For 17-year-old Laura Thomson, sailing is not only a source of fierce competition, but a way to escape.
“You get on the water and leave everything on the shore behind,” she said.
“You have so much going on in your mind, you don’t have space to think about anything else.
“It’s very rewarding – you can be a social sailor, you can coach, or be competitive.”
Sailing was one of 11 sports analysed in a recent VicHealth study which showed males participate in organised sport at twice the rate of females.
It’s something Laura would like to see change.
“Boys tend to rank higher than girls, especially on windy days,” she said.
“It’s extremely physically demanding and takes a lot of quad, core and upper-body strength.
“When it gets to the lighter days and it’s about more brain than brawn, we can pull through a bit more.
“There’s a lot to analyse – our boat, what our competitors are doing and the course.”
Laura, who has been sailing since she was 11, isn’t going to let the physical challenges of the spot quell her ambitions.
In fact, the name of her laser radial boat is Blonde Ambition.
“My biggest goal is to go to the Olympics, I’ve dreamed of it for quite a few years now,” she said.
“That’s my main goal, and then I also want to go to the world championships in the Netherlands next year.
“Now, I’m just trying to rank as high as I possibly can at nationals.”
Laura’s mother, Leanne, is the Albury-Wodonga Yacht Club’s first female commodore and is encouraged by growing rates of female members.
“We have three females on a committee of 10 and membership is about 30 per cent females, which I think is pretty high,” she said.
“We’ve found a lot of girls in the learn to sail program are making their own decisions, rather than relying on a team.
“It definitely builds their confidence as individuals, because there’s a lot of problem-solving they’re having to do out on the water.”
Mrs Thomson said more was happening to increase female participation nation-wide.
“When Laura goes away and competes at the nationals, she’ll be competing against strong blokes in their 20s and she’s a 17-year-old girl,” she said.
“Recognising her physical strength will not be the same as the guys, they now give prizes for first female.
“There’s so many facets to sailing – if you want to be competitive, you have that opportunity.
“But you also have social opportunities, and can just come out and enjoy the weir.”