Lendy Cowes Week is a week-long regatta event taking place from the 4-11 of August this year in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. With 8,000 participants, it is one of the biggest sailing regattas in Europe and the oldest of its kind, having first taken place in 1826. Professional sailors and amateurs both take part, and boats can be hired out for the races.
For the last 12 years, since 2006, the event has included Ladies Day – a day the regatta dedicates to women. This year (which also marks the 100th anniversary since some women in the UK were allowed to vote), the title sponsor for Cowes Week is property investment company Lendy, which is very happy to support the female talent in the world of sailing. CEO of Lendy, Liam Brooke, said: “Lendy Ladies Day is a high point of the week-long regatta, with its focus on celebrating the amazing achievements of female sailors. It’s easy to forget that, up until nearly 30 years ago, women competing in the sport was almost unheard of.” Lendy Ladies Day takes place on 7 August and has a theme of blue-and-white nautical stripes, which serves to promote unity and gives the event a luxury edge. All women on the shore are encouraged to dress in nautical stripes and there are prizes given to the best eye-catching outfits. There are all-female crews and an encouragement for female skippers to be at the helm of mixed groups, to prove women can and should hold such important positions.
The Ladies Day Trophy is presented at an exclusive reception attended by famous sailors, celebrities and VIP guests. This year there are five nominees who have made incredible contributions to the world of sailing: Dee Caffari, the first woman to have sailed single-handedly in both directions around the world; Libby Greenhalgh, director of the Magenta Project, that promotes equal opportunities for women in sailing; Lucy MacGregor; Olympian and winner of the Women’s Match Racing World Championships; Tracy Edwards, who has recently launched the Maiden Factor Foundation to educate and empower young girls in developing countries; and Lucy Hodges, a blind sailor who has won many international awards.
Having spoken directly with some of the incredible women involved, it’s easy to see how inspiring and important Ladies Day is. It brings awareness to the work of women within sailing and highlights that they can be equal competitors to their male counterparts, which didn’t always seem to be the case in this traditionally male-dominated sport. Both Hannah Stodel (Paralympian, three-time world champion and winner of the Ladies Day Trophy in 2016) and Lucy Hodges (one of the 2018 nominees) are participating this year. Describing the importance of Ladies Day and the position of women in sailing, Hodges said: “There’s been a change, but it’s a respectful change. I helmed the whole of last year – it creates respect for women and a can-do element. I don’t think the issue is that women can’t go sailing, I think that their lives go in different directions than men. I loved it. The only thing I did notice, being visually impaired is that the noise goes up that morning!” Stodel also underlined the importance of being included in teams as a person with a disability. “Susan Glenny gave me my big chance,” she says. “I couldn’t get anywhere because of my disability. Everyone was like ‘don’t be silly’ and then I ended up partitioning on Sirens in Antigua, having never met them before and I’ve been with them ever since. That’s what it’s about.” Glenny herself was inspired by Tracy Edwards and her boat Maiden to start sailing.
Edwards is a 2018 Ladies Day Trophy nominee and famously sailed around the world with the first all-female crew 28 years ago. In 2014 she discovered that her former boat, Maiden, had been found abandoned in the Seychelles and, with the help of crowdfunding, has been restoring her ready for her first outing this year at Lendy Ladies Day. After that, Maiden will begin a three-year journey around the world, raising funds to educate young girls in developing countries. “My main passion is girls’ education,” she explains. “Currently, 130 million girls don’t have a 12-year education and having that education would improve every aspect of their lives. Within their own environment it would improve their social economic status, decrease child marriage rates, increase their life choices, their ability to make money, their health – you educate a girl, you educate a community or a family.” Speaking of the changes in the last three decades, she says: “Not enough has changed in women’s empowerment issues. There is still more that can be done, but a celebration of women in sailing is wonderful, if you realise how many of them there are now – back then we were trying to find any of them! It’s absolutely brilliant, and Ladies Day celebrates the best: it really comes across as such a joyful celebration.”
There is also an array of shore-side activities and social events taking place during Lendy Cowes Week, that will unite competitors and visitors alike. Highlights include Sustainability Day on the 4 August, to bring awareness and help people understand how non-biodegradable waste can be reduced, Charity Day on the 6 August, for this year’s official charity the 1851 Trust, as well as live music and open-air cinema. A range of other events will be held at Northwood House, the event village at Cowes Parade and Cowes Yacht Haven. Lendy Cowes Week 2018 takes place from the 4 to 11 of August 2018
Lendy Cowes Week, Regatta House, 18 Bath Road, Cowes PO31 7QN, +44 (0)1983 295744