Positive changes for women in sailing

Published on June 29th, 2021

In The One Design Line, US Sailing’s e-Newsletter for one design sailors, Amanda Callahan reports on the rise of the women’s keelboat team race circuit in the USA:


Back in 2004, the first U.S. women’s dinghy team race took place with three teams competing (really, it was only 2.5 teams), but the ball started rolling. At the time, most summer and post-college dinghy racing was done in V15s, but because there weren’t many female boat owners, events had to be held in supplied boats.

College venues were the perfect plug-and-play option. The Chix Only Team Race blossomed over the next few years, regularly attracting 12 to 16 teams. From there, women’s team race regattas were added to the College Sailing schedule. Now, a Women’s Team Racing National Championship will debut in 2022. Positive changes are happening.

These days, more women are getting the chance to skipper on their college team race teams, but opportunities for women to continue in the team race discipline after college have been limited.

Because a relatively small number of women have had the chance to compete at the collegiate level, it’s rare that they get selected by their clubs to skipper at the bigger keelboat events on the team race circuit. Most of the time, women get relegated to minor roles on male dominated boats.

Fortunately for those who want more team racing opportunities, Women’s Keelboat Team Racing is having a moment!

American Yacht Club has been hosting a Women’s Invitational Team Race since 2012. The 3v3 event has been sailed in double handed Ideal 18s. Founding event chair Carolyn Russell reports, “When we had the idea of the WITR back in 2011, our goal was to make it a fun racing event, one at which women could compete at a high-level but still be able to learn and improve their sailing.”

Coming on-board are three additional events. Already in 2021, New York Yacht Club hosted their inaugural Women’s 2v2 Team Race in Sonars and Corinthian Yacht Club held their inaugural National Women’s Invitation Team Race for the Thayer Trophy in Sonars, 3v3. And in July, Bristol Yacht Club is hosting a 2v2 Team Race for women skippers with mixed crew in J/22s.

The rise of these events is being driven largely by individual women with yacht club support. Miranda Bakos, a driving force behind the creation of the Thayer Team Race explained, “At Corinthian, coming into this year, the main thing was we wanted to do more women’s keelboat team racing but there were not many women’s events on the calendar. So, the club decided to create one.

“The whole mission of women’s sailing is to make it more inclusive. One bonus of hosting this competitive team race has been that it has brought experienced women’s sailors who have little team racing experience into the fold. The reach extends beyond post-college women’s sailors. It has given people who stepped away from the sport an excuse to get back involved.”

Cory Sertl, US Sailing President, was on board the winning NYYC team for the inaugural 2v2 event. She remarked that, “It was a really fun and enjoyable gathering of women of all ages who really love being on the water and love team racing.

“There was a large group of women who have graduated college within the last decade and another group, a bit older, coming from the match racing scene.” Cory also noted that it was great to have an all-female race committee led by Clare Harrington. While COVID restrictions limited the on land social events in 2021, she knows that the addition of them in 2022 will make next year’s event even better!

While most of these current team race events are northeast centric, they are drawing teams and crews from all over the country. As interest grows, the hope is that the number of events will grow across the country, making access to participating easy and more frequent.

Clearly there’s a great appetite for this type of racing and the comradery that surrounds these regattas. If you or your club are interested in helping to grow this segment of racing in the USA, contact Adult@ussailing.org and we will pass your information on to the US Sailing Team Race Committee.


For additional resources and information, click here.

About the Author: 
Amanda Callahan is the head coach of the Roger Williams University Hawks sailing team and has been part of Team Racing teams that have won the US Team Racing Championships for the Hinman Trophy as well as the British Open Team Racing Championship for the Wilson Trophy.

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