Women at the “Sharp End” of Racing, and in the Pacific Northwest

CNN’s Shirley Robertson takes a look at women “at the sharp end of the sport.” (Don’t you love how the Brits use their language?) She’s a double Olympic medalist, so well qualified. In this 22 minute video that’s getting a lot of play interenationally, she interviews Ellen MacArthur, Sam Davies, Dawn Riley and others. I love it when she talks to Ken Read about why he hadn’t recruited more women, and he admits “shame on me.”

It’s pretty clear that there isn’t gender equality at that sharp end, especially when it comes to the America’s Cup. The argument that it’s difficult for women revolves around size and strength.

I’ve always thought that the Northwest had a relatively (to other areas) high percentage of women skippers and crews. Almost all the crews I’ve been a part of have had a mix. And Ellen MacArthur and Sam Davies reinforce what I’ve always felt, that the best way into the sport for women is to just ignore the few bone-heads out there that think that women don’t belong, and just sail the boat. I can’t speak for the sharp end of the sport.

Check out the video below. I’d love to open up the conversation about Northwest women racers. Are there more bone-heads out there than I think? Is the racing climate conducive or prohibitive to women? Start it up in the comments below and if there’s interest I can open up a forum.

 

Kurt grew up racing and cruising in the Midwest, and has raced Lasers since the late 1970s. He has been Assistant Editor at Sailing Magazine and a short stint as Editor of Northwest Yachting. Through Meadow Point Publishing he handles various marketing duties for smaller local companies. He currently is partners on a C&C 36 which he cruises throughout the Northwest. He's married to the amazing Abby and is father to Ian and Gabe.

8 thoughts on “Women at the “Sharp End” of Racing, and in the Pacific Northwest

  • April 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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    Two words: “Sailing Anarchy”

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    • April 19, 2017 at 12:34 pm
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      Sure, that’s certainly a place to go. There’s lots of discussion there. I’m hoping there can be a Northwest-focused conversation here.

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  • April 19, 2017 at 1:25 pm
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    So many thoughts and feels on this subject. Having a local conversation about this sounds nice but ultimately what is the goal before it becomes a conversation of blame and or dismissal? I love the men in my sailing community, I wouldn’t be where I am without them, though I’ve experienced my fair share of sexism. I started racing a few years and I know I was allowed on boats at times because I have a cute ass and could tell a dirty joke… there are plenty of “bone-heads” out there. Is the conversation about how do we empower more woman (young and adult) to become accomplished racers? The video even says it’s about opportunity, so what opportunities are there for woman to elevate to a competitive place? I would love to hear from some of the top female skippers in the region on their experience.

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    • April 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm
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      Hello HM, My not so secret wish is to hear from both men and women emphatically saying that women are welcome on race boats around here. It would be a kind of answer to CNN’s piece. Hey, maybe at the “sharp end” of the sport women are finding it difficult, but here in our beloved Pacific Northwest we sing a different tune. Personally, I think one of the greatest strengths of this sport is we get to do it together and there are jobs for everyone. I’m going to go ahead and open up a forum and see what happens. Thanks for your input, and I hope we get others to chime in.

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      • April 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm
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        That’s a very sweet sentiment.

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  • April 19, 2017 at 1:28 pm
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    Kurt.. sorry that wasn’t my point. I think that the attitude towards women that is displayed by many at Sailing Anarchy, and in particular the editor, is rightfully considered by many to be demeaning to women. If this is the face of racing, it’s no wonder we have so few women in the sport.

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    • April 19, 2017 at 1:48 pm
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      Got it, and excellent point. SA is good for a lot of discussion, and is a great place for a lot of sailing topics. But this particular topic might be better served by, shall we say, a more local and polite forum. Thanks for your input.

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  • April 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm
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    I am a female racer, cruiser, licensed Captain and sailing instructor. I have had wonderful experiences sailing with men (and women) locally, and I have had some not so great experiences. I have been empowered by men who recognized what I brought to the boat and completely condescended to by men who didn’t know me and assumed I knew nothing. Some of the issues I’ve had boil down to communication styles and demeanor on the boat and some go back to the presence of the bone-heads you mentioned.

    Reply

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