Samarkand participating in the 2018 MHYC Women's Regatta. Photo credit Ben Williams, Spot-a-Yacht
Samarkand participating in the 2018 MHYC Women's Regatta. Photo credit Ben Williams, Spot-a-Yacht

Growing participation at MHYC’s inaugural Women’s Regatta held on Sunday, May 6, 2018

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About Middle Harbour Yacht Club

Middle Harbour Yacht Club (MHYC) lies on the shore of The Spit, some 7 km’s North of Sydney’s CBD.

With a membership of 1600, MHYC is one of Australia’s largest yacht clubs, and recognised as a national leader in sail training and associated education programs.

At the highest level of competition in the sport, MHYC members and their boats have continued a tradition of excellence, winning most of Australia’s top events and brining home many international honours.

Supporting Women in Sailing

Women are often considered an underrepresented segment in the yachting community. According to Australian Sailing’s 2017 National Sailing Participation Census, just under 30% of sailing participants are women.

In order to grow the number of women participating in sailing events at MHYC, the Sailing Committee created a new position for a Women’s Keelboat Representative, and a number of new female-focused sailing programs were launched in the 2017/18 season.

The purpose of these programs is to encourage and support more women to participate in keelboat racing through opportunities to learn and get involved in a supportive environment.

The Challenge

After successfully integrating a Women’s Keelboat division into the 2017/18 twilight sailing season and trialling some new Women’s sailing and racing training programs, Deborah Dalziel, the newly appointed Women’s Keelboat Representative, and the sailing office wanted to leverage the energy and momentum from these programs by hosting an end-of-season Women’s Regatta.

The goal was to host this event before the annual Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta in June, so it could also be used as a training opportunity for teams heading to Melbourne for this event. With limited dates available, a proposed date of Sunday, May 6 was locked in, leaving the team with only 6 weeks to plan, promote and hold the event.

“As this was our inaugural event and we had limited time to plan, it was hard to determine how many entries we were likely to receive,” explained Deborah.

“We knew that locking in entries, with conflicting sailing schedules and at late notice, was going to be difficult. Our goal was to get 15 entrants for this first event.”

MySail Event Page - Featured Race MySail Event Page - MHYC Women's Regatta

Regatta Planning & Promotion

The team, comprised of the Sailing Office staff and Women’s Keelboat Representative, had to quickly pull together a plan, budget and prize sponsorship for the regatta.

They decided to trial a one-day regatta format, consisting of two windward-leeward races and a short passage race. This was aimed to make it easier for people with other family, social and work commitments to attend, while still providing enough racing and variety to constitute a regatta.

“I was determined to get female participation in all areas of the event,” stated David Staley, MHYC Sailing Manager. “We were very pleased to get experienced female Race Officer (RO) Elaine Fowler as the regatta’s RO, as well as female volunteers and staff involved in all on-water and off-water event planning and execution.”

To promote the event, the team had to get the word out fast so interested parties could lock the dates in their calendar and put together a crew.

Deborah explained: “I knew we had to tap into all available channels to make this happen.”

“Communication was sent out to MHYC members through the weekly newsletter, social media and the website. We also sent materials about the event to local clubs, encouraging them to promote the event to their members.”

MySail was used as a key channel to promote the event and to provide a pool of available crew, so anyone who was interested to enter but struggling to fill their yacht, could find the crew they needed to race.

With a featured event page on MySail and cross promotion through the MySail newsletter and social media channels, 20 interested crew quickly put their names down to participate in the MHYC Women’s Regatta.

This cross-promotion helped further promote the event and secure interest from new entrants, as well as increased crew participation.

“We were determined that everyone who wanted to be involved, would be,” stated Deborah.

“Through the club, we had sent communication to all entrants, advising them to get in touch with the interested crew on MySail, if they needed any more crew to join their team.”

“Before the event I also sent a communication directly to the crew through MySail, advising anyone who was still looking for a spot, to get in touch.”

“Once the yachts were all fully crewed, anyone still interested to attend was offered a volunteer position with RO Elaine on the start boat. This provided a great learning opportunity for new sailors and made sure our volunteer requirements were met.”

“I’m happy to say that, as far as I’m aware, no one missed out,” added Deborah.

The Result

The inaugural MHYC Women’s Regatta was a huge success, attracting 22 entrants representing 7 different yacht clubs.

Luckily, the weather mostly cooperated, with a beautiful warm sunny autumn day. The light variable winds created a challenge for the on-water team and competitors, but they still managed to get racing in and provide a great event.

After racing, most of the teams went back to MHYC for a beach party and prize giving. As well as a great vibe and end to the day’s racing, this also provided another revenue opportunity for the club through food and beverage service.

Key Points

  • Regatta planned and executed with 6 weeks lead time.
  • 22 entrants secured – total entries exceeded goal by almost 50%.
  • 7 Yacht Clubs represented.
  • Crewing or volunteer positions secured for all interested participates.