History of the Okanagan Women’s Regatta

Women’s sailboat racing was launched in the Okanagan in 2007

When the Kelowna Yacht Club hosted the Women’s National Keelboat Championship.  Teams were formed with ladies from throughout the Okanagan Valley who practiced all year under the guidance of many male sailors out of the Penticton, Summerland, West Kelowna, Kelowna and Vernon Yacht Clubs.

Each year since, the Kelowna Yacht Club has hosted a 3-month training and race series which includes sailors and coaches from throughout the Okanagan Valley.  At the end of this series, one of the Yacht Clubs in the Valley has hosted the Annual Okanagan Women’s Regatta.

2008 – Vernon Yacht Club
2009 – Westbank Yacht Club
2010 – Penticton Yacht Club
2011 – Vernon Yacht Club
2012 – Summerland Yacht Club
2013 – West Kelowna Yacht Club established as permanent home for Regatta
2014 – Continued growing at WKYC and a regatta theme was created
2015 – West Kelowna Yacht Club’s theme was Red
2016 – West Kelowna Yacht Club
2017 – Vernon Yacht Club
2018 – Kelowna Yacht Club
2019 – West Kelowna Yacht Club
2020 – 2021  No Regatta
2022 – West Kelowna Yacht Club
2023 – West Kelowna Yacht Club


One of the unique parts of our Regatta is the coached fleet.  For 2022 we also had a 3rd fleet, the “Newbie fleet”. Below is a unique perspective of the weekend from one of our coaches, Alan Barnes.


As I drove away from West Kelowna Yacht Club, I reflected on the past weekend of sailing.  I had the privilege of coaching a team in the 6th annual Okanagan Women’s Regatta at its new permanent location, the West Kelowna Yacht Club.

It all started with a call from Toni Clark, the driving force behind the event, asking if I’d like to be a coach. I said “sure”.   I then thought about what I had just done.   I won’t be able to touch a thing!   I can’t jump in and pull this and adjust that, take back the helm in tight spots!   Not allowed… only verbal encouragement and instruction as necessary in a calm cool demeanor.  What have I done!   Not to be able to come to the rescue and take control, how un-manly!   Calm down, I said, you can do this!

Toni sets up the email intros and bam, suddenly I’m in the middle of this high energy, brainstorming session with 4 highly motivated ladies!  Things like boat delivery, drinks, food, clothes needed, life jackets, team outfits etc.   Instant high energy and enthusiasm!… I like it.

I met Sandy (helmschick), Becky (bow), Deb (sewer) and Joanne (everything, if given the chance!) at skipper’s meeting.   I had just crawled out of my van, recovering from the festivities (live band!) put on by the West Kelowna Yacht Club the night before.   They must have looked at me in horror.   Did we scrub the boat’s bottom for this!   I filled my travel mug with coffee and went sailing.

I went over a little pre-race “goals and objectives” and sat down at the back.   Three of the crew had sailed the boat before in the Kelowna Yacht Club’s super successful Women’s Racing Program.  They told me that they had 71 registered this year!   Who said sailing is dying!   We did some practice tacks/ gybes and got ready for the 1strace.   Dave Hayes (PRO) and his capable team set the course and decided that the 2 divisions should start at the same time.   Mixing the coached boats with the more experienced and aggressive teams…. Should be interesting.

By the end of the 1st day, our team was becoming just that, “a team”.   After every race we would go over what needed improving.   These girls were sponges, totally into the sport, lots of questions and some great discussions!   The team dynamics was getting worked out and the confidence was building.   After the last race and our best showing, it dawned on me, “I just had one of the best days on the water that have had in a long time” and I hadn’t touched a thing!   Women’s sailing rocks!!

That night, the club rocked to another live band!   Where do these girls get all this energy?   I’m exhausted.   As I crawled into my van, my only wish was, that the band play a couple of lullabies, but it didn’t happen and wasn’t necessary.

Three more races were run the next day for a total of seven races over the W/E.   The combination of great racing, swimming between the races, superb food provided by always-helpful volunteers from WKYC, dancing, laughing and camaraderie made for one of the best regattas I have attended.

If you are interested in attending next year, go to their web site and the organizers will be more than happy to help.   If you need a boat, they can do that, coach?  That too!