Pride of Own­er­ship

A young sailor’s tran­si­tion to a new fleet in­spires a new gen­er­a­tion of sailors, all while fol­low­ing a his­tor­i­cal fam­ily legacy.

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

O The E-scow, at 28 feet and han­dled by four sailors, is a tem­per­a­men­tal, sen­si­tive, sendy­our-heart-into-your-throat kind of boat that keeps skip­pers of all skill lev­els com­ing back for more. I’m one of them.

In 2011, my fa­ther’s mid­dle­man was adamant about get­ting my hand on the tiller of our E- Scow. I was hes­i­tant, since the only ex­pe­ri­ence I had was as ex­tra weight for Sun­day-morn­ing races, but I obliged. I sat at the stern — tiller and main­sheet in hand — hop­ing to keep the pointy side up­right.

Ev­ery Sun­day morn­ing that year was a new les­son learned: how to feather up­wind, how to get the spinnaker up suc­cess­fully, com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively, and what it meant to “sail it hot.”

It was a sum­mer of learn­ing as a new E-scow sailor, and I quickly earned a unique rep­u­ta­tion at the In­land Lakes Yacht­ing As­so­ci­a­tion for both my young age, just 17, and for be­ing the only fe­male.

My first E-scow re­gatta as a skip­per was on my home lake of Dela­van Lake in Wis­con­sin. The trend con­tin­ued — I was the youngest and the only fe­male skip­per reg­is­tered. I was proud yet ner­vous about step­ping into un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. This com­pet­i­tive event was typ­i­cally a man’s game, and this was my de­but on the race­course.

We had our mo­ments of glory. I rounded third at the first wind­ward mark after blast­ing off the start off the line like a rocket ship. I had a pit in my stom­ach.

“Re­mem­ber this mo­ment,” I yelled to my fa­ther up at the bow. “This ex­act mo­ment. My first re­gatta in third. Never for­get this!”

He would have none of it. “Get this boat mov­ing, and let’s get the chute up! Head up! Up! Up!”

It didn’t last long. Shortly after, I got caught in a lull while round­ing the off­set and got buried by the fleet be­hind me. I lost my com­po­sure, fell out of phase and, as a re­sult, got a stern talk­ing to. I ended up dead last over­all. All in all, I was proud that I fin­ished. I took ev­ery ounce of con­struc­tive crit­i­cism from fel­low com­peti­tors. My jit­ters were gone.

The next two sea­sons flew by. I had fig­ured out how to fi­nesse the E-scow down­wind, but not with­out learn­ing the im­por­tance of un­load­ing the vang while round­ing the off­set mark. I’ve never heard truer words than when my fa­ther said, “You’re not a true E- Scow sailor un­til you’ve rolled your boat.”

The fol­low­ing four years was a piv­otal time for our lo­cal E-scow fleet. In 2013, an­other E joined our starting line: two sis­ter skip­pers with a crew all un­der 18 years old. Even though I had coached them dur­ing their Opti and Cub boat days, they proved to be fierce com­pe­ti­tion for me in the E-scow. They were aware of our trick tactics on our home lake and didn’t hes­i­tate to use them against us.

Then in 2015, an­other joined us, after mas­ter­ing a sin­gle­handed MC, a friend and long­time scow sailor tried her hand at the tiller of an E-scow. On one blus­tery 25-knot-breeze day, she roared down­wind in a veil of spray be­fore ex­plod­ing a mast. Pieces of that spar now hang in her apart­ment, serv­ing as a daily re­minder that down­wind legs are much more dra­matic with a spinnaker. Next season, she bought her very own E-scow and is the most re­cent ad­di­tion to our fleet.

Our fleet grew to 10 boats, and we ladies of the lake were a spec­ta­cle on the course. Our home yacht club now had three ded­i­cated fe­male E-scow skip­pers on the starting line, all un­der the age of 25. The Dela­van Lake YC hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing quite like us be­fore, but we were proud to change the ex­pec­ta­tions many oth­ers had about fe­male skip­pers.

We had stepped out of our com­fort zone and took on the largest boat our home lake had to of­fer. The ad­di­tion of three com­pet­i­tive fe­male skip­pers re­de­fined and re­shaped a once-stag­nant fleet. Many times along the way we’ve been mis­taken for crew or ex­tra weight, but it doesn’t bother us.

It’s a proud feel­ing to be asked, “Who do you crew for?” and be able to re­ply: “I’m not crew­ing. I’m the skip­per.”

We are prov­ing that a big boat, like the E-scow, doesn’t re­quire a big skip­per. It re­quires only a big voice and a well-trained crew. Q

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