News / Women's Championship


Women’s Article


Join us on the 20th and 21st May for the first Merlin Rocket Women’s specific training and racing. The aim of the weekend is to provide an environment for our female sailors to build their confidence in a merlin and to attract other females into our class.

This event hasn’t appeared from nowhere, its’s evolved as part of our discussion on the committee and our goal to be the ‘Leading the future of dinghy racing, providing high quality racing for everyone whilst preserving the class for the next generation.’

What have our ladies achieved in the past?

Salcombe week has always proved a happy hunting ground for female crews – the first being Mrs R Fowler in 1961, followed by Mrs Brown, Helen Harris and Sue Harris. Sue has won the week three times crewing for husband John, only matched by Pippa Taylor (now Kilsby) crewing for Dave Winder.

1948 was the first time a female gets in the top 10 at a National Championships. Lady Avebury was second. It was a while until 1970 when Jilly Henderson, now Blake, came tenth. In 1992 Jennie King (crewing Phill King in 3471 ‘Savage’ was the first female to win and get the City of Plymouth Trophy as well as the Minima Cup. That year we had two females in the top 6. Wendy Jackson finished 6th crewing for her dad Alan Jackson in 3459 ‘About Time’. Alan will be known to many as Chipstow Boats!

Since then, female crews have regularly featured in the top 6. Sally Townsend was the second female to win overall and in fact in 2002 there were 4 female crews in the top 6! But what of our female helms?

Merlin Rocket sailing runs in families as you will understand from the names mentioned above, just like it did for perhaps onf the classes most successful female helms. Her father sailed Merlin 553 at

Midland Sailing Club and she is currently on her 6th Merlin. We are of course talking about Judith

Massey. In 2003, 2008 and 2011 Judith Massey finished 9th at each of these National

Championships, finishing 3rd place in the final race (the Silent World Trophy) with Dave Dobrijevic

(Bosnia) in 2008. It took 10 years for this achievement to be beaten by Caroline Croft in 2021 at North Berwick finishing 8th with her partner Chris Gould. Judith very much led the way for female helms in the class, also winning Silver Tiller events and can recall at least three race wins in Salcombe.

During the time Judith travelled the circuit she was very much in the minority as a female helm, which is why it was fantastic that in 2022 we had a record number of female helms at the Aspire National Championships. It was also good to see a women be crowned National Champion once more. Rachel Rhodes (now Gray) is the first Lady to win the championships in 20 years, prior to that is was Jane Calvert who won back in 2002 with Mike sailing Unfinished Business 3549.

Jenny Dodds is another successful female regularly sailing at the front of the fleet at Salcombe Week, with a number of race wins to her name. Sophie Mackley also a well known helm in the class has a number of top 3 race finishes to her name.

Another huge milestone in 2022 was for an all-female lockout of the fleet prizes on Day two for

Salcombe week. Jemma Horwood and Nicola Bass won Bronze fleet, Lucy Harridge and Andrea Downham took the Silver fleet win and Caroline Croft and Faye Chatterton triumphantly took their first Salcombe Week bullet. Our women are also seen regularly at the front with nine sailors of the top 10 helm/crews at Salcombe Week being female. We have a fantastic range of talent from our female sailors in our fleet and now it’s time to encourage more!

Lymington Town Sailing Club will host this event for us on the 20th to 21st May 2023. The plan for the weekend is a day of training on Saturday coached by some of our top sailors. If you want an environment to develop your crewing or helming skills and build your confidence on the water, this is a great opportunity to get involved. After a full day on the water, the club will be putting on a meal with the plan of having a relaxed debrief and discussion with videos from the day and any questions you may have for our coaches or other female sailors attending.

Sunday will be our first Women’s Championships. A number of races will be organised with the option of asking the coaches questions in between races. It would be fantastic to get as many all female crews out on the water as possible, however we are aware people may feel more comfortable with their more regular helms. So gentleman you are encouraged to get involved and get out on the water.  

For all of you who own a Merlin, I would encourage you at first to try and find a female helm for the event in your boat or a female crew, this is after all the Women’s Training and Championship weekend!

Save the date and join in the fun 20th and 21st May 2023.

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