Come Sail Away
The Florida Women’s Sailing Association Is Giving Local Women A Taste of Sailing In Tampa Bay
From early fall to late spring, Tampa Bay’s coastline is often filled with sailors from one of the largest all-women sailing clubs in the country. Founded in1973, the Florida Women’s Sailing Association (FWSA) is comprised of eight sailing clubs from Venice to Dunedin that are teaching women of all ages and all walks of life about the joy of sailing. A few wives of sailors from local yacht clubs started the group 40 years ago and today, FWSA blossomed to about 800 members. Most of the clubs are open to the public but some do require a membership to a local yacht club. No matter where you live or what club you join, these ladies all live by one mantra: live, love and watch the luff.
Here are South Tampa’s two representatives:
Location: Tampa Yacht and Country Club
Name game: The mainsheet is the line used to haul in the main sail
History: The Skipperettes are credited as being the Tampa Yacht and Country Club’s first all-women sailing team in the 40s. However, the Mainsheet Mamas were founded in 1973 by Club member Jan Platt, who decided to put 13 idle prams to use with a group of women from the club. As the first team caption, Platt hosted lessons for women novices and the Club’s youth. The Mainsheet Mamas are one of only a few clubs in FWSA to race antique wooden Prams, which were purchased in the early 80s and still used today. “We preferred to be called vintage, not antique,” one club member joked. Their races typically consist of no more than 10 Prams, but some clubs members will take Sunfish and a Flying Scott out to the Bay to test the course. All members are required to be members of the Tampa Yacht and Country Club.
Charity work: The Club is an active participant in the Green Fest at Plant Park, as well as Tampa Bay Watch, the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Mitochondrial Research Fund.
Captain: Mary Britain
Race days: Pram races are held each Thursday at a portion of Hillsborough Bay near the Tampa Yacht Club.
Contact: For membership information, contact the Tampa Yacht and Country Club at tampayachtclub.com.
Location: Davis Islands Yacht Club
Name game: A dinghy is a small ship. The name was originated during a contest that took place at the bar of the Davis Islands Yacht Club.
History: In 1970, Sue Brill of the Mainsheet Mama’s, the all-women sailing club at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club, came to Davis Islands to gather a group of non-yacht club sailors and race Prams. Brill wanted to found a new women’s sailing club that wasn’t just for yacht club members. The result is the Dinghy Dames. The group races Prams and Sunfish and offers lessons to sailors of all skill levels.
Charity work: Each winter, the ladies assemble 15-20 quilts and donate them to Tampa General Hospital’s neo-natal care unit. The club has hosted the annual quilting party for four years and counting. They also collect donations for the Ronald McDonald House during the holidays.
Captain: Sue Aitkin
Race days: The Dinghy Dames race every Friday morning in season from the Davis Islands Yacht Club.
Contact: For membership information, contact the Dinghy Dames at dinghydames.com.