BLiSS Training Day 1 opens Gateway to Racing Success

by Rosie Colahan

Kellie Knowles at the helm of her S80 Take One _credit Steb Fisher Photography
Kellie Knowles at the helm of her S80 Take One _credit Steb Fisher Photography
Tracey Baldwin at the helm of Audacious_Steb Fisher Photography
Tracey Baldwin at the helm of Audacious_Steb Fisher Photography

Whilst engines were revving at Melbourne’s Grand Prix on Sunday 26 March 2017, Victorian female keelboat sailors were lining up for ‘Gateway to BLiSS’ with Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC) hosting the first training session in the lead up to their ninth BLiSS (Brighton Lady Skippers Series) regatta to be run over the weekend of 29-30 April 2017.

Like any sporting pursuit that keen competitors take up, success depends on commitment and preparation. BLiSS has provided lead up training for both the more experienced and novice keelboat sailors for the last three years to encourage aspiring and experienced female helms to step up, supported by boat owners, mentors and regular crews and to invite new sailors to come and experience sailing in a regatta.

The first day of on water coaching on Sunday 26 March, sponsored by AMS Yacht Racing, attracted a packed room of female sailors and aspiring female sailors and their support crew. Presenter Gavin Dagley, the current World Master Laser Champion took the group through starting tactics and the steps required for a flying start. Unlike Formula One racing where you are allotted a marked starting slot, the waters of Port Phillip give you no clues as to where or how to start, so how to ‘Know your Spot’, find it and claim it, provided the first challenge.

Having found ‘your spot’ then required a diversion to ‘the Wiggle(s)’ to execute your approach. This is not a sudden switch to ABC TV to ‘tune in’ but a self orchestrated waltz involving all members of the crew to work synchronously with the helm to achieve a seamless acceleration to ‘slam dunk’ the start at maximal speed at the chosen ‘spot’ on the line!

And the secret to success? Check your plans two minutes after the start and see how your strategy and execution have fared.

With Melbourne currently haloed by high pressure systems, a gentle SE breeze and flat seas provided a perfect training ground for the practice of manoeuvres and all participants reported significant learnings from the on water exercises and the following debrief.

Newbies Lisa, Cheana and Joyce onboard Saelida from RMYS thoroughly enjoyed being ‘thrown in the deep end’ and taught to trim by experienced mentors and will be back for the next round.

Kellie Knowles, now a seasoned sailor and boat owner, first came to BLiSS in 2015 as a graduate from RBYC’s Yachtmaster Sailing School, a long standing sponsor of the BLiSS regatta. Kellie was offered the helm on Roger Incledon’s S80 Zardos, inspiring her to go on to purchase her own S80 Take One. Since then Kellie has commuted, often solo, to and from Mornington and the top of Port Phillip to regularly participate in women’s sailing events, including Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series (PPWCS) and Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR). Kellie reports on the day’s training activities –

‘The training was great and it is the first time I realised there is a system for getting yourself in the right place at the right time on the start line! Up until now it has always been a mystery but my confidence around starts has now risen significantly.’

BLiSS Chair, Tracey Baldwin and winner of the BLiSS regatta back to back for the last four years at the helm of Sydney 38 Audacious, jumped on board Saelida and mentored new foredeckie Kathy Perks for the day. Tracey commented at the debrief - ‘ I never tire of Gavin’s presentation style and inspirational learnings. The formula of introductory theory followed by on water repeated practice of manoeuvres and then a reflective debrief makes for a powerful learning experience’.

 So if you missed the first session, Gavin will be back presenting the second BLiSS Training Day on Sunday 23 April, with the focus on downwind steering, trim and spinnakers. In synergy with the free, excellent AWKR Lecture Series, the preceeding Wednesday 19 April 1830hrs @ RMYS, will see Blake Anderson from Doyle Sails present AWKR Lecture #2 ‘Flying Kites - the winning formula’ and the famous ‘Kite Packing Competition’(KPC).

Get on board now and come and take advantage of the excellent free training opportunities provided. More information about the comprehensive Victorian Women’s Keelboat Training program for 2017 and links to all activities is available on the Women & Girls in Sailing website.

More information about the ‘Gateway to BLiSS’ program is available on the RBYC website.

Places for the BLiSS Training are limited, so register now for the next session.

Enter here for the BLiSS regatta

If you require further details, can provide a boat or can take additional crew please email

Further information about the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta can be found at



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