Sarasota Sailing’s Luffing Lassies

Published on April 4th, 2023

by Herb McCormick, Sailing World
This second Thursday in January is a perfect Florida winter morning, the sort of weather the local chamber of commerce dials up regularly—a light easterly breeze barely ruffling the shallow, pristine waters of Sarasota Bay.

Along the beach that fronts the busy Sarasota Sailing Squadron, there is commotion; like every early Thursday morn from September through May, several dozen seasoned gals known as the Luffing Lassies, almost all with their diverse and accomplished working lives in the rearview mirror—and none of whom will be remotely mistaken for college kids—are rigging up their prams, 420s, and Sunfish for their weekly fix of sailboat racing.

This particular Thursday, however, is somewhat different: It is the running of the 24th Annual Lilly Kaighan Memorial Regatta, so named for the Lassies’ founder, the somewhat obsessed sailing lady who came up with the idea for this organized madness in the first place—some five decades ago.

My introduction to this uncharted world is a ­fellow Rhode Island snowbird like myself, on hiatus from the New England winter for a few months. Before her recent retirement, Lee Parks was the inshore director at US Sailing for 33 years, but she’s also a lifelong Sunfish racer. “I never outgrew my junior boat,” she says. “The class has a culture that’s just phenomenal.” – Full report

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