MARBLEHEAD, Mass. – Doris Colgate, CEO and president of Offshore Sailing School and founder of the National Women’s Sailing Association, spoke passionately about “making a difference” in the lives of girls and women during her keynote speech at the 10th Women’s Sailing Conference in Marblehead on June 4.
The NWSA is a part of the Women’s Sailing Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization that provides opportunities for young girls at risk to be engaged in the sport of sailing with women mentors.
Hosted by the Corinthian Yacht Club and organized by the National Women’s Sailing Association, the conference brought 125 women together to participate in sailing workshops.
The women participants chose on-water and shoreside workshops taught by experienced women volunteers. While sailing, they learned about boat systems, how to fly a spinnaker, sail care, tying up to a dock, crew overboard procedures, introduction to sailing, sail trim, steering and even how to handle a dinghy with a motor.
In the classroom, the subjects included reading charts, right of way rules, knots, understanding the wind, troubleshooting engines, introduction to weather, marine medicine and emergency seamanship.
The Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award was presented to Dawn Santamaria, who runs a 110′ tall ship with a women-only crew and provides leadership and team building programs for girls.
Afterwards, Colgate took the podium to share her experiences and those of women she has met over the more than 44 years she has been in the business of sailing education.
“To me, sailing is freedom,” she said. “It’s empowering, challenging and relaxing.” And then she asked, “If sailing is a passion that you feel deeply, what are you doing to share that passion with those you love, and those you meet as you move through the streets of life?”
Twenty-one years ago, when Colgate founded NWSA, she reported that sailing was still considered a “sport.” When she asked the audience if they agreed that sailing is a “lifestyle,” the unanimous response was “yes!”
Colgate spoke about how and why she founded NWSA and the turning points in her life that convinced her to “break the mold.” In most of her early experiences, after marrying Steve Colgate, Offshore Sailing School’s founder, she found she was constantly deferring to the men she sailed with when aboard.
As a pioneer in creating sailing opportunities for women and men beyond the learning experiences, she noticed the ongoing tendency “men have to grab a line the moment a woman puts her hand on it.” That – coupled, with a participation ratio of 2:1 male versus female participants – was the impetus, she said, for starting NWSA.
“I believe women can do anything we want – because we sail,” Colgate said in closing. “Let’s take our passion for sailing to new and inspiring heights for those girls and women who, in this unsettled world, deserve a far better life.”