Learning to sail the lake | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Learning to sail the lake

Axie Navas
Axie Navas/Tahoe Daily TribuneErin Esposito, an instructor at the Women's Sailing Clinic this Saturday, guides a sailboat out of the bay for a Wednesday Tahoe Windjammers Yacht Club Beer Can Race.

The Tahoe Windjammer’s Yacht Club will hit the books and the water for the 12th annual Women’s Sailing Clinic this Saturday at the Tahoe Keys Marina.

From novices who don’t know a jib from a boom to advanced sailors looking to learn how to handle a spinnaker, the clinic has multiple options for different levels of sailing experience. The only qualification: you have to be a woman.

“It’s women teaching women. It’s the atmosphere,” said Erin Esposito, a member of the TWYC and one of the clinic’s instructors.

The focus will primarily be on safety and learning the lingo. Students will learn radio procedure and man overboard rescue, sail trim, helming, tacking, basic knots and other techniques. And of course, they’ll be augmenting their vocabulary along the way.

“All of it is really learning the nomenclature. It’ll take years to learn all of it, but if you know the basics, it’ll help,” master sailor and TWYC member Diane Martin said.

Some terms novices might learn include “puff,” a euphemism for the gusts of wind that slam into sailboats out on Lake Tahoe; the “boom,” the spar – more lingo – or pole along the bottom of a sail that can hit you in the head if you’re not careful; and “spinnaker,” a parachute-like sail that balloons in front of the boat to pull it downwind.

The class kicks off in the classroom at 8:30 a.m. with the women separated depending on sailing ability. After the gourmet lunch at 12:30 p.m., the women can take to the boats for on-the-water instruction. Students are asked to wear white soled shoes and bring a life jacket.

Ellen Hodos participated in the clinic a few years ago to hone her skills even though she learned how to sail when she was 12 years old in New England. She said she’s seen women sail around the world with their husbands, without knowing anything about sailing themselves.

“The idea is to interest and empower more women to sail on the lake. It helped them feel more confident in their skills,” Hodos said.

According to Esposito and Martin, sailing is changing with more and more women getting involved in the sport. The Saturday class is just an introduction, and Martin recommended the American Sailing Association as the place to look for the next step. Ultimately, it’s about logging more time on the water.

“We want you to come out, to join the yacht club and get on a boat,” Martin said.

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