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Old 11-02-2016, 12:56   #1

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Gender parity in sailing


Why Aren't Women at the Helm?

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Old 11-02-2016, 13:31   #2
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

There are a lot of women at the helm. Well OK there are some, myself included. Had a boat beside me at another marina where the woman was always at the helm, when docking.

Guess it depends on who owns the boat. Plus some women may be inexperenced or even scared of docking.

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Old 11-02-2016, 13:37   #3
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

As co-skipper I also see many other women at the helm. Unfortunately I also see a lot who want nothing to do with 'driving' the boat.

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Old 11-02-2016, 13:40   #4
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

I know that my wife is uncomfortable at the helm in less than ideal conditions, or in tight situations like docking, and would prefer that I take over.

Which suggests that I should be encouraging her to spend more time at the helm in good conditions and in those that are at the edge of her comfort zone, so that she can build her skill and comfort level.

Only problem is that I really, really like steering the boat, and I'm really, really eager to take over if someone hands it to me.

Oh well: "I'm a man; I can change, if I have to." (Red Green, the man's prayer)
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Old 11-02-2016, 14:44   #5
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

My wife and I sail. She originally was uncomfortable taking the helm but I insist. Its a safety issue. If somthing were to happen to me like man overboard its important to haveher know how to handle the boat. She enjoys it now and we trade often.

Our good friends
Whom we sail with occasionally, his wife will have nothing to do with handling the boat.

I have encouraged her to take some sailing classes with my wife we'll see this summer.

I think once they get over the initial fear the ladies enjoy it. Plus I think ladies are better at steering. Women dont over steer as many men do.
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Old 11-02-2016, 14:48   #6
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

People often develop different roles or areas of expertise. I'm usually at the helm when anchoring on my boat or when I charter. I also don't view either role as being more important than the other and it's not gender specific. It's basic division of labor.

When on my boat or when chartering, I would love others to be more comfortable at navigating and steering, but they are simply not as comfortable as I and not interested. They prefer having a division of labor. I think it's common for boat owners to be more comfortable behind the wheel than others and men tend to own boats more than women do. When I go out with my female friend on her boat, she takes the helm more than I. When I go out with my male buddy on his boat, he does most of the steering.

I certainly agree there are good safety reasons why the captain should not be the only one who knows how to steer and navigate, especially when passage making, but that's not gender specific. To speak of different roles only in the context of gender seems agenda driven to me. Is it sexism against me as a male that I'm not at the anchor controls when anchoring?

I suppose it's a matter of definition, but I don't think people taking on different roles mean's there's no parity, gender or otherwise.
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Old 11-02-2016, 15:00   #7
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

My wife and I took lessons together and at that time it was always her at the helm and me doing the lines. It was the same for coming up to a mooring, helm at helm and me hooking. But she just doesn't like being at the helm unless we are in open water and over time it became that I'm always at the helm.
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Old 11-02-2016, 15:47   #8
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

I have always been suspicious of the so-called "gender parity" issue.

I taught my daughter [now 38 years old] how to sail the same way I taught her to drive.

We lived in the mountains when she was going to school and I had just picked her up at the school bus stop 5 miles from our home [she was in 3rd or 4th grade if I remember]...
"Dad, when will you teach me to drive?"
"Anytime you want"
"Come over here and sit on my lap"
She sat on my lap and put her hands on the wheel and I put my hands at my side...
"What do I do now?"
"Just keep us out of either of those ditches, and you steer while I work the pedals"
By the time she could reach the pedals she was an excellent driver. Our ritual was always the same...she drove home from the bus stop every school day until she left for college.

Many years later she came to visit me on my boat and asked the same question...
"What do I do?"
"Just sit there and grab that long stick thing and try to keep the sails full of wind [slight breeze, calm seas, 3miles or so from the nearest land, no traffic], I'll go below and make us some lunch." I could feel the boat luff up a little and hear the rudder moving around; she got it figured out after a bit and I went up with lunch and we just enjoyed life for a couple of days.

I don't believe in gender parity or anything of the sort. If you want to do something, you do it...whatever it takes, whoever you are.
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Old 11-02-2016, 16:11   #9
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

Originally Posted by AD28 View Post
Why Aren't Women at the Helm?[/URL]

I motored down the ICW and maybe 1 boat in 100 had the female at the wheel.

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Old 11-02-2016, 16:25   #10
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

Why are there fewer women conductors. Why are there fewer women painters. Why are there fewer women poets. Why are there fewer women chefs. Noticed no question marks there?

Why does a stone sink? Why does a cork float? Why women, not men, carry a baby inside? Why men run the 100m and the marathon faster than women? Notice the question marks here.

Well. Parity is a human invention. There are things we do together, things we do alone. Things where men and women are equally represented and others where the distribution is not even.

