Gillian Williams: A woman on a mission for other women in sailing
A goal to increase female participation in sailing is kick-started with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s first Women’s Day Out; a showcase of what’s ahead for our club.
A new era is on the horizon for RNZYS as Gillian Williams navigates the opportunity to become the club’s first female Commodore in one years’ time; meanwhile the club embarks on an ambitious journey to re-shape what it offers for women.
Gillian’s focus on inclusivity was reaffirmed at the RNZYS’ inaugural Women’s Day Out earlier this month, in which over 200 women participated in a day of yacht racing and connecting with like-minded female sailors and advocates. As a mum, lawyer and skilled sailor with decades of success stories to match, Gillian is poised to be a key influencer for culture change at New Zealand’s leading yacht club.
“This event is just the start of our journey to create a community and pathway for the future, where RNZYS can be known for not only producing world class sailors, but for also being inclusive and open to change,” said Gillian.
Decided in consultation with the RNZYS’ Sailing Committee and implemented with support from RNZYS’ first female General Manager Sarah Wiblin, the club has changed the offer for women sailing. While maintaining the competitive women’s sprint racing that the club is renowned for, this season will see the re-introduction of a harbour course and options for beginners to participate in a more supportive and social environment.
“The success of the Women’s Day Out is proof that we are on the right path, and the women that participated showcased our potential in this space – I can’t wait to see what the year ahead brings” she concludes.
In one years’ time when she is expected to become commodore, Gillian has laid her intentions to assist with positive change to secure the future of the club, and to emerge stronger for next generation of sailors. Part of that journey includes the use of imagery that represents our future and telling more stories of women achieving success in the sport; whether that be measured by races won or by friendships and memories made.
At the Women’s Day Out, all participants were invited to have their portrait taken straight after sailing, still in sailing gear, to show the real faces and diversity of women in the sport. Incidentally, the images show the pure joy experienced by participants on the day.
“The portraits of these women are inspiring, the excitement, passion and enthusiasm they bought to the event made it a great success and we can’t wait to host the Women Day out again in 2024”.
The Women’s Day Out 2024 is scheduled for August 24th, and based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the first event, will follow a similar format. Supported with thanks to Mastercard and Barfoot & Thompson, early bird registration is now available online here.