girlsforsail at the Heineken Regatta

Sunday, 07 March 2010

All male crews’ heads turn when they see Annie O’Sullivan and her girlsforsail team at the Heineken Regatta. All girls teams have been a part of the Heineken Regatta since 1991, yet even James Bond would be proud of O’Sullivan’s mission and her team of blondes, brunettes and redheads. Their sail number is 1007 and the name of their boat is Diamonds are Forever and they are having fun at the 30th Annual Heineken Regatta.

The girlsforsail Elan 37 arrived in the Caribbean in December. Every week O’Sullivan has another all girl crew join her for an RYA certified sailing course. The Heineken Regatta is a special race-training event for her international crew. The team practiced on Wednesday and used the Commodore’s Cup as their warm up regatta. They are racing the entire Heineken Regatta in the Spinnaker 6 division.

Kirsty Lewis, whose first experience with girlsforsail resulted in a transatlantic crossing, was very complimentary of O’Sullivan’s program, “Annie has an amazing gift of getting everybody to work as a team. No one ever yells. We always stay calm and we have a great time.”

From their early twenties to their mid-forties, women from all walks of life have joined O’Sullivan for this special on the water experience. The women share the responsibility for stowing gear when they return to the dock and getting ready to dock out in time to make the 0730 bridge opening during the Heineken Regatta. “This week we’re using the phrase, ‘act like coiled springs’,” said Lewis. “We’re always ready to spring into action and be as aggressive as terriers.”

O’Sullivan admits that taking out inexperienced crews, especially for the race training activity can be a handful. “I’m grateful that so far this week it has not been as windy as past Heineken Regattas,” said O’Sullivan who was keeping a close eye on the clock as the crew prepared for Day 2 of the Heineken Regatta. Friday’s winds were a joy for the team and Saturday (Day 2) proved to be a little overpowering. So far, the Diamonds are Forever is looking at a score line with a lot of alphabets. No worries, they are having fun and learning a number of skills that will come in handy the next time they are on a boat.

The common theme among the women, whether they are single, married is that sailing is something that they always wanted to try. A week in the Caribbean meeting like-minded people and participating in all of the Heineken Regatta festivities makes for a great learning vacation. Not only does the program promote confidence, it also inspires some, such as Lewis, to think big. “After this week of sailing I’ll be ready to sail bigger boats and eventually take my skippers exam,” said Lewis.

O’Sullivan and her girlsforsail program spends six months in the Caribbean and six months in the UK. The calendar is busy and diverse and there are spaces for charters, cruises, deliveries and regattas.

Lynn Fitzpatrick

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 07 March 2010 )