Talking to Norm Zable at Chicago Yacht Share, he reminded me what a Target Rich Environment it is for single women who want to go sailboat racing. He estimates that the female to male ratio is around 15 to 1.
As I have written before, don't expect these guys to be millionaires, almost all of them are hard working wage earners like yourself. They're motivated to win, to practice and like to have a fun time. They enjoy the exercise, fresh air, stories and strategic tactics to keep a boat on its winning edge.
Many women sail, and I can contest to the women in my family who race sailboats including my wife, mother, sister, daughter, and niece who all have raced regularly. Three of them were on our win in the Chicago Mackinac race in 2013.
My mom married a sailor, as did my wife. My sister and niece married non-sailors (the black sheep in the family have to come from somewhere!).
My best buddy in college crewed on our boat, one day when we were short crew, and he brought his sister. She learned from the bottom up, we start newcomers on the easy jobs and move people up the ladder as their skills grow. She was dating others, as I was at the time. After a few years, we were both without someone in our lives, and I invited her out on a date. It went from there, to marriage, and 24 years later both of our kids are in college. And she can do almost every job on the boat (somehow everyone leaves the head repairs to me).
Boat designs evolve over time. 30-40 years ago, boats required brawn to sail. The sails were huge and heavy, the loads on lines were high, mechanical purchase still included a lot of friction and boats were heavy (which actually translates into higher loads on lines). Today, boats are much lighter, sails much smaller as a result, mechanical purchase has much less friction built in, and just grabbing lines and pulling on them is much easier. I think sailboats have become much more women friendly.
Once you start racing, be prepared when you see your doctor the next time. Your doctor will start asking strange questions - How is your relationship? Is there anything about it you would like to share with me? How did you get all of these bruises all over your body? This happens regularly to women who race, they all have to stand on a bible and swear that bruises just comes with the territory of sailboat racing, their boyfriend or husbands are not wife beaters!
I'm not suggesting that sailboat racing is the place to find a mate, or that it is the next Match.com, but I am simply explaining that with the fresh air, exercise, team building, and fun involved, that the average sailor is a more physically fit than the average bloke on the street, and there just might be someone who clicks with you and you with them.
Where to begin? Wednesday night "beer can races." They are intended to be laid back, easy sailing affairs and they don't go out in bad or challenging weather. They are designed to take newcomers out sailing, commonly newcomers include family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Each boat has its own tone or vibe, try different boats from week to week. You'll meet more people this way too.
A First Timers Chicago Beer Can, Motoring Out to the Starting Line
Where do you find these "beer can races"? I've been asked not to advertise them via this article, but most yacht clubs in Chicago hold these races during the summer. You'll need to be a little adventuresome. One method is to just show up, say you are looking for a boat to get on for the "beer can race" and start asking around where you can get on one (look for the boats that have some hustle and bustle going on rigging their boats and getting ready for a sail on a Wednesday evening). The harbors that boats sail out of are Waukegan, Montrose, Belmont, DuSable, Monroe, Burnham, Jackson Park.
What it Looks Like on Most Nights Sailing a Beer Can Race
I did this last summer, I was on the dock for a different reason, the sailboats were getting prepared for the Beer Can, I started talking to some people and in moments I had offers to go out and hitched a ride very easy. You'll find the yacht clubs are fairly well open to sailing, there aren't any gates or secret passwords, at the most will just ask what your intentions are and they won't send you away once you tell them that you are here to sail.
Here's the tough part, you'll have to be able to walk into a place of strangers, get on a boat full of strangers, and find out very quickly if sailing is for you. If not, it will all be over in 120 minutes. This does take a bit of courage and get outside of your comfort box to give something so dynamic a try. Can you think of it as a public bus ride? Soon enough, you'll get off.
Here's a Bit Breezier Day, And They Use a Defunct Water Intake Crib As the Mark to Turnaround to Come Back to Shore.
Another method to starting out is online.
The Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation has a Yahoo Groups where people post their interest to sail with over 300 members who race (as a lake-wide organization, indicate whereabouts you wish to sail and people in that area will get in contact with you).
North Point Sail Racing Association Crew List in Winthrop Harbor.
NOTE - Once other clubs get their race dates set, and get them set-up online, I will add additional online sign-up places on this list in late Spring.
Here's What Sailing Looks Like During the Cooler Part of the Season, When the Days are Shorter
The entire community of sailing makes it standard operating procedure to teach anyone and everyone the maritime traditions passing from person to person, generation to generation. Or you can always go to any of the sailing schools mentioned in other articles on this blog, build some skills first, and ask the schools how to get into "beer can racing." All will help get you introduced to some boats that do it.
Here's a Beer Can Great Video For Those with ADHD Out of Burnham Harbor!
One method I have seen used over and over will take some footwork. Make up a 1/2 sheet of paper, written or printed, with your name, availability, date posted, sailing experience, your interest in sailing (beer can races, day sails, evening cruises, etc) and have little tabs to tear off at the bottom with your name and phone number on each tab. Walk up to each yacht club in your area, and ask if you can go inside to post your crew availability and where their cork board is (bring thumbtacks)? I don't know of any club that would say, "No." We have picked up many crew through the years tearing off tabs.
Did the videos give you an idea of how much women are needed to balance out the sexes?
How to Prepare
Show up between 5:00 - 5:30pm.
What to wear? Soft soled shoes, preferably white soled, and expect the temperature out on the lake to be 10-degrees cooler than on land. In warmer weather a pair of shorts and a polo shirt is pretty much the uniform, in cooler temps, blue jeans and a fleece is added. Always bring at least a fleece, this is one of those lifelong pieces of advice I give for Lake Michigan sailing, even on the hottest day of the year. You should add a hat (baseball style), sun tan lotion, and if you're going to jump right in and start pulling lines, a pair of leather gloves, but I have seen a few who use plain garden gloves starting out.
What to expect: As the crew gathers on each boat, you'll find that you are not the only new person, introductions are made as each person shows up, running lines are laid out on the deck, those who want to learn will start getting lessons immediately from the more experienced sailors. Lots of caution is provided on safety, and is generally a safe sport anyway. The boat will leave the dock under motor and head out to the starting line.
Boats are grouped in "sections" and each starts 5 minutes apart from one another. When your start comes up, you want to be as close to the starting line as possible, without being over it when the starting cannon goes off. If you are over the line, your boat will have to U-turn and restart, giving a lot of distance away to your fellow competitors.
The course will have you going either in a triangle, or what is called a windward/leeward course, some boats will use the same sails beginning to end, while others will be changing sails at each mark. After the race is over, help out folding sails, coiling lines and putting the boat to bed. The courses are short, they want to get back in for the barbeque and the refreshments back at the club of which you are now invited to attend by having crewed that night. During the party, be sure to secure a ride next week!
So, how much will this cost you to go sailing? A six pack of beer. Is this expensive? While many find sailing to be "exclusive", this is the first article I have written out of 50+ where it is not just that simple to walk up, step on and go. It will take some effort on your part, the hurdles are not high at all, more like a little bump when riding a bicycle. But I can tell you, it will be worth it the first time you sail.
And I almost forgot! The most important part to this article - don't ever forget to bring a cold 6-pack in cans (glass is too easy to break and dangerous)! This is like the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Factory!
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