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Royal Navy women’s sailing team blow opposition out of the water

14 June 2017
An all-female Royal Navy team entered the ninth Dubarry Women’s Open Keelboat Championship for the first time recently.

The Championship was hosted by the Hamble River Sailing Club over the weekend of 3rd and 4th June and saw a record number of competitors battling not only against each other but also against the elements in the Solent. 

Lieutenant Laura Blagden led the all Royal Navy team on the yacht J109, called most appropriately “Jolly Jack Tar”, in six races against nineteen other vessels. 

It was especially gruelling since half the crew had work commitments that saw them return to their jobs at sea on the Monday! 

We had a fantastic weekend sailing on the RN's ultimate racing J109 class yacht “Jolly Jack Tar”, and the precedent has been set for the future of a Women's RN Sailing Team.

PO Alex Pickles

The crew comprised Skipper/Main trimmer - Lieutenant Laura Blagden (HMS Sultan), Helm - Petty Officer Aircraft Controller Alex Pickles (HMS Collingwood), Tactician – Sub Lieutenant Fiona Cook (HMS Collingwood), Trimming Team - Lieutenant Marian Taylor (UK Carrier Strike Group) and Lieutenant Alexandra Harris (Captain Naval Recruiting), Pit/Strings - Lieutenant Katrina Duxbury (HMS Richmond), Spinnaker Trim - Midshipman Coral Crouch (HMS Richmond), Mast/Foredeck - Marine Emma Tavinor (Royal Marines Band Plymouth) and Foredeck – Sub Lieutenant Maddy Win, Royal New Zealand Navy (HMS Sultan).

The first race of the weekend was blessed with a steady ten-knot Westerly breeze and the crew of “Jolly Jack Tar” used it to their full advantage, speeding around the course and pulling away from the pack to claim first place. 

Unfortunately the wind then increased to a gusty twenty to twenty-five knots for the next two races which caused issues with the sails, meaning Lt Blagden and her crew lost the lead but finished a respectable fourth overall in their class at the end of the first day.

Day two offered South-Westerly winds, slightly less strong but steadier than on the previous day, making for some entertaining sailing in all the races.

“Jolly Jack Tar” avoided the drama provided by some of the other boats colliding in the challenging conditions, but still fought fearlessly against two other boats “Jack Black” and “Chimp”, resulting in third and fourth place finishes respectively.

The women’s impressive determination, teamwork and experience came to the fore in the last race which saw them charge to the front of the pack, opening up a tremendous lead to finish in first position.

With the final results calculated, Lt Blagden and her crew claimed their place on the podium in third position – an inspiring achievement which surely sees their goal of winning the Services prize in 2018 well within their grasp.

After their amazing success, PO Alex Pickles commented, “We had a fantastic weekend sailing on the RN's ultimate racing J109 class yacht “Jolly Jack Tar”, and the precedent has been set for the future of a Women's RN Sailing Team.

This boat doesn't take part in these events without help from a team of people to help prepare her, a big thank you to our shore support, Leading Hand Simon McGee and Chief Petty Officer Joe Henry, the boat maintenance team/manager and the support of Warrant Officer Mark Durkin, Rear Commodore Offshore Sailing.”

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