The third annual Bay of Islands WOW (Women on Water) was their biggest yet, with 33 women sailors, eight boats and a gale.
WOW is about giving women sailors an opportunity to stretch their sailing skills in a safe and fun environment. It’s not a race, regatta or learn-to-sail lesson, just a participation experience.
The 33 women ranged in age from 13 to 60, developed new skills, extended their competence, and had fun. As one participant summed it up: “I really loved the weekend and learned so much. Great bunch of women.”
The weekend commenced on the Friday night at the Opua Cruising Club for the customary briefing, which is also a key social event.
Each sailor caught up with old friends and met new ones as they filled their ‘bingo’ card with names. Sailors had to find the name of participants for fun facts such as those who know what a sextant is to those who had never slept on a boat before.
The weather forecast and passage planning for the weekend was also discussed at the briefing.
The dock was buzzing on Saturday morning. Gear was loaded and the forecast consulted again. Boat briefings continued and safety gear was issued.
The fleet then cast off with a strong wind warning in place and had a challenging sail out to Kent passage. There was plenty of on-the-wind work and a few port and starboard crossings.
It was good to see sailors developing skills and confidence. For some, it was the first time they had helmed, for others they stepped up to skippering and making the decisions aboard.
The fleet anchored just before the passage for a late lunch. Unfortunately, the weather warning was upgraded to a gale and the decision was made to head back to Opua.
Everyone enjoyed another fun sail, through the Kent Passage around the black rocks and down the Veronica Channel to Opua.
Skippers and crews had to concentrate hard to avoid accidental gybes, and everyone made it safely back as the breeze continued to build.
Boats then picked up moorings in the basin as the sun went down and everyone headed ashore for a shared meal with plenty of delicious food, lots of great stories and a fun prizegiving.
Sleeping aboard, it was a rough night and the participants woke to heavy rain and high winds. While the front was due to pass by early afternoon, a decision was made to conclude the sailing for the weekend.
Everyone offloaded in the wind and rain and sailors headed home. There was some great dinghy management and control skills as the conditions weren’t easy.
The sun came out late afternoon, when a final toast was made and everyone was happily exhausted from another wonderful Women on Water weekend.
Thanks to Burnsco for the spot prizes and to Opua Cruising Club for the hospitality. The next WOW weekend is scheduled for May 2021.