13 Feb Weather or not, Sailing Convention for Women sails on
The weather outside was frightful, but that didn’t bother the 240+ women gathered for the 2019 Sailing Convention for Women in Newport Beach, CA on February 2. Inside the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, conference organizers juggled schedules to move on-water activities indoors as an ugly front made its way eastward.
It turns out that the old song “It Never Rains in Southern California” isn’t actually true. The area is experiencing an unusually wet spell, so the normal balmy conditions didn’t materialize for this year’s Sailing Convention for Women. As a strong front packing 30+ knot winds, a rough sea state, and bands of heavy rain swept across the area, organizers made the prudent decision to keep sailors ashore. Even though some on-water activities had to be scuttled, the day still provided a bevy of learning and networking opportunities for sailors of all stripes. After all, sailors know a thing or two about adapting to the weather.
Women learning from women
Event organizer Gail Hine realized long ago that there was a need for sailing education tailored for women. Gail understood that many women gain an important element of sailing – confidence – through structured learning. She put together a program that started small 30 years ago, and has evolved into the current Sailing Convention for Women. Year after year the event sells out, proving that women sailors seek out and support events that help them increase their knowledge and skills in a supportive environment.
Some attendees are sailing newbies, getting their first taste of the sailing experience. Others are more advanced sailors looking to enhance their abilities with hands-on workshops and expert instruction. What makes this conference special is that not only are all the attendees women – all the sessions are taught by women. And not just any women; experienced, enthusiastic and articulate sailors, many of whom are licensed captains. That dynamic of women learning from other women is the special sauce of this annual event.
The full day program had workshops covering everything from “Dinghy Do’s & Don’ts” to “Winch Wizardry.” All told, the schedule offered instruction in more than 30 different topics. Attendees also had lots of time to network during lunch, cocktails, and dinner.
Diesels, weather and winches
My first session of the morning was “Dabble in Diesels” with Capt. Holly Scott. A sailor since the age of 3, Holly takes groups sailing all over the world with her charter business Mahalo Sailing. She can also, in her own words, “fix anything on a boat with nothing, while standing on my head” – which makes her the perfect person to teach women about diesels.
With a diesel engine mounted on a rolling cart, Holly used her straight talk and signature humor to demonstrate the key parts and how to service them. Pretty soon we could all identify the oil dipstick, coolant cap, raw water intake valve, filters, heat exchanger, and impeller. I personally believe you learn more when you’re laughing, so when Holly said “be sure to smile while you’re bleeding the fuel system” it made the steps of the procedure much more memorable!
Next up was “Weather Wisdom” presented by Capt. Linda Newland. Linda has her 100 ton Merchant Marine license and has sailed and raced extensively on the West Coast. She’s sailed the Singlehanded Transpac to Hawaii twice and is a veteran of the LA-Honolulu Transpac and the Pacific Cup. In 1997, on her own boat, she skippered an all women’s crew in the LA – Honolulu Transpac, taking a second place division finish.
Linda started the session with a gripping cautionary tale about a race where unexpected weather changes caused havoc. She was frank about how she and her crew could have done a better job reading the initial weather signs to deal with the conditions. From there, she covered how fronts are formed, what clouds tell us, and where to get good marine weather information.
Ironically, the weather front moving through Southern California peaked during this session, and we had a first-hand look at real-time dramatic weather change. From the second-floor room inside the yacht club, I could see masts swinging wildly and rain driving horizontally through the marina. But now, from Linda’s instruction, I understood why it was happening – a real a-ha moment.
In the afternoon I devoted myself to sessions on boat maintenance. Both were led by Judy Fusco, a personable and energetic instructor who used show and tell and hands-on participation to get across lots of great information. In “Maintenance Mania” Judy took us through a full boat maintenance schedule. From a 10 foot table loaded with her personal stash of boat gear, she showed us the tools and products she uses for each task.
Throughout the session, Judy sprinkled in practical tips gleaned from working on her own boat. One helpful thing I learned: never start taking something on the boat apart without a container to put all the parts in, so they don’t roll around the boat. So basic, but so important! Judy also shared a great template for tracking ongoing boat maintenance and showed how she sets up her own maintenance binder.
In the “Winch Wizards” session Judy showed us how to take apart and service a winch. Then she divided us into small groups to do it ourselves. Winches have always mystified me, and being able to open one up and see the inner workings was surprisingly satisfying. I also found out later that Judy is a high school physics teacher, which explains how she managed to make boat maintenance and winch servicing both engaging and fun.
An inspiring evening
Following a cocktail hour, attendees were treated to a seated dinner and an address by Melody Kanschat. Melody is a distinguished arts professional who previously served as President of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is now Executive Director of the Getty Leadership Institute. She’s also a sailor with 40 years of sailing experience, and much of what she’s learned sailing enhances her work in leadership development.
Melody gave an engaging talk about understanding and working with different leadership styles in the context of sailing. Just like in business, when you know the leadership styles of your skipper and crew mates you can communicate much more effectively. And as every sailor knows, good communication = happy boat.
Women’s sailing in So. Cal
One of the treats of attending this event was learning about all the women’s sailing organizations in the area. Being an East Coaster, I was happy to learn that Southern California is a vibrant community for women’s sailing. While there are some scattered organizations in the Northeast, it’s not the same boating culture that exists here.
In Southern California there are at least 4 very active women’s sailing groups in the area. From north to south, they are: Channel Islands Women’s Sailing Association (CIWSA) in Ventura County, Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay (WSASMB) based in Marina del Ray, Long Beach Women’s Sailing Association (LBWSA), and Women’s Sailing Association of Orange County (WSA-OC) covering the area between Newport Beach and Dana Point. Members from all groups were represented at the Sailing Convention for Women.
All of the groups are independent of yacht club membership or boat ownership, and welcome women with all levels of sailing experience. They offer a combination of day sailing, cruising, racing and social events at very affordable membership rates. I only wish something like this existed near NYC! Not to mention that I’m jealous of the year-round sailing.
Overall, it was a terrific day of education and meeting lots of new sailing friends. Even after sailing and racing regularly for over 10 years, it’s humbling to know that I still have so much to learn. But these kind of events show me what’s possible – other women are doing it! – and inspire me to set my sailing sights higher. In the end, that’s what the Sailing Convention for Women is really all about.
We were proud to be a sponsor of the 2019 Sailing Convention for Women. All attendees received a complimentary sunglass lanyard, and two lucky raffle winners received $100 gift certificates. If you’re wondering what to use that certificate for, we suggest our best-selling Saybrook Stripe Shirt or Chesapeake Shorts.
If you’re not following us on Instagram, you’re missing out! Check out our Instagram Stories archive for a behind-the-scenes peek at the conference. See it here: 12° West.