Paper Sailors Rock

The Magic of the Whitsundays

Paper Sailors Rock Sail Training

Hi! Thinking about doing something new but not sure you have what it takes? Well, you may not know it yet but you are just the woman to learn to sail. I know this because I too was once in that headspace, before I met two sailing beauties, Annette Hesselmans and Fika. These two are the team that make up Paper Sailors Rock(, offering hands-on sailing experiences which touch lightly on the environment.


Annette is a RYA Yachtmaster Instructor and Paper Sailors Rock provides sailing courses for women, including content based on RYA curricula. My experience was as part of a quintessential motley crew, ranging from never having been on a boat to experienced hands at yacht racing. It’s fair to say we all had our own agendas yet we all came away overflowing with new sailing skills, knowledge and the glow of fabulous fun in the sun.

Seven reasons why you should learn to sail

I cast off with Annette as part of an all-women crew onboard Fika, a 49’ Swedish built Najad, in June 2022 from Airlie Beach for a 5 day adventure of learning how to sail. It wasn’t all sailing though. At anchor, we practised knot tying, yoga and paddleboarding. We also hiked,

kayaked, snorkelled, chatted, laughed and grazed our way through the days. Sound idyllic?

Rock Sail Training

Here are my seven top reasons why this experience is for you too, in no particular order:

1. Beauty in abundance. The waters of the Whitsunday Islands are truly mermaid worthy. Think postcard-classic limpid blues and teal greens with white sand, colourful corals and stunning sunsets. If the Law of Attraction is real, then this is definitely the place to immerse yourself in natural wealth

2. Fresh air and exercise. We are reminded constantly that being outdoors and physical exercise are a part of feeling good in our own skin. Most fitness levels will capably handle the winches, sheets, sails and other sailory bits. You have the choice of only doing what you are comfortable with. But you may even surprise yourself and try everything on offer, like I did.


3. Delicious food. Savouring the latest from the galley you may forget you are on a sailing rather than gastronomic adventure. It’s a challenge to cook onboard yet the meals provided by Annette are fresh and taste superb. There’s even enough for seconds (I couldn’t help myself).

4. Brain boost. Apparently learning a new language is good for improving memory and concentration, as well as listening, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Familiar terms like head, chart, sheet and even goose wing have different meanings but you will be speaking sailor in no time. Prepare to gybe!

Women sailing

5. Confidence is the new sexy. Finding my voice was my main motivation to sail off into the sunset and, frankly, this is reason enough, even if you never intend sailing again. Who doesn’t want more self-confidence, or sexy for that matter? The ripple effects of the new me are still being felt way beyond the marina.

Competent Crew

6. Women’s juju. Fact. On Fika chances are that the boatload of random women you sail with will provide the care, sharing, friendship and gentle encouragement you need. The scientific explanation is that women who are stressed (read going through new experiences while trapped on a boat with strangers for a few days) release oxytocin. This hormone buffers the fight or flight response and instead encourages nurturing behaviour, which further counters stress and has a calming effect. It’s termed the ‘tend and befriend’ response if you want to google it[1].

7. Girl tribe. Women who sail are a sisterhood with a growing membership worldwide of women just like you. It is super inspiring to belong to this cool crowd. Have a look at for starters.

So now you have more than enough reasons to take courage, abandon the hairdryer and heels for a few days and jump on board. I guarantee before you can say bowline you will be knot-tying with the best.

May you be blessed with fair winds and following seas, Fi

Women sailing training

The next sail training course is to be held in the Whitsundays from Monday 17th to Friday 21st October 2022.


Fiona is an environmental consultant, writer and sometime sailor based at Sunshine Coast, Queensland. She enjoys practicing her confident voice onboard Lily, an old 30’ van de Stadt sailing boat, with her partner and dreaming of what’s next. She may be contacted at

[1] Taylor SE, Klein LC, Lewis BP, Gruenewald TL., Gurung RAR, & Updegraff JA. ‘Behavioural Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight’, Psychol Rev, 107(3):41-429.

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