In recent years, many yacht clubs across the US have seen a decrease in adult sailing. While member numbers are still increasing, the number of sailing members is not following the same trend. San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC) has taken action to keep their members engaged and even grow the number of sailing members. In 2021 they purchased a fleet of RS21s to help increase member participation and encourage new members to start sailing. The keelboats are used for member charters as well as various programing and training purposes. One of the most successful programs to use the RS21 is SFYC’s Women’s Sailing Program.
Started by Pam Healy, their women’s sailing classes – Women on the Water – is a program for female members of the club to get out on the bay and learn how to sail. “I went to our Race Director, Adam Corpuz-Lahne, with the idea about doing more for women at the club,” Healy says. “The club was super receptive and helped get the program off the ground.” We have certified over 100 people to get out on the water and take people out; Pam herself is US Sailing Level 1 and Level 3 certified. Between March and September instructors take around twenty women out on the water every Friday.
It did not take long for the program to take off, “our classes fill up right away and we have a waitlist of women that want to go sailing,” Pam says. “We are currently working on getting more members to help with instruction so we can continue to grow and get more women on the water.” What is truly unique about this program is that it will work with the women to help them learn more than just basic sailing, they have taught fleet racing, match racing and team racing. A large part of the success of the program has been the use of the RS21.
The adaptability of the 21 has made it ideal for San Francisco Yacht Club and their adult programs; “the boat is so versatile that anyone can go out in it, I can really simplify it or crank it up” Pam says. “The boat is bouncy and responsive but there are so many ways to adjust it depending on the sailor’s skill level. If I am with someone that is newer or older, I can just put up the main and the jib; if I am with more experienced women, we put up the spinnaker and blast around the bay.” Regardless, Pam always makes sure that everyone gets time on the helm. A large comfortable cockpit and engine are features that Pam also notes as reasons why the RS21 has been so successful for them.
Overall, the goal for Pam and SFYC is to get more women into sailing, “they get to engage with the boat and not just be bystanders,” Pam says. “The boat is so responsive that when they start, they usually oversteer but even that is awesome because it helps them learn and get better.” Pam’s advice to any club considering starting a women’s sailing program? Just do it. “It’s really important for clubs to put the time and money into getting women into sailing,” Pam says. “There are so many women that want to get into sailing but just don’t know how to start. Clubs that can encourage more women into sailing will be able to engage with a whole new group of members.”