Club Helps Women Learn Ropes of Sailing

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (6/27/98)
By Ray Pendleton

In past centuries, back in the days of "iron men and wooden ships," women were considered bad luck aboard sea-going vessels.

Yes, ships were referred to as "she" and there was often a carved figurehead of a fair maiden on the stem which was thought to calm storms at sea, but other than a few female pirates, sailing in those days was strictly an all-male activity.

Well, Elizabeth Arnold, publicity chair of the Hawaii Women's Yacht Racing Association, would like everyone to know that times have changed, thank you. And her organization's members are not only good fortune aboard sea-going vessels, but they are taking the helm and are certainly not pirates.

The HWYRA was formed nearly five years ago after one of its charter members, Wendy Gibson, made an informative, albeit informal, survey of the male/female ratio aboard the sailboats participating in the Friday night "beer can" races out of the Ala Wai Marina. She tracked not only how many of each sex were aboard each boat, but as important, who was given the prime position of responsibility - who was driving the boat.

Gibson's final tally revealed what she had already suspected. Of the 255 sailors she counted aboard 31 boats, 179 were males and 76 were females - a ratio of 68.5 percent to 32.5 percent - but only two boats (6 percent) were actually skippered by women.

What these numbers told her and her female sailing friends was, if they wanted to move up from being deck crew - and sometimes being mere movable ballast - they needed to get together and help each other learn how to skipper boats competitively.

The HWYRA was created to fill that need, but it has done much more. With facilities provided by the Waikiki, Hawaii and Pearl Harbor yacht clubs, it has offered classes not only on competitive sailing, but on subjects ranging from cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to knot tying.

From the beginning, HWYRA members also wanted to host regattas for women sailors and that too, in conjunction with local yacht clubs, has become a reality.

With a perpetual trophy donated by North Sails' Fuzz Foster as the annual award, this year's Wahine Skipper of the Year Race Series began with the Pacific Yacht Club's Lou Foster Wahine Invitational on June 6, and was followed by the HWYRA's own fourth annual Greenhow Memorial Regatta in Pearl Harbor last Sunday.

The Greenhow Regatta is held in remembrance of Kim Greenhow, an active sailor and member of the Hawaii Yacht Club, who organized the first all-women's crew to race in the Clipper Cup, the forerunner of the Kenwood Yacht Racing Series.

Tragically, Greenhow was murdered in 1985 by unknown assailants. For the next decade, reward money raised from donations sat unused at the HYC. In 1995 it was decided a portion of it should fund the annual regatta in her name.

HYC's Wahine Invitational follows tomorrows and then HWYRA sailors will compete in Kaneohe Yacht Club's Wahine Classboat Invitational in July 18.

The Wahine Skipper of the Year series winds up with Waikiki Yacht Club's Wahine Classboat Invitational on October 10, and the Hawaii Yacht Racing Association's Lipton Cup II Regatta October 24 - 25.

If you are interested in a HWYRA membership, you may contact Lisa McCall at 946-7261, or just attend one of their meetings at the HYC, which are held at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month.

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