With a roster of new instructors and increasing interest in technical subjects, the 15th annual Women's Sailing Conference drew over 100 women to the Corinthian Yacht Club on Saturday, June 4. "I just bought a boat last Friday," said attendee Stephanie Muto who is in her twenties and bought a Sabre 30. "I have been sailing for eight years and although it is quite intimidating buying a boat and living on it, I feel more confident now that I have come to this conference." Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) and Black Rock Sailing School were event sponsors.
Conference organizer Joan Thayer said, “Women are very much the face of the new boat owner. They are into more technical skills, moving beyond the day sailing, so we’ve responded with more courses like heaving to, diesel engine preventative maintenance and marine electrical wiring. Sailing around the world or racing offshore is no longer just for men.”
While many women came because they are embarking on sailing adventures or boat ownership with their husbands or partners for the first time, others are simply not waiting any longer. Thayer said, “Women see that their sailing dreams, whatever they may be, can be fulfilled with or without men on board. In a sense, women are redefining their roles.”
Conference courses were led by accomplished women instructors, including the captain of two circumnavigations, Captain Nancy Erley. Erley led four different standing-room-only workshops. “I believe men often go brashly out and try stuff and women don't like to try and then fail. Men on boats often try to be chivalrous and try and take the task off the hands of the women. It is my hope that women absorb more of the skill so they can become partners on the boat and stop depending on the man and become more self-referenced, so women can rely on their own experience."
The event’s featured speaker, Donna Lange, completed her second solo circumnavigation in her 28-foot sailboat just one week before the conference. As much as she could prepare herself and her boat, she still experienced the unexpected. Yet, with her support and can-do attitude, Donna made repairs and continued forward. “Events like the NWSA Women’s Sailing Conference provide the confidence to push beyond one’s comfort zone,” said Lange.
A silent auction also raised funds to benefit the Women’s Sailing Foundation. It funds the AdventureSail program for underserved girls ages 9 to 14 and provides scholarships for community learn-to-sail programs. For more, go to womensailing.org.