ABYC introduces Girls in Sailing

August 3, 2022

By Marjolyn van der Hart

As Rear Commodore at Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club in Toronto, I have been actively involved in addressing the inequity in sailing. Working with a team of women who are involved in the sport, Irene MacNeill (IRO), Kelly Lyon (Board Director on Sail Canada) and Shona Moss Lovshin (former Olympian- Barcelona) we put together a comprehensive, data driven presentation proving that girls drop out of sailing as a very high rate. Especially at the age of 10 after completing their CanSail 1/2.

From this research, and several presentations to Sail Canada, Ontario Sailing, and the Council of Commodores in Ontario, we applied for a Resilience Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to address the inequity and create a program that builds a culture of sailing that girls do not want to leave. By having this substantial grant given to us, we can begin to build a girl focused information source and activities that build on the leadership skill development that sailing provides. It is a piece that is sadly addressed in Canada. 

Our program involves two levels; providing female led programming in racing (as in the Girls Sailing camp) and leadership development that defines the pathway to coaching. 

Next year, as part of the grant, we will be introducing a month-long Adventure in Sailing program that is non-competitive with a fleet of RS Zests. Although this program is available to boys and girls, it will be led by a female instructor. The goal of this program is to keep girls and boys in sailing who don’t want to race. The non-competitiveness of sailing is another reason that kids drop out of sailing. Emphasizing the “fun” and learning the CanSail levels is at the core. The goal is for these students to progress and acquire their Can Sail 3/4 levels and then ultimately be a sailing instructor. 

This year our first initiative is a Girls Sailing Camp on August 29-September 2. It will be led by National Team member and Olympic hopeful Clara Graveley. 

Here is a brief summary of Girls in Sailing:

Newly launched Girls in Sailing is a 5-day camp (9am-4pm) of on and off-water workshops and activities led by national team sailor and Olympic hopeful, Clara Gravely and ABYC’s Head Instructor Isabella Gillard. Any female youth sailors who have completed at least their CANSail 1 (or are more than halfway through their level 1) are welcome. 

On land, there will be a series of seminars including technical debriefs, group discussions, and bonding activities. Clara will share her experiences in her career as a female sailor, and provide inspiration and advice on how to stay involved in this amazing sport. On the water, there will be a mix of training drills to build confidence in the boat, as well as fun games and races. The goal of the camp is to wrap up the summer by giving our ABYC girls the chance to connect and share their love of sailing with other girls in the sailing community!

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