South Shore sailor ad­vo­cates for gen­der equal­ity in sport

South Shore Breaker - - LOCAL - JOSH HEALEY edi­tor@southshore­

It all be­gan with her grand­mother’s boat, which was a state­ment of sorts, although sailor Les­ley Tay­lor ac­cepted it as a fact of life at the time.

But now, fresh off com­plet­ing the 560-kilo­me­tre Route Hal­i­faxst. Pierre Ocean Race, Tay­lor is ad­vo­cat­ing for a change in sail­ing cul­ture akin to her grand­mother’s state­ment from all those years ago: Sail­ing is for ev­ery­one.

“I sort of grew up in this bub­ble where I thought it was nor­mal for women to own their own boats,” said Tay­lor, who is from the South Shore. “It was not my grand­par­ents’ boat and I never re­ally ques­tioned that. It was al­ways Grammy’s boat.”

Tay­lor crewed aboard the sail­ing ves­sel Sea Smoke, which fin­ished third in the race, the lat­est ac­com­plish­ment in her sail­ing ca­reer. She has com­peted in many sail­ing events, won recog­ni­tion with Sail Nova Sco­tia and is a master learn­ing fa­cil­i­ta­tor with Sail Canada.

Tay­lor cred­its her grand­mother and the rest of her fam­ily for ig­nit­ing her pas­sion for sail­ing.

“I was beg­ging to take sail­ing lessons when I was six and seven. It’s al­ways been a part of my life,” she said.

And although Tay­lor loves the sport, she said she is keen to en­cour­age more girls and women to par­tic­i­pate.

“Sail Nova Sco­tia gave me the Fe­male Sailor of the Year Award last year and it’s an hon­our, but I re­ally wish there were a lot more women out there to sail with and against,” she said.

Tay­lor was also rec­og­nized in 2014 as in­struc­tor of the year by Sail Nova Sco­tia.

Ac­cord­ing to Tay­lor, the world of com­pet­i­tive sail­ing is mostly male-dom­i­nated, although that might not be clear if you look only at youth par­tic­i­pa­tion. She said it is not un­til around the teenage years that the gen­der ra­tio be­comes no­tice­ably skewed, and it be­comes worse if you look at com­pet­i­tive one-de­sign keel­boat rac­ing.

Tay­lor pointed to the crew num­bers at Ch­ester Race Week — the largest keel­boat sail­ing event in North Amer­ica — as an ex­am­ple of sail­ing’s lack of diver­sity.

“I looked at the previous three years of Ch­ester Race Week — ’15, ’16 and ’17 — and I think I counted over 200 unique in­di­vid­ual male skip­pers and less than 20 fe­male.”

The key fac­tor in en­cour­ag­ing gen­der equal­ity, said Tay­lor, be­gins with ac­cep­tance and men­tor­ship. She cred­its her own men­tor, Craig Guthrie, for tak­ing her coach­ing skills to the next level.

“You need some­one to help you be­come a bet­ter coach,” she said.

Tay­lor ad­vo­cates women lead­ing by ex­am­ple but also wel­comes male role mod­els who are will­ing to have fe­males on their boats and in their pro­grams.

“Some­how, that can be pretty dif­fi­cult to find.”

For her part, Tay­lor said she is en­joy­ing her ex­pe­ri­ences, both coach­ing and sail­ing com­pet­i­tively, cit­ing that she is at home on the wa­ter and it all be­gan with her grand­mother’s sense of in­de­pen­dence.

“Ev­ery­thing else they owned was Grammy and Grampy’s, but Grammy had a sail­boat.”

Les­ley Tay­lor

Les­ley Tay­lor, who won Sail Nova Sco­tia’s Fe­male Sailor of the Year Award, says that she hopes more women be­come in­volved in the sport.

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