an Elliott 6.5 trailer sailor purchased by WCC to help more of their female members progress from dinghy sailing to keelboat racing – will be back again for the 2024 regatta, racing with the Island Racing fleet.
“The Island Racing divisions are a great option for anyone less experienced or confident at yacht racing”, says Horrocks.
“These divisions do one longer race each day, so there’s only one start to worry about, and there are often long stretches between race marks and sail changes, so it’s less stressful racing than the Open Racing divisions which do three races each day, including windward leewards.”
There are strong female contenders within the Open Racing fleets too. Mikayla Plaw – skipper of the Melges 40 Sassinate – helmed her boat to victory in last year’s regatta, taking line honours for the series in B Division, and second place on PHRF. While in the E division, Waikawa Women’s Regatta winner Claudia Pierce will be hoping for another win, this time at the helm of Laser SB20 Spider Pig.
Bay of Islands Sailing Week begins with Registration on Tuesday 23 January and concludes on Friday 26 January. Over 100 boats are expected to take part in the event, which is now in its 22nd year. The event is made possible with the support of its sponsors North Sails, Explore and Otehei Bay, Mount Gay Rum, Gurit, Bay of Islands Marina, Pub Charity, and Grassroots Trust, as well as over 60 volunteers and community members who bring the event to life each year.