Most sports around the world are segregated by sex. There are women’s teams and men’s teams, women’s competitions and men’s competitions. Never the twain shall meet appears to be the unwritten rule in sports, however, that’s not true for all sports and in the case of sailing, it is a sport where men and women can compete equally.
In Phuket a group of ladies are breaking boundaries in this male-dominated sport and leading by example. From varied backgrounds, and of different nationalities, these ladies have created an all-female sailing team that goes by the name “Farrgo Ladies” and more are treading new ground holding important positions in yacht charter, race management and regatta ownership. Duncan talks to these inspiring women who are breaking the mould, empowering themselves and others, and redefining Phuket (and Thailand’s) sailing scene.
Kanyarat Jones Owner, Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek Tell us how you came to own Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek? I am the Managing Director of a media and broadcast company in Phuket called Phuket FM Radio, and that company has been involved in some form or other in a number of Phuket-based events. I believe Phuket truly is a water sports destination and the radio’s plan is to own and organise niche events that fit the overall strategic plan. Phuket Raceweek is an established and very well run event and was 10 years old when the opportunity came along to purchase it in 2012. Since then I and the rest of the team have worked hard promoting the event both in Thailand and overseas, and in 2016 we achieved the largest entry on record of both boats and overseas participants.
As a female regatta owner, what have been the challenges? Understanding completely the needs of the participants, meeting and getting to know over 500 new friends whilst developing the social and online presence of the event to facilitate smooth and efficient boat registration and accommodation booking. All this has been accomplished
while continuing to promote Phuket, Phuket Raceweek and the fantastic beachside location at Cape Panwa Hotel to
potential participants and their families. Sailing is a male-dominated sport, being one of very few females involved in the sport what is the secret to your success? Having plenty of men around me to do whatever is needed to get done.
Julie Crompton General Manager, Sailescapes Yacht Charter What is it like sailing with an all-female crew and what are the highlights? Sailing with the Farrgo Ladies team in Phuket is firstly about having fun, and of course sailing past all male crews is good as well! The first race we did together at Phuket Yacht Club was memorable as was winning the club series after nine races, but for me entering our first full regatta which was Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek was the most nerve wracking of all, the real highlight was finishing third overall which was a nice way to announce our arrival. What are the challenges for a woman in the sport of sailing? Even though great strides have been made by lady sailors with the likes of Dame Ellen MacArthur at the top of the sport, there is still a long way to go with events like the America’s Cup and even regatta racing being very much male dominated. Even at regatta level there are very good women sailors but they are still very much in the minority. Part of the problem is if you are new to sailing, male or female, the first jobs you are given are the bits that require quite a lot of strength and a view that more muscles make better crew. Women bring another dimension, we are calmer on the water and not as pumped full of testosterone so when things go wrong, and they do, there tends to be not as much swearing and shouting. You also run the yacht charter business Sailescapes, tell us about what that entails? My very grand job title is General Manager of Sailescapes Yacht Charter here in Phuket and also Pattaya and Krabi. We have 12 yachts of our own that we operate but also act as an agency for over 70 other yachts. My job is oversee the enquiries and make sure our clients are looked after for all their wants and needs from pickup to them being on the yacht with everything they asked for. I also have to make regular checks to ensure both our yachts and the yachts we represent are constantly maintained to the highest standard possible. It is quite hectic at times and unfortunately keeps me off the water more than I would like!
Susann Keck Race Management and Assistant Measurer How did you get into race management? By accident. A friend took me to the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta in 2013 where I met Kae Wattana and we got along so well that I went to Samui for the Samui Regatta the year after. This is where/ when I met Simon James who is the Race Officer at many of the regattas around this area. After that I was invited back for other regattas and that’s what I have been doing ever since. With not many women working in this field, explain what are the challenges to getting into it and what are the challenges in doing the job? Well I got into it by accident so I would say it is a kind of “right place at the right time” thing or you need to know someone who is already involved in the sport and can get you into it. I think a huge challenge is that people don’t take you seriously as long as they don’t know you (especially sailors).
And of course for some people you are just a woman and you don’t have a clue anyway. What is needed to encourage more women to take up the sport of sailing? I believe that promoting sailing as a sport in primary schools would be an excellent way to start. Providing sponsorship for female sailing programmes (particularly learn-to-sail programmes) would also be an excellent way to get more girls sailing. Sailing can be an expensive sport; both excellent male and female sailors often miss out on big opportunities as they may not have the financial ability to compete on a larger scale. Starting girls sailing young is a great way to help them possibly discover their talent and passion for the sport. For women, the organisation of “ladies night” at local sailing clubs can be a fun incentive to get more women interested in sailing. Some sailing clubs around the world have already started promoting this, which is excellent to see
June Carwardine Foredeck, Asia Catamarans Hurricane Why do you enjoy sailing? Sailing has many facades; it can be a sport, an adventure, a social get together, a lifestyle and/or a combination of the above. I enjoy them all. The racing side of sailing is exciting, physical and challenging and great for fostering mateship amongst those you race with, and against. I particularly like racing on the big boats where a large team sails and socialises together. We live in a fantastic part of the world with tropical waters and many beautiful islands at our doorstep so the cruising side compliments well. My most memorable night skies, sunrise and sunsets have been witnessed whilst cruising. Socialising is also very much a part of my sailing world, whether racing or cruising. One does not own a 12m catamaran in these parts without having a crew to race it
hard, friends to take out cruising or a pile of people partying. It is very comfortable under sail and gives non sailors a taste of what it is like to be involved in this sport and lifestyle. What is it like to be part of the crew of Asia catamarans Hurricane? What are the challenges of being a female on board? Firstly, it is comfortable, as the core team has been sailing together for years. We know each other as friends, on and off the water and respect each other and the specific role each one plays in racing the boat to its optimum. I run the foredeck team on the boat and strive to do what is expected of my position. I don’t see any specific challenges on board our boat relating to the fact that I am female. I sail with fellow sailors who respect me for my abilities and would hope I get the same acceptance crewing with other sailors on other boats. It is a mixed sport for both sexes and all ages. In a male dominated sport, what is needed to attract more women into sailing? We need to promote and encourage more girls to jump in a dinghy and go mucking around on small boats with fellow sailors. Let them grow in confidence and learn to take on both helming and crewing and the fundamentals of sailing from an early age.
School sailing programmes have a big role to play here. If we seriously want to encourage women into the sport let’s give them meaningful roles and mentor them in the key aspects of sailing. Encourage them to crew on all sorts of sailing boats with all sorts of skippers and crew line ups. Granted, not everyone wants to learn tactics and race around the buoys. Women may want to become confident social sailors who can jump on a boat and lend a hand when and where needed. There are many sailing courses available that teach basic seamanship and sailing. Join up with a local sailing club and start to network with those in the know. Clubs generally have local race days which are very social and accommodating to include new people into the sport.