by Kara Hugglestone
Designed for beginning sailors or those in need of a refresh, the weekend program combines classroom instruction with hands-on learning on the water. It’s the female focus however, taught by women for women, that makes the program truly exceptional.
Exceptional also describes the instructors, who are quite impressive… How very cool to learn from the renowned off-shore racer Moe Roddy of Red Dress Racing. Inspired by her work as a nurse assisting in open heart surgery, Moe races her J35 The Red Dress to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Her sponsors include Swarovski, Harken, Henri Lloyd and North Sails – what a cool list.
Olympic racer Erica Mattson who campaigned in the women’s single-handed dinghy provided some expert instruction. Not to diminish the contributions of all the instructors, who’s years of experience and entertaining delivery make the entire weekend an equal balance of education and fun.
Day one begins with orientation, breakfast and a little mingling. More than 50 women are registered and although many are brand new to sailing, quite a few are there for a refresher like me. I can already tell I was going to make some great new friends.
Armed with the our own copy of US Sailing’s Basic Keelboat book and a cool laminated WSS Reference Card we are ready to start. Beginning with the basics, parts of a boat, sail trim, points of sail, tacking and gybing, our enthusiastic instructors interject entertaining anecdotes to make learning and remembering a convivial experience. The mnemonics were plentiful and clever… Port is red, just like the fab Portuguese wine! Then of course that classic: red right returning. Soon it was time for our first hands-on experience – knotting practice!
We headed outside and divided into groups to take turns practicing at various stations. Knots have always been a bit of a challenge for me as somehow my brain turns in a sieve when rope is nearby, but with the assistance of talented and patient instructor Johanna Corvello I was able to tie a bowline three times in a row – a record for me! As much as I love sailing, I don’t do knots. Though maybe that will change…
Next we head in for our on the water sailing instruction assignments and to meet our captains, a wonderful group of guys who donated their weekend for us. I’m assigned to Captain Timothy Ballard on Inspired Environments, a beautiful Beneteau 41.7 with instructor Megan Landeck.
After lunch we hit the water to put what we’ve learned to work. It’s a glorious day, warm with a nice breeze and hardly a cloud in the sky. We practice sail trim, tacking, gybing and steering. Megan and Timothy guide us through maneuvers with charm and wit. Everyone is having a wonderful time and before we know it, it’s time to head back to ready for tomorrow.
Day two begins with a warm welcome from Commodore Mark Leonard and classroom instruction in the form of lecture and panel discussion from our rock star female instructors. We learn about weather, emergencies, tides and currents and navigation rules.
We take a break for a raffle, with fab prizes from North Beach Marine Canvas, Ella Vickers and Seabags as well as spa day gift certificates. Kudos to sponsorship chair Johanna on sponsorship, they were great prizes.
Membership chair Murial Ballard briefly discussed the many benefits of joining the Corinthian and shared WSS participants are offered a discount on the initiation fee. How terrific. The Corinthian is one of the most beautiful yacht clubs in the Bay Area, if not anywhere.
We get our afternoon sailing assignment and after lunch head out. Today I’m paired with Captain John Dodge on his Pearson 10M Windover, Johanna is instructor. We are blessed with another beautiful day on the bay as we take turns honing our skills on various stations. I concentrate on the helm, which is an area I traditionally avoid, I much prefer to sail trim. The experience was rewarding though as John commended me on handling the tiller. Since the regular headsail was damaged we were using the storm jib. John explained because of this the upwind groove was really narrow, about three degrees, and I held it in the groove for my watch. We were doing 6.5 knots upwind.
Again time pasted quickly and soon it was time head back for our graduation party, a little celebration for participants and our supporters. There we regaled each other with sailing stories while enjoying wine and cheese. It was so fun to meet and introduce both old and new friends.
While I expected to learn a lot at the WSS, I didn’t expect to have such a good time doing it. Kudos to chairs Sharon Meyer and Shelly Willard on creating such an excellent program. I can see why some women make it a yearly event. Mark your calendars for May 2014!