Women’s sailing festival ‘Steering the Course’ ‘Women and girls, believe in yourselves and start sailing today’ |06 October 2021
As part of the Women’s sailing festival ‘Steering the Course’ which is being organised by the Seychelles Yachting Association in collaboration with World Sailing on October 19, 2021, we meet Lucy Athanasius to find out why she took up sailing and why she describes herself as an SYA “veteran”.
Seychelles NATION:First of all what inspired you to take up sailing?
Lucy Athanasius:Back in 1978, while still a student at the Regina Mundi Convent, I came across a notice on the notice board inviting us girls to learn how to sail, and since I always loved the sea I jumped at the chance besides which it was affordable and ideally placed at the Seychelles Yacht Club premises in town.
Seychelles NATION:What boats did you sail when you were starting out?
Lucy Athanasius: I sailed the Mirror dinghy and later 420 alternating positions as helmsman and crew.
Seychelles NATION:Tell us a bit more about yourself.
Lucy Athanasius:I took up sailing in 1978 with other girls from Regina Mundi Convent and was hooked by the sense of freedom and excitement that comes with sailing. I completed my beginner and intermediate level courses and then moved to windsurfing as I wanted to experience another water sport. And later when the opportunity presented itself I joined canoeing. All these sports were being and are still being run by the Sail Training Scheme. Whether sailing, windsurfing or canoeing, just being out at sea gives me a real sense of pleasure and adventure. I never liked competitive sailing and so even if I would come out last in practice races, the fun of sailing and capsizing were more important to me. Hence, I never took up sailing as a competitive sport though today I assist as a racing official on the start boat and as secretary to the jury in regional competitions held in Seychelles. I have even been privileged to accompany two delegations of our young sailors for two international competitions in Italy and Mozambique in the past.
Seychelles NATION:Why do you call yourself an SYA veteran?
Lucy Athanasius:I have been a member of the Sail Training Scheme since 1978 and over the years I have always felt part of the STS and later Seychelles Yachting Association family, from being a fun-loving though not regular sailor, to being an executive member of the STS and later SYA committee to-date assisting wherever I am needed.
Although I have been absent from the SYA scene from time to time I always return “to port” and it feels like I never left. Today at 58 years of age, I am still an active part of the dedicated, sea-loving volunteers of the SYA although not actively sailing, and feel very lucky and proud to have witnessed the growth and progress of our sailing champions.
Seychelles NATION:What do you love most about sailing?
Lucy Athanasius:The camaraderie among us sailors and the out of this world, exciting feel of the power of the wind in your sails and the salty spray in your face as you close haul! The stronger the wind, the rougher the sea, the greater the challenge and excitement. Sailing the ocean waves is truly the best place to be, and when you need to be onshore, there’s always place for supporting sailing by coaching, officiating and simply volunteering to encourage the sport.
Seychelles NATION:Any challenges faced while sailing as a woman?
Lucy Athanasius:I don’t believe the challenges I have faced in sailing have anything to do with my being a woman. I believe sailing builds one’s self-confidence, endurance, self-discipline, as all sailors experience the frustrations of wind drops, the excitement of strong winds and high seas, triumphs and disappointments, challenges that make us stronger as persons. At the end of the day, if and when I sail, it has always been for the fun of it.
Seychelles NATION: What is your favourite sailboat?
Lucy Athanasius: The Laser 4.7. I love it because it’s just right for my size, it’s fast and it gives a great sense of control as you sail alone. I, however, do not like rigging the boat. I just like to get in and go!
Seychelles NATION: What advice do you have for interested women sailors?
Lucy Athanasius: Contact the STS immediately and begin the wonderful experience of being a sailor. Seychelles needs more women and girl sailors and it is never too late to learn in my books! We in Seychelles have a great opportunity to sail, don’t get stuck on a buoy… Believe in yourself and start sailing today!