Having taught sailing at the yacht club, in college, and at Steve Colgate's Offshore Sailing School
, I have given some thought to this subject. I think there are at least two factors at play. The first is the, perhaps natural, inclination to defer to the husband or other dominant male. Most often, the woman slides into the role of mate and the husband takes over the role of skipper
. The problem with that is that the mate has only to do her job(s)--be they cooking
, watch standing, steering
, whatever. The skipper
does all that too, but he does one more thing: he bears the burden of command.
. He and only he is responsible for the lives and safety
of every member
of the crew and the welfare of the vessel. There is a world of difference between being the surgeon and the assistant surgeon, the pilot and the copilot, the platoon sergeant and the rifleman. When a couple boards the boat, the man takes the helm
and the woman reaches for the job sheet, nearly every time. Consequently, when I taught a woman to sail, her husband could not be in the boat. Better if he's not even at the club that day. And if there are others aboard, I prefer they be women.
If you want your wife, girl friend, or significant other to be a full participant in the sport, if you want her to be having as much fun as you are, if you want her confident and smiling...you must teach her to sail.
. Trust me, it will pay off in the end. And I've said it before here: put her in a Laser or other small dinghy
. She must be in command of her own vessel, however humble it may be. Start on a gentle summer day beam reaching back and forth. Then work up to other points of sail, other wind
velocities. When you see her smiling as she sails
her boat, you'll know progress is being made. When she comes off a screaming reach grinning from ear to ear, she's ready for the next step: racing
. At first she may be content to follow the fleet around the course, but soon enough she'll come to know other back-enders and will eventually race
them. And she will be forced to make her own decisions: which end of the starting line? Which side on the first beat? How to steer through the jam at the mark? Now you are ready to go aboard your big boat. Insist she skipper a passage
. She is the one who inspects the boat and her equipment
while you do the provisioning
. She decides on maintenance
and replacement of gear
. She plans the route
, watches the weather
, sets the departure. She will soon become a full participant in the sport. I hope it all works out for you both.
But, as I said, there are two factors. The other one is natural inclination. My wife and I sailed together most weekends between April and October for twelve years, both racing
and, after starting a family
, day sailing
, several North Americans, she was always the good soldier, never complaining, never a problem. But never into it either. Never one time in twelve years did she ever read a single
article on sailing or racing. Never a single
book, despite my suggestion, then asking, finally pleading. Never one time did I hear her discuss or inquire with any friends or competitors about anything to do with the boat, the sport, or anything else. We were both there but only one of us was into it, only one was sailing. The other was physically present but never engaged. Contrast that to Corbo Corbishley with whom I campaigned a Star in, I think, 1978. Corbo was the skipper, I the crew. He had first stepped into a sailboat two years earlier. He read everything he could get his hands on, every book, every article. He talked to every competitor, "Buddy, why did you go left on the second beat?" "Dennis, why'd you get rid of your traveller?" The following year he was tenth in the Olympic trials. Tenth! In four years!
I've never seen anyone like him, before or since. My wife, on the other hand, I doubt has been in a boat one single time in the thirty years since our divorce. So there's personal inclination.
Deference and personal inclination, two major factors in why so few women are true sailors.