Women aviators earn their wings on water


A record number of aviators took part in a women-only learn-to-sail day in Canberra this month, as overall women’s participation in the sport grows.

More than 30 aviators got their sea legs in the Air Force Sailing Association sponsored event, held at the Canberra Yacht Club on February 4.

Many, like Flying Officer Paris Gavenlock, had never set foot on a yacht before.

“It was a lot of fun, but challenging,” the Air Force Headquarters legal officer said.

“They gave us about three days of theory compressed to 30 minutes.

“When we got out there, the yacht club was right beside us on a motor boat giving advice and tips.”

The challenge of learning new skills was rewarding and friendships made on the water will keep her coming back.

“I was really fortunate to meet some really lovely women and I plan on keeping in touch,” Flying Officer Gavenlock said.

It was the fifth time Defence personnel had taken part in a Canberra Yacht Club SheSails event.

Sailing Association President Group Captain Sean Ahern said word of mouth among groups such as women’s network WINGS was one of the reasons for the great turnout.

That’s how Flying Officer Gavenlock heard about SheSails.

When a workmate involved with WINGS asked her to go, she thought ‘why not?’

It speaks to a trend of rising participation among women since SheSails was introduced in 2018.

SheSails is a national initiative held at clubs across the country to introduce more women to sailing.

Peak body Sailing Australia wants 50 per cent women’s participation by the next decade and SheSails is one of the strategies bringing more women to the sport.

For Flying Officer Gavenlock, it was a good introduction to the sport and more sailing is on the horizon.

“There’s a Defence regatta in March I’m considering attending,” she said.

“You can be a complete novice and still take part, which makes those types of events really appealing to complete beginners like me.”

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