No need to be an experienced sailor to notice that sailing may not be the most egalitarian sport when it comes to gender. Some attribute it to a difference in physical strength, less recklessness or, at a professional level, difficulties for women to convince sponsors, but certainly, there is a strong cultural dimension to it.
Isabelle Autissier, the first woman to sail singlehanded around the world in 1991, already highlighted the complexity of the issue: “First of all, you are not taken seriously because you are a woman. But then, when you prove you can do it, you are put higher up than the men.” Even though the disparity is not as extreme as in the ’90s, sailing remains a male-dominated sport. The Berkeley-based volunteer-run Cal Sailing Club is no exception, but CSC is making a point of changing mentalities.
Earlier this season, Christina Polito Halter, a CSC senior skipper, put together two afternoons of introduction to dinghy sailing for local Girl Scout troops. Using a dinghy in the yard, the Girl Scouts learned the basics of vocabulary and safety during maneuvers before being paired up with their skippers and casting off in the club RS Venture and Quest dinghies.
Summer days in the South Basin can be challengingly breezy, especially when sailing with children. But instructors were unanimous: The girls were all very brave, some of them going back on the water for multiple rides. No matter how long they sailed, all the girls had a huge smiles on their faces at the end of the day. This is what motivated Christina to organize these events for the second year. “[The girls] are just happy to be here,” she said. “Even those who didn’t fall in love with sailing, they are still excited to be around with their friends and discover new things.”
Christina’s concept for the event arose after a Boy Scout sailing day was held at CSC. She had wondered whether the Girl Scouts were given the same opportunity, remembering that when she was a kid, “Too often, the girls were watching the boys having fun!” Christina decided to be the change she wanted to see by offering the girls the opportunity to try new activities. Most CSC volunteers are very supportive of these events.
Besides the Girl Scout initiative, another advanced CSC sailor, Caryl Woulfe, has been organizing women’s clinics for more than 10 years to “encourage women to be more confident and brave” on the water. The clinic topics are voted in by female sailors who then get taught by fellow female members. One topic that comes back year after year is capsize recovery, and how to get back onto the boat after righting it. The class explains how to improvise a ladder with an extra line to climb back in more easily, and has proven to be a game changer for many sailors in the club. Other topics span safety maneuvers, like man-overboard drills, crew management on keelboats and even technical repairs.
But more than techniques, these clinics aim at demonstrating that all women can sail! In Caryl’s experience, “Once women sailors see other women righting a dinghy by themselves, sailing in heavy weather, or screaming downwind flying the gennaker, they become more confident that they can also do these things.” The goal is to ultimately have more women progressing through the club ratings. That would mean more female instructors, more female skippers for the club monthly open houses and, generally, a more gender-balanced face of our sport to welcome newcomers in our discipline.
Other opportunities and events exist for women sailors around the Bay. The Amazing Grace Cheney Cup, in memory of ardent female racer Grace Cheney, will be held on November 3 at Richmond Yacht Club. Caryl took part in this female-skippers-only regatta last year, and felt very empowered among this female-helmed fleet of 18 boats. The annual Northern California Women’s Sailing Seminar was just held in September, and other organizations around the Bay, like the Club Nautique, the San Francisco Yacht Club or Modern Sailing, have instruction and sailing programs dedicated to women.
By putting women sailors in the spotlight, CSC and all these Bay organizations contribute to changing the image of our beloved discipline. If we are still far from parity when it comes to boat ownership or professional sailors, more and more women undertake sailing training — a third of the new students last year were women, according to the American Sailing Association, and parity is expected for next year.
Harpoen first crossed our editorial desk in 2003, when her owner, Ron Witzel, a staff commodore at Marin Yacht Club in San Rafael, proposed her as a Latitude 38 Boat of the Month.
“She’s a solid fiberglass — with lots of teak — Javelin 38 designed by Bill Tripp Sr. She was built in 1961 by C. van Lent and Zonen Jacht en Scheepsbouw in Kaag, Holland,” said Witzel. “Hull #9 of 23, she is 37 feet, 10 inches long, has a waterline of 26 feet 7 inches, a beam of 10 feet, and draws 5 feet 6 inches. She weighs 14,500 lbs and had a CCA rating of 26.5.” Seafarer Yachts of New York imported Harpoen in 1961. She has been in the Witzel family since 1966, when Ron’s late father, Claude Witzel, and late uncle, ‘Mo’ Witzel, bought her.
As you might have guessed, “harpoen” is Dutch for “harpoon.”
“We raced Harpoen extensively on the Bay in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and won the Yankee Cup in 1977. We also did the Windjammer Race to Santa Cruz in 1971.
“Originally powered by an Atomic 4, Harpoen has since been repowered with an Albin diesel and two Yanmars.
