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Badass sailors who happen to be women

Published on September 25th, 2019

Joe Cline, Editor of the 48° North publication in the upper-left corner of the USA, shines the light on X chromosomes.

For several months now, I’ve known I wanted to put together an issue that highlighted the sailing experiences of some of the women who play an integral role in our community. As I began to plan, I quickly came to the obvious-in hindsight realization that we have so many incredible women who are supremely skilled sailors, leaders in our community, world-class adventurers, and owners of marine businesses—that there are way, WAY too many exquisitely good story options to consider.

A long history of female empowerment in our region has brought us to this point, but it’s not just historically true. It’s changing, and fast, and for the better.

There is a women’s sailing movement that’s happening in the Pacific Northwest. In the eleven years I’ve worked in the maritime industry in this region, I’ve observed rapidly increasing numbers of women, particularly young women, owning boats; racing competitively; cruising intrepidly; working in positions of leadership and ownership in the maritime sphere; and pursuing all manner of sailing dreams, whether grand or modest.

This momentum is building and generating even more inspiring examples to empower women and girls to see that sailing is for them. One shining illustration is the notoriety and success of Race to Alaska’s Team Sail Like a Girl, and its offshoot education program, Race Like a Girl. R2AK is, itself, uniquely successful with 40% female participation. The progress and growing enthusiasm are humblingly impressive to witness.

Unfortunately, none of this alters the reality that, in spite of these successes, past and present, we still have a long, long way to go. Sailing is still a male dominated activity and industry. The male-as-skipper, female-as-first-mate dynamic, which admittedly works well for some, is still too prevalent and is far too often the default assumption.

Learn to Sail programs and high school sailing, thankfully, boast nearly 50-50 participation between girls and boys; but that ratio dwindles in nearly all sailing activities that take place after graduation and, with very few exceptions, does not recover.

Among many positive stories in the September 2019 issue, you’ll also read about disrespect and misogyny that will likely leave you nodding with understanding if you’re a woman, shaking your head in disappointment if you’re a man, and motivated to advance the cause of equality if you’re a human.

If I have one conversation over and over, it has to do with sailing participation— whether it’s decreasing or just changing—and how we might boost it. I’m struck by the fact that if sailing was a safe, accessible, and appealing enough activity to have equal representation between women and men, we probably wouldn’t be having those glass-half-empty discussions about the potential decline of the sport.

The longer I thought about and worked on this issue of the magazine, I began to see that this should not be considered a special issue. It is just a great issue of 48° North. Every story in this magazine belongs in any issue of 48° North. So, in that way, it’s entirely unremarkable that this collection of articles about sailing in our region is almost exclusively written by women.

On the other hand—since our community has room to improve with regard to inclusiveness and because 48° North is committed to sharing the stories of women sailors hopefully affecting meaningful change and making sailing even more welcoming—it still feels important to illuminate and celebrate the fact that this issue is full of the experiences and perspectives of some of the badass sailors in our community, who happen to be women.

To read the September 2019 issue… click here.

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