Menstrual cycles and sailing: Managing them together

In 2023 RYA Northern published some independent research about female sailing in Northern Ireland.

Among other reasons, the research revealed that many women felt that a large barrier to participation was a lack of support in managing their menstrual cycles while sailing.

We hope that by providing better support in this area, as well as education to men and women on the topic, we will improve female participation in sailing in Northern Ireland as latest RYA NI census results reveal that only 34% of club members are female.

RYA Northern Ireland has already taken a number of key steps to combat the problem. These include online webinars for female and male performance squad sailors, as well as coaches aimed at highlighting the steps which can be taken to manage menstrual cycles and create a more supportive environment among the sailing community.

Lorna Cooke, a performance nutritionist at Sport Northern Ireland highlighted that there are a range of things which can be done by women and girls to continue participating in sailing despite the barriers they feel they face.

She said: “It can be a challenge, but any sport can be carried out on your period.

“There are so many new products on the market, from period underwear, to period swimwear and menstrual cups. You’re not necessarily having to use a pad or a tampon- when you’re sailing, that can be really awkward.

“If you are using those (a pad or a tampon) and you’re hiking out or you capsize, that can be a nightmare. The swimwear is really discrete and females can trial it out at training or at home and then use it in competition and really nobody would ever know that they’re having their period.”

Useful resources

Nikki Boniface, a British Sailing Team coach and athlete well-being mentor, put together a document geared specifically for sailors and coaches in Northern Ireland. It’s relevant males and females, providing education and advice

Another source for useful resources is The Well HQIt contains a wide variety of useful guidance such as:

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