Friday, January 15, 2010

Girls on Keelboats

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...

Anna Tunnicliffe-Funk
Molly O'Bryan Vendemoer
Debbie Capozzi
Genny Tulloch
Alice Manard
Karina Vogen Shelton
Sally Barkow
Katie Pettibone
Nicole Breault



Zen said...

Shame shame shame Tillerman so quickly dismissed the AlphaGraphic team

side note: I believe if females are 1-17 & 65-100 it is ok to call them girls.

On another note. I used to work for Alpha Graphics I had no idea they had a sailing team , much less a woman's team! Where was this when I was single!

Ok, where was I ... oh yeah, shame shame shame!

stunnednamazed said...

I don't seem to get it. He didn't appear to have any explanation as to why Olympic caliber sailors were unwilling/uanble to venture out onto the water in conditions that we in the Northeast would consider mild or even nice.

tillerman said...

Get with it Zen. AlphaGraphics don't have a sailing team. They are just sponsoring the US Olympic sailing team and have paid a gazillion dollars so that instead of referring to it as the "US team" we have to call it the "US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics". I expect they made a hard-headed business decision that it was worth it to get their name out like this so that the billions of people who follow sailing will know their name and know what they do and will then rush to buy whatever it is that they sell because it's cool and associated with sailing.

By the way, what does AlphaGraphics do?

Zen said...

Yeah, sponsors, I knew that...

Get with it Godfather! AlphaGraphics does "Graphics" and printing.


tillerman said...

stunnednamazed - let's be clear, it wasn't the competitors that chose not to sail on the last day of the USSTAGWKMR event. It was the organizers that called off the last day.

This is how Anna described it on her blog...

"After three postponements this morning, racing was finally cancelled at 11:30am on Day Three of the USSTAG Qualifier owing to the windchill lingering in the low 20’s. After lengthy deliberations, the organizing authority didn’t think it would be safe for competitors, umpires and themselves to be on the water getting wet and cold, given that the temperatures were so cold and the winds were in the low 20’s."

I'm not sure I agree with you that windchill and wind speed both in the low 20's are "mild" or "nice" but I think you are right that many of us in the northeast would sail in those conditions, as apparently would many of the sailors at the Florida event if given the chance.

tillerman said...

Zen, Yeah, printing, I knew that. I was just messing with you for messing with me.

Zen said...

O-Docker made me do it!

tillerman said...

Good for O-Docker. It's a relief to have a bit of frivolity here. People have been taking me way too seriously just lately.

O Docker said...

How did I get dragged into this?

I've been trying to stay as far away as possible from this hotbed of controversy.

I agree with the Florida dudes. Anything below 50 degrees is way too cold for sailing. You frostbiters are all nuts.

Uh, I did not intend any disrepect for frostbiters in that remark. I have lived in places where it gets very cold, so I am very familiar with frost and with those who bite it. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

You're all just nuts.

Tillerman said...

Hey, Mr. O Docker, the “frostbiters” you so quickly (and at least to me, condescendingly) dismissed are a literal “who’s who” of top Laser sailing talent in the USA today.

These “frostbiters" include none other than many times Laser Masters World Champion Peter Seidenberg, and Star World Champion and Laser Master World Champion Ed Adams, and a lineup of highly-decorated athletes that includes "that guy" and "the other guy", among many others… apologies to the sailors not named here because I can’t name all of you.

But Mr. O Docker, these sailors have accomplished more in our sport of Laser sailing than nearly all of us, including me. So how about we all show them the respect they deserve?

somedaysoling said...

This post is so weird to me.

First of all, and as a female myself, I know very few women who object to being called girls on occasion.

Second, I read that post and I just thought you were making fun of Floridians for their version of cold. As a non-native and someone who actually loves cold weather, I spent the last two weeks down here in sunny Florida listening to the incessant whining about the horrific, unbearable, freezing 40 degree weather that was going to be the end of us all. People here just have no idea about cold.

Yeah, I think less Olympic sailing girls not wanting to race, more people from Florida, or infected with Florida values of cold, thinking nobody should even be outside in such crazy weather. Which is what I thought you were saying.

O Docker said...

As previously stated, I intended no disrespect to the parties of the second part, or the parties of the third part - heretofore designated 'frostbiters'.