First invent 'parity' then ask why there is none. Pretty naive, isn't it.

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Old 11-02-2016, 16:45   #11
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

I guess what follows is a bit of an article of my own on the topic. To try & explain some of the history behind the question. And the origins of the current Sailing Gender, state of affairs. Plus what's transpired in recent history to change it. As well as some of the obstacles to change.

Sailing's been a Boys Club, for a Very, Very Long Time. As in many centuries; in all aspects of it. Military & Recreational. So there's a lot of inertia right there, to overcome.
Even for couples, who at home, divide up the household equally, with no gender roles to any specific chores attached to any (or very few of them).

- In the mid '80's, when I started racing (Pro), women were virtually non-existent in that aspect of the sport. As in far less than 1 in 20. Ditto in recreational sailing. Albeit in the latter, the numbers were a bit higher. But mostly only for the day sailing type of sailing.

And when I was learning the "racing game", say from '85-'90. Out of the likely 50+ coaches which I had, only 1 was a woman.

- 1989, Skipper Tracy Edward had almost a nigh on impossible time finding both support & crew for the 1st all Female Whitbread crew (a RTW Race - the Precursor of the VOR)

- In the early '90's, when I worked for America Cubed, they really had to beat the bushes HARD in order to find crew for Mighty Mary ('94-'95 Women's America's Cup Team). And even then, we had to teach most of them how to handle, as well as race a big boat. The depth of experience simply wasn't out there. Sadly

- '95-'97 I took a breather from racing to rebuild some boats, do deliveries, etc.

- '97 Got recruited back to racing, & there were a Plethora of Women, everywhere in sailing. At least at the Yacht Clubs, & in mid-level racing.
I met my then GF via club (PHRF) racing,. She both raced & skippered a racing boat (she still does).

- 2000 On, the numbers of women in sailing grew rapidly, but... The number of women who can, or are, skippering Big Boats, is still small. Especially professionally, & or as Owners; which are/is the wellspring of Sailing's culture.
Meaning that those in charge, both set the rules, & are the role models to which others aspire.

There aren't few women in the marine trades, & or professional sailing. Which is where the depth of knowledge for sailing really starts, ditto on "trickle down sailing":
Rigging, Sail making, Boatbuilding, Sailing Instruction, Boat Care, Sales, Navigation Teachers, Skippering (Professional type) & the stepping stones leading up to same...

Also, like the article states. And this is key Women Learn Differently. So that since most (sailing) teachers are male... Though, I for instance, learned this difference early on.

By having few gender specific roles in the house, & by continually being around Female Sailors; Including Skippers & (Boat) Owners.
And as a result, I will often get recruited to teach women to sail. Everything from basic classes, to full on, trying to bring home the trophies, racing. As in I teach racing while we’re out there competing at the same time.

Some of it comes to me via the sailing schools of a few different friends, & some of it's fully freelance. When a group of women @ a Yacht Club will put together enough sailors who want to learn,In a calm environment sans yelling.
Also, BTW, classes exclusively for women tend to be great (& superior IMO) ways for women to learn; sailing, & to be in charge of the boat when things get hairy.

The Yelling thing is BIG, as in Traumatic for most women. Enough so that even if it’s warranted by the situation @ hand, it can turn some off to sailing, forever. And it's tough for a lot of guys to get this. Especially on the water, where it's often difficult to be heard due to environmental noise, boat noise, & the screaming on boats (very, very close) nearby, when racing.
~ As, coming into a mark rounding on a race course sounds like a cocktail party heard through a 1,000w amplifier which is being slowly turned up, as you near the mark.

So in order to teach women; both the teachers, & some of the "what is taught in what order, & where", must be recalibrated. With the first thing to be taught & established, is rapport, connection, & safety (personal/emotional boundaries, & physical safety; as in how emergencies will be headed off before they happen; as well as how they'll be handled with calm, reassurance, & low drama as possible).

For instance, on a boat, it's rare for me, or one of my close sailing mates to yell, unless:
-> Someone, personally, or an item of extreme fiscal value is in danger. This even applies when I'm racing with guys, & I have a feel for (or will have asked the owner) what $ amount of gear I can let the crew break, or get close to breaking before yelling.

As for sailors to learn, you have to be okay with letting them screw up, as well as break things, & then learn from their mistakes.

Which, isn't the easiest thing to learn to do as a teacher. And some folks, guys especially, who are used to always being in charge, & having things run smoothly, their way, simply cannot (won’t let themselves) learn as much.

Although, this is changing. And there are more women in racing. Most importantly, in the role of Skipper, Tactician, & or Owner. - And They Are FAR more likely to be out cruising, & taking on more proactive roles onboard, in dealing with stressful situations, which require being in command. Both pre-planned for, as well as on the fly.

