A team of fire service women hope to make waves with their debut entry in the United Kingdom Firefighters Sailing Challenge (UKFSC).
HFRS Magenta will be sailed by an all-female crew made up of firefighters and non-uniform staff from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The team will be taking to the water in a 40ft Sunset sailing yacht competing with 28 other crews in what is already a record year for the fundraising event.
The Magenta crew have differing levels of experience but they do have a competitive edge, through the support of The Magenta Project, in the form of a trio of elite sailors.
Among these is Round the World navigator and meteorologist Libby Greenhalgh who said: “It is great to see women from the fire service flying the flag for inclusion and diversity and showing that gender is not a barrier.
“Like sailors, firefighters have to be strong, determined and resourceful and I look forward to leading this intrepid group onto the water.
“This crew has a wide array of skills that will give us a competitive edge and I have no doubt they will be leading the field in enthusiasm.”
Libbys’ experience includes working as the British Sailing Team Meteorologist in the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and more recently as navigator on board Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race 2015-2016, the first all female team in 12 years.
The team will also have the skills of Helena Lucas who won gold at the Paralympics in 2012 and was later made an MBE.
Also the crew will feature Mary Rook, who has won world, European and national titles in her glittering career that also included being selected for the British Olympic Sailing Team.
In the sailing community the former farm girl is renowned for her work ethic famously upping her workout schedule to match the fittest men on the team.
HFRS’s Inclusion and Diversity Manager Leanne Illman said: “We are really proud to be supporting our first all female crew into this year’s sailing challenge.
“We want our female staff to feel empowered and to believe there are no limits to what they can accomplish.
“The support, self belief and determination they have, and give to each other, proves that incredible things can happen.”
The Hampshire team will include Amy Beams, Charlie Ashman, Dalvinder Rai, Jill Horn, Katie Loates, Jo Chaplin, Lucy Robinson, Ann Christin Olsen-Haines and Ellen Culhane, as well as Maisie Rudkin form West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
The crew members will be on rota with up to 10 aboard at any one time to accommodate work commitments.
The 14th annual event will take place at Sunsail Port, Solent, Hampshire, from May 8 to 11 and involve 260 emergency service personnel from across the country along with friends and family.
Magenta – named after a shade of purplish red – will be one of five HFRS vessels in the challenge.
There is also another all female vessel called Siren Sisters representing Women in the Fire Service (WFS) which is made up of women from across the country’s fire and rescue services.
The aim of the voyage is to raise the profile of women as professional sailors and create positive female role models. It will also help raise money for charity. The event has raised more than £80,000 for good causes since its launch.
Image: Katie Loates, Ann Christin Olsen-Haines, Lucy Robinson, Jill Horn and Charlie Ashman (back) with Libby Greenhalgh and Maisie Rudkin (front)
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters