Bringing more women aboard the sport of sailing

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Dozens of women from across Canada took part in the Sail Canada&#8217;s Women&#8217;s Keelboat Championships from September 13 to 17.</p>
  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Lesley Taylor, a local sailing coach and competitor was pleased with the turn out and hopes it will create more interest from women in the sport of sailing.</p>
  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Sarah Crutcher, Leanne Gillis, Kate Peppler, and Karen Fowler of the Bedford Basin Yacht Club waves for a photo on September 15.</p>
  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>The Lunenburg Yacht Club loaned out Sonar brand keelboats to the teams for the event.</p>

Sailing has been a mostly male-dominated sport, but some sailors hope that by hosting big events like Sail Canada's Women's Keelboat Championships, that will eventually change.

And Lunenburg Yacht Club did just that. Hot off the heels of the World Sonar Championships, the club hosted the Women's Keelboat Championships from September 13 to 17 , which gave local sailors like Lesley Taylor, a sailing coach at the club and a competitor, something to celebrate.

Taylor is not only a fourth generation sailor but has also been in love with the sport since she was three years old.

"It's pretty awesome. Having sailed at the world's last week, there were almost no women there, so it's really nice to see us supporting so many female sailors and that there are so many local boats," she said.

The competition rotates annually and clubs make bids to host the event. Lunenburg club members loaned their Sonar brand keelboats to the 15 teams of sailors who came to take part in the event. Normally a chartering fee is used during these events. Ten boats came from the community, free of charge.

"It was really nice of the local sailors to donate their boats," said Taylor.

Andreas Josenhans, a club member and chief race officer of the races, said watching the teams has been impressive.

"I can tell you those boats, those top six or five boats were sailing those boats beautifully," he said regarding the first day of races.

Josenhans says the sailing he's seen since the women's nationals started was comparable to the skills shown at the world's the previous week.

"They should have done the world's; they would have done just fine in the world's," he said.

But there were few women skippers in that competition and that's something Taylor would like to see changed through things like mentoring and publicity.

"The representation is way off in competitive sailing," said Taylor. "Competitive sailing still seems to be a huge barrier. I work with Sail Canada and Sail Nova Scotia and we're trying so many initiatives to overcome it so it's great for us to be able to event like this."

Taylor added that she only saw two women skippers out of 25 teams at the world's. The dozens of women on the teams at the national's ranged in ages from early 20s to over 60 years old.

Gillian Thomson, a sailor from Kelowna, British Columbia, says her yacht club hosted the women's nationals previously and they saw a big jump in interest in the sport after that.

"The struggle with women in sailing is worldwide," said Thomson.

To foster the growth of their women's sailing, the club she's involved in has built up a fleet of keelboats that are affordable for their sailors. They've also created womens' sailing evenings where mentors coach new sailors.

"The result is, more and more women are buying their own boat and building their own teams and going to events up and down the Okanagan valley and internationally," said Thomson.

Thomson says she's been impressed by the calibre of women, particularly young women competing over the weekend, which she believes bodes well for the future of women's sailing in the country.

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