Sunday, September 11, 2016 was a life changing day for many women at Lake Townsend Yacht Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. WOW also known as Women on the Water drew 27 women from six different sailing clubs for an inspirational day of camaraderie, laughter and FUN sailing on the water. On the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, it was a reminder to be kind to one another. Since all of us are blessed to live in the United States with the freedoms we have each day, hate needs to be replaced with love.
Since only 14% of all sailors are women, the goal was to get moms and daughters out of the shelter and onto the water to share sailing as a family. Some of these women took the helm for the first time while others had been practicing throughout the year. This entire event concept came to fruition over a year ago when Stephanie De Lair noticed that there were very few women sailing and even fewer as skippers in our North Carolina clubs. As part of WOW, classroom sessions were held starting with sailing basics, rigging practice on a variety of boats and then 1-1 coaching on the water.
Male volunteers came out in droves to help with this event. No begging required! Obviously, the men want to see the ladies on the water. At the Skipper’s meeting, sailing teams were paired up based on skill level, personality, different club membership and boat preference. A fleet of Wayfarers, Tanzers and Flying Scots were used. While the women rigged, they evicted wasps, spooky spiders (no, it’s not Halloween yet), and even had to climb the mast to recapture lost halyards. A special guest appearance was made by “TinkerBell” who was a hit! Word on the streets is that Tinkerbell will have lots of friends in attendance next year. Will they all wear pink tutus and let their inner fashionistas shine?
The course was triangular in nature so that each vessel could complete multiple laps utilizing a timed start. On Lap 1 only about 50% of the boats could easily make it upwind to the weather mark. By lap 2, the difference was immense as confidence grew and teams worked together. By lap 3, crossings were made, and one new skipper even called an overlap on Joleen Rasmussen and for room at the mark. The biggest coaching moment was small subtle adjustments to the helm. After several laps, one new skipper said, “I can feel it! Now I know exactly what you were talking about!”
On this beautiful day, winds varied between 5-10kts, a perfect blend for new sailors. As the gusts increased, one new skipper had a near port capsize, overcorrected, had a near starboard capsize but quickly recovered as she was waiting for her next start. What a great experience to learn that you have a few seconds to react before going over. As the day progressed, the sailors were not as spread out over the course and began handling crossings. All in all, capsizes and collisions were avoided.
After coming off the water and de-rigging the boats, the shelter was buzzing with excitement; not from the wasps we dealt with but from the confidence that was developed by teamwork and encouragement on the water. The ladies discussed their inspiration for sailing…Who or what inspired you to be here today?
Awards were presented based not on finish position, but rather on achievement for the day. The“Anchor Me” bracelet was presented to Kerry Touzel as the newest sailor. The life preserver symbolizes that there is always someone who will keep you afloat. Everyone needs a gentle, comforting reminder that you will never drift away-Together you can weather any storm. This lifeline serves as inspiration to “Pay it Forward” and inspire someone else to kindness.
Comments heard at the social:
…”Thank you for being an inspiration and teacher. I intend to keep learning about sailing. I would not have had the courage to participate in this event without your encouragement.”
…“All I want to do now is Skipper!”
…”My pairing could not have been more perfect. Now I have a new friend to go sailing with.”
…”When is the next WOW event?”
…”A pioneering special event that will continue to grow. What a great vision and dedication to empowering women…”
As a result of WOW, two women purchased sailboats. First, Annette Grefe purchased Anne Marie Covington’s Wayfarer, “Epiphany” and began skippering in the monthly club series. Next, after all the heartfelt feedback, Stephanie De Lair purchased a Boston Whaler Harpoon 4.6 two days after the event as a teaching boat. Since she learned to sail on this type of boat, it was fitting to come full circle and “Pay IT Forward”. The following week at Oak Hollow’s regatta, this Boston Whaler was duly christened “Inspiration”. It was fitting that its inaugural sail was with an Oak Hollow WOW participant, Pam Lineberry.
This event was so popular that the male volunteers and female participants are asking for a perpetual date. Mark your calendars, Sunday, September 10, 2017 is WOW 2 with practices to be held the last Saturday of the month during the Social Sails. How many new women sailors will be encouraged and join us on the water? Will you be one of them?!?