“My wife, Joanna, and I are the current owners and have continued restorations. After reworking the rudder and encapsulating the keel, and major cosmetic refits for the hull and non-skid, we primarily use her for daysailing.”
Harpoen did race last weekend, placing third out of six boats in Marin YC’s Captain Fast Pursuit Race on San Pablo Bay. (Paul Descalso’s Alerion Express 28 Sobrante won, followed by Aidan Collins’ Alerion 33 Bella.)
“Over the years we also upgraded to an aluminum mast, a ProFurl roller-furler, and a LeisureFurl roller-furling boom. Robin Sodaro of Hood Sailmakers did our full-batten furling main.
“If you want proof that the Javelin 38 is a lasting design, Majek, a sistership with a 5-ft-taller mast, won the Marion to Bermuda Race in 1997.”
The new Hanse 388 is a cruiser that lets in more sunlight below deck than any other yacht in its class. A record number of portholes in the hull and on deck — and even alongside the companionway — flood the saloon with natural sunlight the whole day through. The well-structured, large cockpit and the generously designed deck spaces invite you to relax under the sun. Come aboard and discover more about this luxurious yacht.
Just a couple of weeks after officially announcing their campaign for the next Ocean Race (formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race), the American-led 11th Hour Racing Team has claimed a podium finish in the ultra-competitive Défi Azimut off the coast of France. A 48-hour pre-Transat Jacques Vabre tune-up, the Défi Azimut recently pitted 20 top IMOCA 60 teams against one another for a short coastal race and organized speed runs before embarking on a 500-mile offshore race. 11th Hour Team co-founder Charlie Enright teamed up with legendary French sailor Pascal Bidégorry and media man Martin Keruzoré in their new-to-them IMOCA 60 11th Hour, formerly Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss, which finished second in the last Vendée Globe.
Sailing on a fast broad reach in 20 knots of breeze for much of the early stages of the race, the team ran in second place until the leeward turning mark. Close pursuers Kevin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven onboard PRB were able to slip by on the long beat home. Consistently out front and repeating their win from the Rolex Fastnet were Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on the oftentimes fully-foiling Charal, consistently the most airborne boat of the IMOCA fleet, and one that was able to sustain 32 knots of boat speed in the speed runs.
While team co-founder and co-skipper Charlie Enright of Newport, Rhode Island, was sailing in the Défi Azimut, the team’s other co-founder and co-skipper, Mark Towill of Kaneohe, Hawai’i, was attending the Ocean Race Summit in Genoa, Italy, to discuss sustainability measures and technologies that will be implemented by the team in the next Ocean Race. The summit largely focused on sustainability and innovation. It took place during a week of massive global protests and strikes calling for climate action. Core values of sustainability, ocean and environmental health, innovation and the need for urgent climate action define what 11th Hour Racing is all about.
Officially the next ‘American’ team in the next (ex-)‘Volvo’, 11th Hour has brought in many other talented Americans. These include the Bay Area’s own Bill Erkelens as chief operating officer. Erkelens has been part of the team since the original Alvimedica days of 2014-15. He brings a wealth of experience to the group in a game that rewards just that.
While the team may be an American-led effort, they have not hesitated to go beyond these borders to recruit talent. As well as teaming up with Frenchman Pascal Bidégorry in the team’s early IMOCA races, they have also formed a strategic partnership with Mer Concept, the sailing and sports consultancy firm owned by record-setting French sailor and Vendée Globe champion François Gabart. With a good source of funding, top personnel and an all-new boat to be constructed before the next Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing is proving to be one of the early favorites in the revamped around-the-world ‘Ocean Race’.
Bay Area — wow! Yesterday was, in the parlance of sophisticated sailors everywhere, a super-gnarly day on the water.
A recent rule of thumb seems to be that, following a few days of unseasonable heat, big wind immediately follows. After wrapping up our deadline on Wednesday for the October issue (during 90-plus-degree weather), we naturally gravitated to the Bay on Thursday. But once under sail, we found ourselves absolutely lit up, to again draw from the lofty parlance of mariners.
The view yesterday from Latitude’s ‘satellite offices’ in San Quentin (the neighborhood, not the prison) looking south toward the East Bay. This photo was taken at about 11 a.m., which, by any measure, is early for the wind to start stirring. The breeze only built as the day went on, and didn’t quit until sunset.
We can expect big breezes all through the weekend, especially tomorrow. It’s as if summer is taking a bow before it goes into its slumber. We’re not complaining — the wind this season has been a gift that keeps on giving. With that said, we will also enjoy those 8- to 12-knot days whenever they decide to make an appearance.
We hope you enjoy your weekend wherever you are, Latitude Nation. And please feel free to send us the pictures!