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Resounding Success for the 29th Women’s Sailing Seminar

Last weekend, Tempestas, the ancient Roman goddess of storms, took mercy on her fellow ladies of the sea for the 29th Women’s Sailing Seminar (WSS). On the previous days, the Bay Area had experienced a small craft advisory — storms brewing in the mountains, followed by the strongest winds of the year. But across the weekend we were blessed with a perfect weather window of clear skies, 70 degrees and beautiful sailing conditions on the Bay.

The annual WSS is organized by Island Yacht Club (IYC), a club that has faced difficulties over the past two years. In late 2020 they lost their clubhouse to the new development at the Alameda Marina. In the same year they were hit by the pandemic. After the 2020 program went virtual due to COVID, the 2021 seminar returned with a bang with a surprisingly high number of participants. This meant the club had to get creative when putting on the event. The Encinal and Oakland yacht clubs hosted the group, providing dock space and club space where classroom instruction, a speaker series, a yoga class, chair massage, and dinner and evening cocktail parties were held.

Dawn Chesney conducts the Skipper’s Meeting on Sunday morning, while holding a Latitude 38.
© 2021 Nicolas Cholula

The year’s track courses consisted of Beginner, Crew, Sailor, Divas of the Bay, Racing, and Maintenance. Classroom, dockside, and on-the-water instruction gave participants the opportunity for hands-on learning. Marine diesel mechanic and engineer Meredith Anderson taught her WSS class via Zoom last year, from her Catalina 27 in Puget Sound. This year she was able to travel down from Washington to teach her Maintenance class in person. “Lecture is great when teaching concepts, but people tend to learn better hands-on,” she said.

Instructor Meredith’s apprentice, Rhiannon Boyd, goes up the mast during the  Maintenance class.
© 2021 Nicolas Cholula

Meredith, who considers herself a cruiser with no racing experience, mentions also having the opportunity to learn a lot herself when her co-instructor, Ros de Vries, pulled out the spinnaker for their final downwind sail on the Estuary. “I definitely learned a lot about flying the spinnaker and racing boat positions,” she added.

Women's Sailing Seminar
Ros de Vries (left) and Meredith Anderson instructing the ‘Divas of the Bay’ class.
© 2021 Pam McComas

The WSS is famously known to be organized and taught by women, for women. “I haven’t taken a formal class with a man in 15+ years, but it’s not about gender, it’s about temperament. There is definitely a camaraderie that happens at WSS that I appreciate, and even in stressful moments we still manage to have fun, stay safe, and have a positive learning experience,” participant Shelli Bohrer said. This was Shelli’s fourth seminar, and this year she volunteered her time to join the committee and help organize the event.

Shelli Bohrer and her ‘Divas of the Bay’ group practice MOB from Eclipse.
© 2021 Nicolas Cholula

IYC has a reputation for being the “friendly club,” which was undeniable at the heartfelt celebration of Sunday evening’s award ceremony, during which the participants, instructors and board members had the opportunity to share with the group their experience of growing their skills, bonding and sisterhood. Despite the hardships the club has felt recently, the great effort of the members and volunteers upheld the WSS tradition by continuing to inspire and empower new and returning women in the sailing community.

The WSS committee takes a bow at the seminar’s closing party at OYC.
© 2021 Monique Selvester

Stay tuned for more on the Women’s Sailing Seminar in November’s issue of Latitude 38.


  1. Ros de Vries 2 years ago

    Fantastic summary, Monique! I had a great time instructing – and wow, first time for you driving with the spinnaker up?

    We had a wonderful time at this year’s WSS – looking forward to hearing about everyone’s future learning and adventures ❤️

  2. Caryl Martin 2 years ago


  3. Mitch 2 years ago

    Great story.

  4. Nancy Farmer 2 years ago

    I am a member of the Lake Tahoe Windjammers Yacht Club. I have been sailing for over 40 years but only with my husband. I need to broaden my skills and knowledge as my husband cannot move around the boat like he once could and will be much more dependent on me. I would like to participate in next years event I would love to be notified.

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