Adventure time with Nic Douglass
24th May 2021 Jack O'Rourke
From her earliest days sailing on Sydney Harbour, Nic Douglass has had a fierce passion for sailing and an affinity for the water. Her love of the sport took her in an unexpected direction, and her passion now lies in creating a platform that delivers sailing stories to the masses.
Her journey started as a child playing on dinghies with her father.
“My dad was a very keen sailor, as was my grandfather. You could say I am a third-generation sailor,'' explains Nic Douglass, most known for her social media presence as Adventures of a Sailor Girl. “My first experience was sailing on Middle Harbour with dad. I have been sailing for as long as I can remember. there are pictures of me lying on a dinghy when I was a few days old, and my family reckons I went for my first sail when I was around 10 months old.”
Douglass started sailing competitively after moving to the south coast near Ulladulla, and is still a member of Canberra Yacht Club and Jervis Bay Yacht Club. At the same time, she was forging a career in public relations and advertising.
“I was most attracted to the PR side of things, because it meant I could work with multiple brands. I have built a career in communications over the course of 10 years. At that time I had won my first World Championships and started doing Olympic sailing, first competing in the yngling class. I missed out on the Beijing Olympics, but was part of the Australian Sailing development squad with the Women's Match Racing team leading into the 2012 Olympics.”
While she ultimately missed out on a chance to compete in that team, who went on to win a silver medal, it opened her eyes to the possibilities sailing presented, and soon discovered a niche sports market crying out for attention.
“At that time I was frustrated about how little coverage sailing was getting in Australia, so I started using my Olympics campaign blog, and started using it as a platform to push news I was hearing out of our base in London. I would watch the BBC intently, and tweet out updates on what was happening in the sailing.”
Her blog, aptly titled Adventures of a Sailor Girl, quickly gained a strong following, as it provided Aussies with easily accessible updates on sailing from around the world.
"When I was working for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, I had a poster of the Australian sailing team and I would say to anyone that would listen; 'we are going to win more medals in sailing than in swimming this year.' No one believed me, but we did."
In particular, Tom Slingsby’s heroics in the Laser class to bring home Australia’s first gold medal of the 2012 Olympics was the catalyst for Nic Douglass to embark on a career promoting sailing.
"I'll never forget that moment when Tom won that medal, it was a defining moment for me. I remember thinking; 'he's a hero but nobody knows his story.' Then and there I resolved to use my platform to turn sailors into heroes. I don't think many people understand the in-and-outs of our sport, but they follow the heroes. I felt we needed more heroes in sailing.”
Eventually, Douglass realised she could make a real go of it and started going to more events, creating more stories and meeting new people. She eventually bit the bullet, quit her day job and focused on turning Adventures of a Sailor Girl into a fully-fledged business with the goal to build a platform where sailor’s stories could be told.
She still makes time to get out on the water and attend regattas all year round, even helping to launch new regattas.
“It's hard to get a regatta off the ground, but when one does go ahead it attracts such a beautiful bunch of people. I really love the sailing community, and that's why I do what I do. Sailing has given me so much, and the community has given me so much. It's really one of the only places where I feel like I truly belong.”
The past year has been difficult with covid and lockdown, as Nic travels fairly extensively, and travel restrictions have affected her ability to attend events. Now that things have started opening up again she has gained a new appreciation for sailing.
“I have always appreciated the opportunity to do what I do. I made the best of the situation and I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with my family which was fantastic. I have had to put sailing first for a very long time so it was nice to make it to every single birthday, every single wedding, and every single Fathers Day and Mothers Day that I have missed in the last couple of years. That was one of the few benefits I took out of last year.
I also met the love of my life, so slowing down and taking a break presented me with a whole new world of possibilities.”
When lockdown happened, Nic started a weekly show, interviewing some of her heroes from sailing. She sat down to chat with the likes of fellow Deckee ambassador Jessica Watson, as well as legends of the sport like Kay Cottee AO, John Bertrand AO, Carolijn Brouwer, and a host of international superstars.
Things finally started opening up, but it has still been difficult for Nic to travel. She ended up missing out on travelling to New Zealand for the America’s Cup, sailing’s showpiece event.
“It was tough not being able to make it to the America's Cup, given it was in New Zealand.”
She has not been idle, and has managed to cover a number of huge regattas throughout Australia, with a view to making it up north to Hamilton Island Race Week.
"I just spent a whole week at Sail Port Stephens. It was their biggest year yet. It was massive, and I had so much fun. I love that event.”
Over this past year, Nic has found a new love of being out on the water, believing that because of covid more and more people are getting out and experiencing the environment around them.
“It's reminded me how lucky we are to live in a country where we can be on holidays at home, which is pretty cool.”