Welcome to the team at Girls for Sail!
Read about our crew and meet the girls teaching you to sail or race!
The Girls for Sail team has been expanding over the years as a result of more women taking the plunge and entering this great environment. If you'd like to join our team or find out how you can become an instructor, please get in touch!
Sophie - Centre Manager, Chief Instructor and Race Skipper
Meet our amazing Yachtmaster Instructor & Skipper Sophie who has been teaching and race skippering for us for the last 3.5 years.
As well as being our Chief Instructor, Sophie is also one of our race skippers, Skippering in the ARC 2016, competing in many Cowes Weeks, RORC Caribbean 600's, the 2015 & 2017 Fastnet, Antigua Sailing Week and the BVI Spring Regatta. Her patience and sunny disposition are legendary!
Sophie learnt to sail as a child and started competing in dinghy racing from the age of 13, she has spent more time in a boat than onshore and is certainly a salty sailor!
We are proud that Sophie leads our team of instructors to deliver great events & consistently high standards on our many RYA courses undertaken by a many lovely ladies from different countries, ages & backgrounds. Here she is with her Fastnet crew 2015 who had nothing but immense praise and admiration for how she guided the team through the months of training and ultimately, to complete the Fastnet safely & successfully.
"It takes a great leader to build a great team. Thank you Sophie for leading us and the Hot Stuff crew for making the Fastnet 2017 experience so amazing." Linda Briant
Sophie is a legend
Andy - Operations Manager
What's all this? Andy was invited as a freelance skipper by Sophie O’Neill when we couldn’t secure female skippers for race events due to his very calm nature afloat. During his sailing career has skippered his own First 45 with 10 guests on board during Cowes Weeks and other events. He has completed every Fastnet qualifier numerous times (and never actually done the Fastnet!) and his skippering experience includes boats from Ocean Star 56.1’s to Mini 650’s and most things in between. He has a significant background in shorthanded offshore racing and cruising. Andy qualified as a Cruising Instructor on the same course as Sophie and has taught at a number of sailing schools. After delivering a successful Round The Island and teaching Comp Crew and Day Skipper for GFS Andy realised that pink quite suited him and in October 2017 joined in order to manage operations. He is now Girls For Sails honorary girl and is unsure if he should change his name to Andi.
Claire - Sales and Marketing
Claire joined the Girls for Sail team this year (2017) although she is new, she has lots of knowledge and is ready and willing to help! If you would like to book a course, or speak to someone about what might be included in an event or ask any questions about your course then give Claire a call in the office or drop her an email. Claire spent many years working for Cowes Week Ltd - so any questions you have about the world famous Cowes Week Regatta - Claire is the one to ask! Claire has also taken part in Regattas in the UK and also spent some time living in the Caribbean, travelling around and working as both shore support and on yachts during the caribbean racing circuit. Claire is a local lady and lives here in Cowes. She is always available and ready to help you with any questions you may have or to help you feel at ease right from making your booking to stepping on the boat ready for your event!
Louise - Administrator
Louise is one of our newest members to join the Girls for Sail team and joined us this year (2017). If you ring or email you'll probably find yourself speaking to Louise! Louise is very helpful and friendly and is ready and waiting to help you, from finding out more information about a course that may suit you to seeing you through to the end of your course or event. Louise has lots of experience in administration and is great when it comes to logistics and helping you sort anything out from travel to accommodation. Louise is also a local lady and lives here in Cowes. No job is too big for Louise and she is always ready to give a helping hand
Sarah - Administrator
Sarah joined GFS in February 2017 and deals with much of the administration behind the scenes as well as responding to enquiries. As our youngest member of staff she is also our go to tech guru! Sarah currently works one day a week helping out in the office as she works towards an Archaeology degree at the University of Southampton. Having lived in Cowes for 16 years and sailed in the Solent for 8 years, she has a ton of local knowledge and is an experienced yacht racer, having competed in many Cowes Weeks and Round the Island Races - including one which took 12.5 hours! Sarah is always ready to help out with sailing queries or just to have a chat about sailing in general!
Stef - Instructor UK
Originally from Atlantic Canada, she pretty much grew up on a boat with her parents, so has been sailing for most of her life.
Stef is always smiling especially when she's on the water, her positive outlook is infectious to all her students. She teaches both RYA practical and classroom theory, she is really passionate about sailing and this always comes across in her presence.
"Our skipper, Stef, was the utmost professional and made learning a lot of fun. Safety is a clearly a key priority for GFS and I really valued this." K.Plant
Lizzie - Instructor
Lizzie is simply amazing! She arrived with us having spent 10 months working in Antarctica! She has taken our Girls across the Atlantic on the ARC and been doing lots of teaching in the Caribbean.
She is full of enthusiasm, and has helped many of our ladies to overcome any confidence issues they may have had onboard because Lizzie has more patience than you can shake a boom cover to! So many ladies have written in to thank her, and we are delighted to have someone so lovely as part of our team.
‘I just wanted to say thank you to the Girls for Sail team, and in particular Lizzy, for the fantastic five days of day skipper that I did recently. I finally feel like I can start doing some sailing without the safety net of an instructor! Claire, Competent Crew, July 2016
Nikki - Instructor and Race Skipper
Nikki is one of our most experienced offshore sailors, skippering our GFS team across the Atlantic not once but twice over the last few years and winning the prize for being the youngest skipper in the ARC! Nikki is currently skippering 'Seattle' in the 2017 Clipper Race!
She really fell in love with sailing as a teenager and since then has sailed over 13,000 miles around the UK, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Islands. She has sailed across the Atlantic and was first mate on our triumphant 2013 Fastnet campaign.
She is an accomplished RYA coach and trainer and an RYA Yachtmaster. Words like 'patient, calm and empathetic' feature prominently in feedback from her students. Get her at the helm though in a close-fought race and she always manages to draw out the inner competitor in her crew.
"I find teaching women to sail so rewarding. Seeing our ladies go home with their new found confidence, skills and friends is what makes the job worthwhile."
Our Interns - Harriet and Kyla
Meet Harriet & Kyla!
Kyla & Harriet joined the team this summer and hit the ground running during Cowes Week- where they had a blast! With little time to rest they sailed off to Dartmouth for one of our favourite events, Dartmouth Regatta! They have lots of RYA courses lined up before they venture off to the Caribbean in January!
If you are interested in becoming a GFS intern check out the programme on this website!
Paula - Instructor
Paula came to GFS nearly a year ago as she embarked on a life changing decision. Paula stepped onboard Hot Stuff to cross the Atlantic and has since covered many miles in the Caribbean and now teaches in the UK- until its time to pack her flip flops and head off to the Caribbean again!
Paula started sailing many years ago and has a true passion for the sport.
She is also a trained chef and can rustle up something out of nothing!
Paula loves to teach and whether it's a start yachting course or a mile builder she'll take you out for some thrilling sailing! This is one adventurer you've got to meet!
Pauline - Theory Instructor
Pauline teaches shorebased theory courses for us and has a wealth of teaching experience including RYA courses at the University of Southampton. She aims to make her classes interesting and fun as well as informative by using lots of visual models, puzzles and quizzes to help understanding.
She lives just across the water on the mainland and worked for several years as boat crew on the local Hythe Ferry. She started sailing when she moved south about 20 years ago and just loved it! She has owned and renovated three boats to sail in the Solent, frequently chartered in Greece, Turkey, and Croatia and sailed in the Caribbean.
She gets huge satisfaction from instructing at GFS and when someone has one of those “light bulb moments” in class it is priceless!
"Great course! Our instructor Pauline was very knowledgeable and was so patient - thank you so much"