The #SteeringThe Course festival is focussing on inspirational women participating in sailing, whether it is on the water, or off, but who are playing their part in getting people involved in sailing.
Vicky shares her story with World Sailing/RYA Cymru;
“I came from a non-sporty, non-sailing family and was introduced into sailing by a friend in my late teens, who I sailed for fun with on a few occassions. At that time I was actively competing in Dragon Boat Racing (which I really loved) and really enjoyed being on the water but sailing was completely new and a bit outside my comfort zone. My first sailing experiences were all about being an extra body onboard and just having a go. A few years later my husband (who had been a competitive sailor) bought a 41ft boat and I learnt the basics of sailing, learning the ropes and becoming a competent pair of hands.
A few years later I had the opportunity to jump onboard a Challenge 72, an ex round-the-world racing yacht (now known as Challenge Wales) and knowing how sailing might not always be or feel that accessible and that it can really develop social, communication and teamwork skills, I became a Board Member of the Challenge Wales sail training charity. A charity that uses sailing to inspire and develop young people to achieve their potential. Giving young people the opportunity to sail Challenge Wales and now our second vessel Adventure Wales has enabled some to take a career into the sailing world, for others it has enabled a career into the marine world, for others it has enabled them to feel positive about themselves and motivated them that anything can be possible.
Initially, I was not just a board member but a volunteer crew on many of the voyages but as I was hands-on with helping the new charity develop I stepped back from crewing to enable me to also meet all the people who were jumping onboard, bring in funding and recruit volunteer crew. Now as we head into our 12th year of operation I am amazed how far Challenge Wales has grown. The charity has sailed with thousands of young people jumping onboard, we have 100 volunteers as positive role models, our innovative sail training programme has received recognition within the industry and youth work sector and we even represented Wales at the Queens Jubilee Pageant in London in 2012.
In 2019 we piloted a couple of Ladies Only Sailing Days and a Sea and Tell programme which brings our sailing activities and sea-safety to younger children who can explore our boats in a safe way.
Being outdoors on the water is great for your mental health and connecting with nature and I am passionate about sustainability and environmental issues particularly microplastics (unfortunately) so it’s great that I can do this and learn through sailing and more importantly share my enthusiasm with others. I am one of those people that if I see an opportunity I grab it with both hands and will also encourage others to do the same. I hope for those who haven’t started sailing when they were really young realise there are still opportunities for getting involved out there.
Challenge Wales offers sailing opportunities for adults as well as young people. The charity works with young people aged 12 – 25 years but other activities the charity does means those aged 18 – 80 can also come sailing, volunteer as crew or get involved behind the scenes to enable more young people to have the opportunity.