It seems I unintentionally offended someone...
A few days ago I wrote a post about Laser frostbite sailing in chilly Newport, Rhode Island: I Love Winter. In the introduction to that post I made passing and (typically) flippant references to two regattas in Florida the same weekend where it was unseasonably cool but not quite as chilly. At one Florida event some sailors chose not to sail in the prevailing conditions; at the other Florida regatta, the selection trials for the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics for Women's Keelboat Match Racing, the organizers canceled the last day.
I thought that there was some slight irony and maybe a little humor in the contrast between what was happening in Florida and in Rhode Island.
Not everyone agreed with me.
Dean Brenner, the chairman of the US Olympic sailing program, took objection to how I referred to the Women's Keelboat Match Racing US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics qualifier and wrote to Scuttlebutt to say...
Hey, Mr. Tillerman, the “girls on keelboats” you so quickly (and at least to me, condescendingly) dismissed was (sic) a literal “who’s who” of top female Olympic talent in the USA today, all fighting for spots on our national sailing team and for the three country spots at US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR in two weeks.
I wonder why Dean was moved to write to Scuttlebutt to complain about the frivolous jottings of some random old geezer blogger? Was it because I so "quickly" passed over the mention of this event? Well, I'm sorry if I didn't show these sailors the respect they certainly deserve by providing more information about the Women's Keelboat Match Racing US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Qualifier or listing the names of all the competitors in my post, but that post wasn't really about them. It was about the usual subject of this blog... me.
Did Mr. Brenner think that I don't have respect for top women sailors? If so, he is certainly mistaken. And he obviously doesn't read my blog very much because, when Anna Tunnicliffe (actually the winner of the Women's Keelboat Match Racing US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Qualifier last weekend) was campaigning for and competing in the Olympics, I was regularly writing posts here about her achievements such as Anna Wins Gold and Go Anna!. I would be the first to admit that Anna and the other women keelboat match racers on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics have already accomplished more in the sport than I have (or ever will.)
Or was it the use of that word "girls" that provoked the complaint? Of course I know it's not politically correct in some quarters to refer to women over a certain age as "girls". It is seen by some sensitive folk as condescending or patronizing. But I plead not guilty to using the term "girls" inappropriately in this context as there are precedents for the use of that word to refer to these top women keelboat match racers.
Check out for example this newsletter from the US J/22 Class where, in an article about the 2007 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship (won by Sally Barkow), several of the competitors in interviews refer to their fellow team-members and other competitors as "girls".
Or how about this interview with Anna Tunnicliffe, posted on the US Sailing website no less, in which Anna was asked about the transitions from single-handed sailing to sailing with a crew, and in her reply she said, "I really like match racing because I really enjoy hanging out with the girls who I sail with." (My emphasis.)
So if these top women keelboat match racers refer to each other as "girls" I really don't think anyone should object if others occasionally use the same term when writing about them. In any case, I wish the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, and especially the "girls on keelboats", all the best in their preparations for the 2012 Olympics. I hope none of the lady match racers were offended by my breezy and playful reference to them; it certainly doesn't reflect any lack of respect for their abilities and accomplishments.
I thought I would make amends (if indeed amends are needed) by listing here the names of the nine ladies in the top three teams who won places on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics for Women's Keelboat Match Racing last weekend. It took me a while to find the names...
Mr. Brenner's email named a few of the competitors in the trials but not specifically the winners. The list of members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics on the US Sailing website only shows last year's team as far as I can see, and the press release of the results of the qualifier on the US Sailing website only has the skippers' names.
I finally took the nine names from the list on the US Sailing website of the US entries at the Miami OCR (also up for grabs at the event last weekend) even though there was an obvious mistake in at least one lady's name. I hope this list of the US "girls on keelboats" sailing team is correct...
Molly O'Bryan Vendemoer
Karina Vogen Shelton