One thing you can be sure of regarding RS Sailing is that we love our community and we do everything possible to encourage participation in sailing activities worldwide. When we learned about the Wet Hens program in Hawaii, we naturally had to find out more!
What is the Wet Hens program?
The Wet Hens program in Hawaii has been running for 61 years! As a part of the Military Morale, Welfare and Recreation military support. The program goals are to promote active living through participation in recreation, fitness, and sports and to build positive self-esteem. It is well-known that healthy, active lifestyles lead to improved personal health and well-being which helps build resilience and strength, essential for modern military families. Created by women for women, the Wet Hens program has proved super successful with a team teaching environment. With every team member contributing towards teaching sailing based skills and encouraging each other to develop.
Becca Hoskins has been a part of the program for eight years with her family having been stationed in Hawaii since 2014. RS Sailing wanted to learn more about the program, how Becca got involved and why she is still a part of it today. Here’s what she said.
How does the Wet Hens program work?
“I heard about the program from a friend who was an instructor. When we moved to Hawaii, it was one of the first things I did. We run three classes a year that are 8-10 weeks long during the fall, winter and spring. Run by volunteers, we log around 5700 hours over the year and graduate up to 48 female sailors yearly.
We have become so popular we now do a lottery system. For each class, we select 16 lucky ladies who want to participate in the program. The classes are held at the beautiful Foster’s Point on Joint Base Pearl Harbour, with views of Diamond Head in the background and jets overhead. It all started in 1961 when a group of Air Force spouses kept bugging the harbourmaster, Lou Foster, for sailing lessons. He finally caved and referred to this group as the ‘Wet Hens’; the name has stuck. After learning how to sail, the spouses were so passionate about their newfound skills; they wanted to share the sport with others. Linda Ladeira and Tracy Woodrow have both been involved for around two decades, their commitment to the program is what keeps everyone going.”
What keeps the Wet Hens program going?
“It’s such an empowering program. As military spouses, we spend a lot of following our husbands wherever they go. For me, we moved 11 times before we landed in Hawaii. With the program available, we see women taking time to do something for themselves for the first time in their lives. We had a woman learn how to swim to take the class. Watching them go from never being in a boat in their life to sailing solo in the ninth week of the class is an amazing thing to experience and observe. I’m so glad to be a part of a program that builds confidence and where we lift each other up. The sailing, the camaraderie and being out on a boat learning together is an adventure and journey. We have the most beautiful, perfect setting for learning to sail. Our little harbour was manmade for the recreation of our families of the military, specifically made for sailing purposes. When you peak out of the channel, you go out the sea, and the RS Quest does quite well in the waves and swells.”
What’s it like being part of the Wet Hens program?
“The thing about our community is it pretty transient. We get sailors that come and learn to sail within the first few months they are here, and most of them will cycle out and move away. Our group has incredible talent, but it’s not always consistent because people are constantly moving. That’s why it’s remarkable that we have sustained as long as we have, having the volunteers that want to continue these programs. It’s awesome, and we have key people that have been here for over two decades that have been super important in keeping the programs going. Our women create many friendships for life, which is special.”
Why did you choose the RS Quest sailboat for the program?
“We have had a variety of boats over the years, most recently the RS Quest. The program came about by a group of strong ladies who were trailblazers in the 1960s; they wanted to learn how to sail and started getting involved in the racing community.
We had had the Catalinas for about 18 years, but it was getting harder to replace the parts. We had a fleet of eight, one instructor per two students. So, we started looking for another boat with which we could replace the fleet. After some research, we suggested the RS Quest to our boss. Next thing you know, West Coast Sailing came with the truckload of RS Quests, and this will be our fourth year with them. We use them in the Wet Hens program and the Women’s Fleet Auxiliary club called the ‘Kaiettes’, racing in them on Sundays at the Pacific Yacht Club. The RS Quest is such a good teaching boat and a fun sailing boat. Super easy to recover from a capsize, and the plastic build is very forgiving compared to fibreglass boats. We’ve also been able to step up our spinnaker game, and we can learn everything it offers. We’re gearing up to ask for a fleet of RS21 to replace our keelboats.”
If you want to find out more about how to get RS Quests in your club, get in touch with West Coast Sailing.