Ladies Helm

Volvo Ladies Helm aims to encourage and increase participation of women in sailing. The women on board the 50-strong fleet of boats across nine classes – including Big Boats IRC, Dragons, Etchells, Flying Fifteens, Impalas, J/80s, Pandoras, Ruffians and Sportsboats – joined the annual racing on the waters of Victoria Harbour on Sunday, the 3rd of March 2024. The event was to celebrate and recognise women's achievements worldwide ahead of International Women's Day.

Female sailors of all experience levels take part in the event with no restrictions on the rest of the crew's gender or in fact gender ratio. The only requirement being that the helm must be female.

Each class of boats was set two races. The first race of the day started in 10-12 knots of easterly breeze on a cold wintery day. All of the fleets were sent to sail between Hung Hom and Tai Koo Shing or Shau Kei Wan for the first race and, for Race 2, two laps or 1.5 laps between Shau Kei Wan and Hung Hom. Race officer Barry Truhol said: "The wind gradually picked up from 6-8 knots before the start, to 12 knots by the time of the second start. Thus, the boats could finish ahead of the target time. It seems like everyone had a good time – there was a good breeze and it was a good day on the water."


The star sailor was Lily Xu LiJia, two-time Olympic Medallist and a three-time World Champion in ILCA 6.  As Asia's first and only Olympic gold medallist in sailing, Lily was in town to host an ILCA training clinic for Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's Shark squad sailors. Sailing with a crew of Shark sailors on the Cape 31, Capitano, Lily took 1st place in the IRC Big Boat division.

Apart from Capitano, more Shark sailors teamed up to sail on J/80, Sea Biscuit, with Sienna Thiry taking the helm and ILCA sailor Zixi Huang, who helmed the J/80, Jupiter.

Gigi Wong, who has been sailing for only four months, took the helm for the first time in this race on Dragon Arrow. She said although it is more stressful to helm the boat, it's physically less demanding.

Regardless of it being their first helming experience, or if they were regular participants in this race, congratulations go out to all of the female helms taking part in the racing with particular mention of the winning helms – Lily Xu LiJia / Capitano on IRC Big Boats, Rita Yau / Phyloong II in the Dragon fleet, Elise Kelly / Gunga Din for the Etchells, Mun-See Liu / Niffty for the Flying Fifteens, Clarice Yu / Pied Piper on the Impalas, Sienne Thiry / Sea Biscuit on the J/80s, Joey Ho / Windfall for the Pandoras, Liz Wai / Pawley on Sportsboats and Bonnie Cheng / Victory 9 for the Ruffians.


                                                                                               —photos by Vivian Ngan, Guy Nowell

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