What I thought you were going to call me on was the use of the term 'frostbiter' to describe a biter of frost, which I believe is what the term implies.

I think all of you are misnamed, and are not, technically, 'frostbiters', but rather frostbitees.

(Notice how I sidestepped the main issue by invoking the use of lawyerly language and the introduction of distracting jargon?)

Zen said...



I'm cold just hearing the words!!!

Tillerman said...

Somedaysoling - thank you for that comment. It's good to know that there's at least one person who gets the point of what I was trying to say.

O Docker - Do you know the expression "bite me"? Oh sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I was just making a joke about the weather. Why does everything I say always come out wrong?

Carol Anne said...

O Docker, you put it perfectly. You know, you should work for a newspaper or something.

Pat said...

One of our great national hassles is figuring out how members of different groups can respect each other without being deadly serious all the time.

Very often, members of Group A call themselves something, but if members of Group B use the same word to describe the A's, then members of Group C (the politically correct police) slap the B's.

Within the in-group, there's enough trust and tolerance that the members can get away with calling each other all sorts of things.

Between the groups there may be enough suspicion or distrust that good intentions fail to cover for a remark that can be somehow interpreted as offensive -- even if only a small minority of the group being referred to has any problem with a remark or name.

Zen said...

Hey!! What do you mean by that! I resemble that remark!!

Capt. Puffy Pants said...

None of you are allowed to talk of cold. You all live in the tropics as far as I'm concerned. It was 6 degrees this morning when I woke up. We're going cross-country skiing, our sailboat is under the snow.

Oops. See how easy it is to be offended, I think we should all just smile and never say anything to anyone about anything. Going to make blogging challenging I suppose, but who's with me.

Carol Anne said...

I notice here in Arizona that a lot of the license plates on vehicles are from places like Minnesota.

Capt. Puffy Pants said...

Carol Anne, I know, my parents are two of them, and I'm just insanely jealous.

Tillerman said...

I notice here in Rhode Island that a lot of the license plates on vehicles are from places like Massachusetts.

The O'Sheas said...

I had tickets to a rugby match last weekend over here in London. They got a little snow and canceled the match. They sent out a note saying it was for the "safety of the spectators."

I thought it was a pretty soft move to cancel, especially considering how much everyone in these commonwealth countries always bashes on the US for how our citizens file liability lawsuits at the drop of a hat.

I guess I just took your winter braggadocio as an attempt to balance all of this wimpishness out.

Tillerman said...

Interesting observation Greg.

What you may not know about my fellow Englishmen is that they have no idea of how to cope with snow. The concepts of snow-plows and 4-wheel-drive vehicles are mysteries to them. As a result, if there is more than an inch of snow on the ground they assume that all human activity must cease for as long as it takes until it magically melts.

Which is not to say that I am being condescending or patronizing about English people. I am sure that English people deserve our respect for achieving more at being English than I have or ever will...

Wait. I am English......

What was the question again?

BeachComber said...

Tillerman, maybe he read a mangled "scrape" of your blog on Scuttlebutt. Did it get scraped?

AlphaGraphics? Printing, as in movable type? That's soo 15th century. Maybe they should get into blogging

Tillerman said...

BeachComber - Scuttlebutt did publish the first four paragraphs of my post "I Love Winter" followed by a link to the rest of the post. But I don't think you can blame Scuttlebutt for changing the meaning of what I was saying by carrying my article that way. Any confusion about the message is entirely my responsibility.

Carol Anne said...

This evening Gary Jobson shared some video he had shot last week of girls in keelboats. He had a nicely common-sense take on things: If the speed of the wind is higher than the temperature of the air, it's a good idea to call things off.

Today at Lake Pleasant, the differential was about 70, in the opposite direction.

Capt. PP: Your parents wouldn't have happened to be the folks in the gold Silverado that was parked right out front of the events tent at the regatta, would they?

Capt. Puffy said...

Carol Anne, no they drive something else entirely. Also, they are not really into sailing beyond going along for the ride.

I mean that in a non-condescending nor patronizing manner and am sure they have accomplished...

Turinas said...

I still think that you sail the entire system in pink drag.

BTW, this has nothing to do with your original post, but it would sure as hell put some of your competitors off.

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