As for some examples about learning when Not to Yell:
At this point, I'll let things on a racing boat, where folks are always still learning (but it's not somewhere that you normally teach much), get to where I'll let guys destroy a $5K sail, or grab them & pull them back onboard just as they were about to go swimming. That, or stop someone from doing X just seconds before their actions would have brought down the rig. Etc.

And in most circumstances like that, a guy's instincts & training (since he was little) are to yell at whomever he just stopped from making a BIG mistake. Which, with women generally leaves a geometrically deeper scar; from the trauma of the incident, & then of the berating afterwards, while already likely being terrified.
So, a good depth of experience is needed in order to teach like that. And also to do so while at the same time coaching people at the highest levels; for regular sailing, & or, to win upper tier level races.

-> The other obvious time for yelling, is when it's just too damned loud to be heard otherwise. But even then, I make every effort to get as close to the person as is physically possible under the circumstances... working on creating a rapport & a physically intimate connection thing,: And then tell or yell at them what they need to be doing (& why - also a Key item).

The "Why"item is key, & explaining it (especially to women) helps SO MUCH...
I particularly make a point of having a "Chalk Talk" before a complex, & or, loud evolution. Explaining to everyone; what's going to happen/what the goal is. Who's doing what, why they're doing it, why they got picked for that specific job, how their job relates to everyone else's role as well as the big picture.

Ditto on what might go wrong; X, Y, & Z... and what the possible solutions for each of those are. Plus, what's the preferred one, when, & why.
Including making sure that everyone's up to speed on things. Whether there are questions.

And... without making them feel as if they're being put on the spot, asking a hesitant seeming student (discerned via body language), to explain "Part X" of the evolution, or similar.

Much of this, which when teaching (& learning by) men, isn't gone into in nearly so much depth. Nor covered even in 1/3 of the detail mentioned above. Instead, fixing & learning things on the fly. Sometimes conversationally, & equally as much of the time, via yelling. Yet rarely does this leave “marks” on guys.
Albeit it’s not the best way to teach. Fully explaining things, as above, tends to be.

Also, guys won’t necessarily ask questions if they're unclear on something, during a "chalk talk". And as an instructor, unless you really know what to look for/are paying attention, recognizing the subtle signs of a guy who's unsure, can be a bit harder to pick up on (than in women). Especially if it's not something you're used to doing with people.

Plus, there's the flipside to that: A large percentage of guys won’t hesitate to ask questions if they're uncertain about how an evolution is about to unfold, why part X, or Y of it is important. Or why they were selected for this role/job, over that one.

A LOT of information, I know, & I hope that some of it’s helpful.

One other thing to consider about Women & Sailing, is to think on how many of the skills involved are technically, or math/science based. And how society treats such topics with relation to gender.
Ditto on how many women tend to have experience with engines or electronics before beginning sailing. And not to overly stereotype, but how many of them own a Multimeter, or a Socket Set, vs. your average guy?
Such things set a lot of the ground work for attitudes, knowledge, experience, & Especially Mindset, prior to ever stepping onto a boat.

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Old 11-02-2016, 16:54   #12
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

Oh, boy. I try to avoid political discussions here but feel the need to throw in a few comments.

Toss around the words you like, I'm not going to get into semantic details, but parity and equality aren't the same thing. One refers to equal opportunity (another politically charged term) and the other refers to equal results, which is not a logical outcome of the first.

Men and women are different (vive la différence) in many ways, so we shouldn't expect them to be the same everywhere, but it's important not to extrapolate that too far.

My first profession was engineering. Out of a graduating class of 75 there were two women (electrical eng. is math intensive and women tended to avoid it). Is that a result of innate ability or cultural pressure? Probably some of each, I don't know how much. But the two women in the class were damned good at it.

Don't mix analogies. Asking why women carry the babies? and why more men are chefs? in the same discussion is ridiculous. One is a biological imperative, the other is something else, I don't know what.

I suspect that we don't see more women at the helm primarily because of cultural conditioning - the man is the "captain" - but I have no research or specific knowledge to support that opinion, so won't try hard to defend it.

/end rant
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Old 11-02-2016, 16:57   #13
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

Since we doubled, let me make it clear that my response was to barnakiel's post. Uncivilized has added some very interesting thoughts on what that cultural conditioning looks like in practice.
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Old 11-02-2016, 18:14   #14
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

Why is it that in nearly every car that I see containing one man and one woman, the man is driving?
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Old 11-02-2016, 18:33   #15
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Re: Gender parity in sailing

Originally Posted by StuM View Post
Why is it that in nearly every car that I see containing one man and one woman, the man is driving?
We drive from San Francisco to Vancouver Island twice a year.

We switch drivers every hour.

You must have missed her when she was on shift.

OTOH, my buddy from Chicago drives to Florida every year. He doesn't let her drive. He's a control freak who won't take even Novacaine during root canal work! You musta seen him then, not us.

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