Sailing crews look different these days

Published on July 27th, 2022

by Nick Hayes, Sailing magazine
Every spring we assemble our crew lists for the season and pack key sailing events into our best friend’s calendars. We draw a Venn diagram of teams to race on weeknights and weekends (since not everyone has the same work schedules).

We select an offshore team and choose new members who should advance into offshore events, and we start pinging guests to look for dates to walk-on. And every spring I reflect on our gender and age metrics. Are we more or less diverse? Are we staying young (relatively)?

Among 15 regular members of our sailing team, 10 are women and five are men. And our average age has dropped slightly, to 45 years old, from last year’s average of 47. Importantly, the youngest and oldest on our team are separated by nearly 50 years and they are both women. Comparatively, when I was in my twenties, I mostly sailed with similar-age men. We had fun back then, but the sailing is better now.

Our crew is a microcosm of the national trends, something I’ve been modeling since the 1980s using data from sailing clubs, schools, organizers, boat registrations, associations and the census. In the last 25 years, sailing has evolved to become one of the most gender-diverse, age-diverse and economically accessible pastimes in the country. An activity that was once exclusive to affluent white men is now mostly women of all ages and can be a regular habit regardless of income as long as you live near water in an urban area.

In fact, if we measure sailing in terms of hours on the water spent taking a class, practicing a skill, cruising, bombing around, daysailing or casually racing, the activity has grown about 27% since the middle 1990s even though men are doing much less of it. – Full report

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