Women’s History Month – The Royal Navy Offshore Sailing Team

Storyline: Sailing

The women of the Royal Navy Offshore Sailing Association have made history on multiple occasions, both for the Royal Navy and globally in offshore sailing.

In 2018, the Royal Navy entered the Inter Services Offshore Regatta with one of the team’s yachts skippered by Lt Cdr Laura Blagden. The event consisted of three races with the teams travelling from Portsmouth to Plymouth and then back to Portsmouth. The Royal Navy were crowned overall champions and made history with the first time that a woman skipper had ever won the overall race.

Building on their achievement in the same year, the Royal Navy team entered an all women crew to the Women’s Open Keel Boat Championships in the Solent for the first time in history. This was a huge step for Royal Navy Sailing as just ten years prior, it was rare to see a woman on the team at all.

Part of that Keel Boat crew was CPO Alex Pickles who has been a member of the Royal Navy Sailing Association for eighteen years and has long championed women in sailing. In 2018, Alex made her own personal historical mark, becoming the first woman team captain in the Royal Navy history of the sport.

Alex said, “I only recently released this was such a huge milestone in the history of our team. We have so many women in our ‘squad’ competing for team selection today, for those who can remember far back in the day…. just look at how far how we have come in recent years! We all should be immensely proud of our achievements as a collective both men and women together.”

In 2022, the Royal Navy team won an award for their achievements as the first team to have the best result in the series with more than thirty percent of their crew made up of women in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s series.

Last year saw the annual Round the Island Race, a one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight. The race regularly attracts over 1,200 boats and around 10,000 sailors, making it one of the largest yacht races in the world and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK.

The Royal Navy team entered the race with a crew made up entirely of women for the first time ever and made history with their first woman to skipper the race as well.

“There is something about having an all women crew that is special. It feels like we have achieved something amazing for women in the sport and we are continuing to grow that.”

The team are expecting a new racing yacht (Sunfast 3600) to be delivered in the coming weeks and hope to entice more sailors to join the team in the qualifying race series in the lead up to the notorious Fastnet Race in July.

Alex said, “we are also hoping to select two all women teams to enter the Women’s Open Keelboat Championships in September. If you want to get involved, please let us know!"