Women's only regatta sets sail for Newcastle Harbour

EMPOWERING: Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club sailors Sarah Gamble and Mary Holley are looking forward to the first She Sails Regatta on Newcastle Harbour on July 22.

EMPOWERING: Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club sailors Sarah Gamble and Mary Holley are looking forward to the first She Sails Regatta on Newcastle Harbour on July 22.

Mary Holley and Jan Howard have 30 Sydney to Hobart races between them.

Now they are sharing their love and knowledge of sailing with other women and have been the driving force between the first She Sails Regatta on Newcastle Harbour on July 22.

The inaugural women only regatta will comprise a minimum of eight races, contested by six five-person crews on Force 24 class keelboats between the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club marina and Honeysuckle.

Ms Holley, 64, and Ms Howard, 66, started running weekly sailing sessions for women out of the Wickham club around eight years ago and were keen to offer something more in the form of what they hope will become and annual regatta.

”At first we just wanted to encourage women to come down and join and sail in an environment that is a little more friendly,” Ms Holley said.

“That is what linked in with what Jan and I had been doing by putting together a women’s sailing group about eight years ago.

“We got to a stage where we had a lot of women, they had some really good skills, they’d gone through the course and their skills had developed, so we thought we’d have a women’s regatta.

“The aim of the regatta is to put everybody on a boat and distribute the skills across the six boats, so that there are no hot-shot boats.”

One Newcastle woman who has reaped the benefits of joining the club is 49-year-old Sarah Gamble.

“I sailed out of school for a couple of years in Sydney and then I got married and my life took a different path,” Ms Gamble said.

“My twins are now 18 this year, and a couple of years ago I thought I just needed to do something for myself and thought I’d give sailing ago.

“I love it. I like that it’s different every time you go out, which makes it challenging and you learn something new every time. And Jan and Mary are fabulous mentors.”

Ms Gamble said she also found it to be “empowering”.

“When they get out on the harbour, they forget about everything else, they become totally immersed in the experience on the water and in making this little boat go,” Ms Howard said.

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