Samantha Parisi began working at Cedar Point Yacht Club in January 2016. Originally hired as a Racing Coach, Sam didn’t just stop there. Within a few months at her new job she began to gather together people, boats, and support to start the first Women’s Sailing Club at Cedar Point Yacht Club. Learn more about her experience below.
What was the process like to get a Women’s Sailing Club started at Cedar Point Yacht Club?
One of the things that I had to focus on was member involvement. Cedar Point Yacht Club is primarily a racing club; they hired me as a Race Director. We have racing 5 days a week so you can imagine how big of a shift a Women’s Sailing Club was for them. Luckily, there were a couple of ladies at the club who wanted to push for it. I remember there was one woman at the club who really wanted the program to take off- she was a spark plug- she was willing to say, “Yes I know there will be ladies who want to come! They will show up if we create it.”
That’s great! What was next?
Next we had to find boats! We didn’t have a specific club fleet. We have Lasers, and Keelboats, and other boats but we really set our sights on finding Sunfish sailboats to use. We wanted to sail Sunfish because the other woman and I really thought we needed a boat that women could go out and sail by themselves; they didn’t need a partner. We have a gentleman at the club who owns 2 Sunfish and he is actually loaning us the boats for the summer. At the end of the summer, we are going to sit down and look at what boats make the most sense, which will be the Sunfish, so then we will look at trying to buy more Sunfish.
We agree the Sunfish is the perfect fit for the Women’s Sailing Club! What does a typical sailing club night look like?
We try and put a more experienced person with a less experienced person in double handed boats. When you’re dealing with adults, if you give them a couple of basic tools, they can go out and figure it out. They are willing to show up so they are willing to try. At the beginning of the night we go over eight basic points of sailing: here’s a no sail zone, tack facing forward, etc. and by pairing them up they just get it.
After we sail 6pm-8pm at night, then we go and do wine and food. All ladies bring wine and something to share for food. We have a couple of ladies that joined just for the cocktail party after, which is fine! Even if you don’t want to go sailing there’s still this opportunity to get together to socialize and be with people who like sailing.
Who attends the sailing club nights?
The program is open to club members and it’s open for members to bring guests. The junior sailing parents, who are not necessarily club members, can come as well!
We have total newbies, we have women who want to do it because they want to talk to their kids who sail, or their husbands sail and they want to try, and we have women who have always sailed one type of boat and now they want to try another. No matter what the case, these women need the experience of being on new boats, ask the dumb questions and not feel like it’s a high pressure situation. The idea was to give them the tools to go racing and not do it in a high pressure environment on your way out to your first regatta.
That’s great. How successful have these sailing nights been?
The yacht club anticipated 10-15 ladies a night but we are getting 30-45 ladies a night, so we are bringing in more people than they thought.
We are extending into the fall. The plan was for it to originally be only 6 high tides in the summer…but now we are doing 2 more in September and then we are going to do once a month socials in the winter. We will get together at restaurants, people’s houses, and any place these ladies want to go to get together.
Why do you think it was important to start a Women’s Sailing Club night?
We want to get members to reinvest in the club and program. Members are willing to help out less experienced sailors because they remember when they used to be that person. There’s a community feel. It’s ok to ask questions here, that’s how women’s sailing works!
It’s a totally new program and we are looking at getting members to get engaged and get members’ significant others, parents, etc. to get down at the club.
We have a new mission and that is: One Cedar Point. We want to be one yacht club where members just happen to sail different boats.