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Giving women confidence to continue

Published on June 28th, 2022

Part of the success of the J/105 Class has been its inclusion of women in its ranks. The majority of teams across North America have, or have had, women sailors as integral crew members, including as owner-drivers.

But when the World Sailing Trust released its Women in Sailing Strategic Review in December 2019, the report that revealed wide scale gender imbalance perpetuating throughout the sport and consequently recommended a global effort on the part of sailing organizations to help remedy the situation by increasing participation and creating space for women to compete.

The J/105 Class responded with an openness for doing more. In addition to incentivizing teams comprised of 50+ percent women with a weight maximum exemption, the Class encourages local Fleets to launch women’s regattas and programs to further expand the interest and involvement of women in the Class.

Fleet #4 in Toronto was the first to act on this grassroots initiative, and last August put on the successful 2021 J/105 Ontario Women’s Championship Regatta at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, with 13 boats raced by all-women teams.

Now the momentum is growing for women-centered events across North America, with Fleet #1 in San Francisco running the 2022 SF Bay J/105 Women Skipper Invitational on May 22, and the Sailing Club of the Chesapeake (Annapolis, MD) hosting the first annual J/105 Women’s Regatta for J/105 Fleet #3 on June 25, 2022.

When the PRO Drew Mutch announced at the skipper’s meeting that he was running a “105 regatta, not a women’s regatta,” a large cheer was raised, with thirteen teams consisting of 85 competitors meeting on the starting line.

The RC had near-perfect Chesapeake Bay conditions to work with, a fairly steady 5-10 knots out of the south with gorgeous blue skies. Sailors navigated a current change during the day for three windward leeward races.

The SIs waived the owner/driver rule and required a minimum of four women aboard, including the driver. While the top two boats overall were coed with owners trimming main, eight of the teams were all women. The top three all women boats were four points apart, with Rum Puppy leading Firebrand and Doghouse.

“It was a ton of fun, and the caliber of racing was excellent,” said Alexandra Wardell, skipper of Rum Puppy. “After the first start I thought, ‘Whoa, okay, this is going to be as fun and competitive as any other regatta!’ The focus and nonstop hard work of my crew was at one of the highest levels I have sailed with in a while.”

Katie Zimmerman skippered Firebrand into second all-women with consistent finishes. Sandra Libby on Doghouse proudly announced at the awards ceremony, “I want you to realize we sailed with a crew of all women over the age of 50!”

Good Trade, Velvet Hammer and Rum Puppy were the top three boats overall. Good Trade, which won all three races, was driven by Marie Klok Crump, who had pursued an Olympic campaign in Ynglings in 2004, was joined by owner Peter Bowe, Erin Bak, Tammy Kolbe, Mike McNamara, Maxine Phillips, and Madeleine Schroeher.

“Our team thoroughly enjoyed the whole event,” said Amy Harris, the skipper of Breakaway. “Next year I hope to race again and perhaps skipper some Wednesday Night Races in the meantime. That is what this was all about – giving women the confidence to continue as crew and as helmswomen.”


Source: Molly Hughes Wilmer

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