American Sailing Association launches program for women

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The American Sailing Association wants to get more women out on the water and has created a special education campaign called Women Wake Up Zone.

“When people hear ‘sailing,’ they often think of stuffy, 60-year-old men behind the wheel while women watch,” said Cindy Shabes, president of the American Sailing Association, in a statement. “Although a recent market research study shows that men outnumber women seven to one as registered boat owners, many of our instructors and high-level instructor evaluators are now women, and many of our schools are now owned or managed by women.”

As U.S. corporations, politics and the entertainment industry evolve to include greater numbers of women, the sailing industry “is riding the wave of gender equality” too, according to the statement.

With International Women’s Day earlier this month, as well as March being designated as Women’s History Month, the sailing organization chose March 2019 to embark upon a crusade to bring more women into sailing.

“While this campaign is new, in the future we plan to move to having no special training for women sailors because, with the technological advances, it has truly become a gender-neutral activity,” said Shabes. “We just need more women to get involved and spread the word.”

Designed to erase the stereotypes and eliminate the fear some women have that sailing is too expensive and physically demanding, the initiative aims to create more women sailors.

“As we see more women take the wheel and thrive on our waterways, we believe that others will follow in their wake,” said Shabes.

The “Women Wake Up Zone” education campaign includes the following classes:

  • Tie the knot – Knots can be intimidating, but women can be better at tying knots because their hands are often nimbler.
  • Raise a sail – Heavy sails that used to require major upper body strength have been replaced with lighter synthetic sails.
  • Work the winch – Maneuver a modern two-speed winch, the device on a boat to pull in or let out wind.
  • Save someone – Learn the procedure to follow if someone falls off of a boat.
  • Take the helm – Use fingertip precision to steer and sail the course.

In 2018, one third of all new students at the American Sailing Association schools nationwide were women, and the organization expects that by the year 2020, at least half of all new students will be women.

More progress is needed in the ferry, cruise, and cargo ship industry, the workforce of which the International Workers Federation estimates only one to two percent is women.

“More women in the industry will also encourage more women to consider sailing,” Shabes said.


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