Stories from Siebel Coaches: Impact in Hood River, Oregon

Siebel Impact in Hood River, Oregon

By Michael Cornew, Siebel Coach – Pacific Northwest

While COVID-19 has made running program challenging with local regulations in the Pacific Northwest, the Siebel Sailors Program was able to run small intermediate women’s clinics in Hood River this summer. These clinics were focused on getting more young women skippering and confident in the big breeze the Columbia River Gorge is famous for.

Because the Gorge is such an intimidating place to sail, that requires a fair amount of physical strength and fitness, young women on the Gorge High School team often get relegated to crewing. Crewing is a valuable and often underrated position but driving a dinghy in 20+ knots is a unique skill that can be developed with intentional time in the boat. This lack of introduction to heavy air skippering contributes to the gender disparity of women skippers at large regattas. These clinics aimed to be a small effort to reduce that disparity.

The Siebel RS Fevas presented a great opportunity for these women sailors in the Gorge. The RS Fevas are much easier to handle than the standard 420s with the self-bailing cockpit, smaller sails, and the longer dagger-board and rudder for increased stability. Additionally, they are more exciting with the asymmetric spinnaker providing some epic downwind rides.

Our most recent clinic occurred at the end of August and we kept the group small with two middle schoolers and two high school sailors. At the beginning of the week, everyone was nervous leaving the dock. Jibes were rocky and capsizes were common. By the end of the week, each young woman had improved their confidence and skills in big breeze tremendously. They were more stable, going faster, not capsizing as often, and simply having more fun. It is amazing what five days of 18+ knots will do for your confidence, sailing skill set, and most importantly – love of the sport.

Each participant actively supported the group by helping the others rig, sharing knowledge, staying positive, and offering words of encouragement, especially when someone spent a lot of time in the water. This positive environment, along with the high wind excitement and confidence, are key factors to taking young people and building them into lifelong sailors. Zoe, one of the participants summed it up very well. “At the beginning of the week I hated the spinnaker, by the end of the week I was mad when you told us to take it down”.

Learn more about the Siebel Sailors Program.

Follow Michael Cornew on Instagram at @SiebelCoach_Michael to stay tuned with Siebel programming in the Pacific Northwest Region!