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#ThisGirlCan - Ladies Who Launch

January 26, 2015

District nurse Fiona Gibson, a member of Ullswater Yacht Club, is delighted to join Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign which aims to encourage women to take part in sports activities.

Fiona, 50, who only learned to sail in 2013, won the Endeavour Trophy after taking part in a series of ‘Ladies Who Launch’ sessions at the club last season.

Throughout 2014, a total of 25 members of all ages took part in ten Saturday morning sessions aimed at getting women on the water with no pressure and no formal instruction.

“The idea behind the sessions is to offer something for the ladies in the club who have spent years supporting partners and children who enjoy sailing. Now it’s their turn,” explained experienced sailor Anne Noble, of Brougham, near Penrith, who organises the sessions with fellow instructor Julie Archer.

Some ladies own their own boats but those who don’t are able to use various types of boats both single and multi-handed owned by Ullswater Sailing School based at the club.

“We have been grateful for the equipment which has been a contribution to the success of these sociable, fun, supportive, sailing sessions. Everyone helps in what way they can,” said Anne.

The ladies celebrated the final session of their second enjoyable season with tea, cake and the presentation of the Endeavour Trophy, a brass anchor donated by Julie Archer.

“All the ladies were worthy contestants, but in the end it was award to Fiona,” said Anne Noble. “Fiona who sails a Laser, has such an infectious enthusiasm, so much so that this year her husband Paul and son Toby have learnt to sail and have their own boats.”

Fiona lives in Heads Nook, near Carlisle, with her husband and two teenage sons and works three days a week for St Paul's Medical Practice in Carlisle. She said: “I was thrilled to be presented with the trophy… but really all the Ladies Who Launch deserve it for getting out there and having a go.”

Fiona explained how she became a sailing trophy winner: “I got into sailing after my friend Karen Smith invited me to the open day at the club. We had a taster session and heard about the new sailing school offering learn to sail courses without you having to own a boat. I had always had an interest in sailing and sailed once or twice on the Thames when we lived in London.

 “I had breast cancer and mastectomy in 2012 and it has given me more of a ‘no time like the present attitude’.” 

Her other interests are horse riding, road cycling - she completed the Coast to Coast bike ride in 2011 - and fell walking. She has almost climbed all the Wainwrights, with three to go.

She was the first student at Ullswater Sailing School when it launched, completing her RYA levels 1 and 2 in a Pico. Her instructor was Karen’s son Matthew who is one of a team of young people who learned to sail at Ullswater and are now passing their love of the sport on through Ullswater Sailing School.

“I absolutely loved it and was completely hooked. I was disappointed I had learned to sail so late in the season, but I did go out a couple of times with the Ladies Who Launch. It wasn't long before Spring 2014 came and the season started again. Karen kindly lent me an old Topper that had been her children's when they were young and so my husband Paul, son Toby,16, and I signed up for a family membership. Paul and Toby have both been learning to sail at the club and we have all started racing.

“The Ladies Who Launch group has been such a great idea, Anne Noble and Julie Archer who run it have been fantastic, teaching, advising, supporting, encouraging, us all to do whatever we want to do with no pressure or expectation. Our numbers have increased week on week and more ladies are getting onto the water even those who didn't think they wanted to! We have lots of fun and several of us have started racing in the afternoon.   “I have found the club to be really friendly and there are always people willing to help you. It is in the most beautiful setting, sometimes it is hard to concentrate on the sailing as I am too busy admiring the fells. We are looking forward to next season as we now own a boat each. I have recently got a Laser and I know I am going to have lots of fun sailing it.”

Ladies Who Launch are looking forward to their third season on and off the water in 2015. Dates are already in the busy UYC sailing calendar with the first Saturday morning session on May 2.

Ullswater Yacht Club welcomes new members, both experienced and novices, of all ages and offers sailing courses through the Ullswater Sailing School. For more details visit ullswateryachtclub.org and ullswatersailingschool.org or contact 01768 486333.