Saturday, April 29, 2017

Women's Ensenada Race Team- Paying it Forward!

J/120 Pole Dancer women's crew (Newport Beach, CA)- Skipper Terri Manok and her J/120 Pole Dancer return to the annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race April 28 in hopes of scoring another win for Oceanside Yacht Club, but in an N2E first, she’s bringing a trophy to the race. What?

Manok and crew won the prestigious Caroline Starr Trophy for being the fastest all-women crew in PHRF last year. With trophy in hand, the team reviewed names of the inspirational women sailors who preceded them and a discussion began. What would it take for more all-women teams to compete, Manok and team wondered. In part, they felt that there needed to be more encouragement for women just starting to race and not quite ready for flying a spinnaker and PHRF class racing.

So, what if there was a trophy for women sailing in the cruising class? That would offer them another competitive opportunity to sail together while building skills and confidence along the way, thought Manok.

Over the past year, Manok and her friend/ crewmate Judy Rae Karlsen flushed out the idea and presented the option to the Newport Ocean Sailing Association board. NOSA, host of the iconic race, agreed and worked with her on the Deed of Gift for new Nauti Chicas All-Female Crew Cruising Class Non-Spinnaker Trophy. “It’s given with hopes that it will serve as motivation for women who are not quite ready to enter the PHRF spinnaker classes, yet have the desire to compete and be competitive in N2E,” she said. Manok and Karlsen, who met years ago sailing with a local all-women’s group called the Nauti Chicas, donated the trophy in honor of the former team and the women who have sailed in it.

“In terms of sailing goals, at this time in my life it’s about giving back to the sport that has given me so much joy,” said Manok. She discovered sailing, particularly racing, as an adult. “I’ve been fortunate to have had amazing male and female mentors that accelerated my learning curve.” She acknowledged her appreciation for Cindy Wynne, a multi-time winner of the Caroline Starr Trophy, for being a star mentor. In fact, it was aboard Wynne’s boat Sol Mate that Manok first raced N2E.

J/120 Pole Dancer sailing offshore“I am so very grateful that they chose to share their knowledge, so I try to do the same these days and in particular with other women sailors who have a desire to race.”

“Terri’s gracious donation is so very much appreciated,” said Daniel Hodge, Vice Commodore of NOSA. “We are grateful for the opportunity to offer a trophy that will empower women sailboat racers and hopefully even attract more women to N2E.”

As for her strategy for a repeat win on N2E’s 70th Anniversary is simple: have fun, sail safe and sail fast!

“The best part of N2E is that every year is a little different,” Manok said. “There’s last year with great wind; fast race, and then there’s the drifting off the Coronado’s through the night with not a stitch of wind for hours. It’s like a box of chocolates.”  Sailing photo credit- Sharon Green/ Ultimate Sailing

Admittedly, the crew is key to their success and keeps Pole Dancer in the race. “I’m blessed to have them not only as crew but great friends as well,” she said. Her amazing N2E crew is comprised of long-term friendships and very talented sailors. “I’d go anywhere in any conditions with these ladies,” Manok said. “And we’ve been through a few gnarly seas and weather together in the past for sure.”

Building this team started about 16 years ago when Denise Eldredge, great spin trimmer and all around sailor, asked Manok to work bow on her J/24. She met Betsy Crowfoot and Sharie Sneddon, both very experienced sailors, via their mutual friend Sue Senescu. The following year, Manok had the privilege of being invited to join the Nauti Chicas crew that Senescu led. Senescu and Manok co-skippered Predator, her J/35, to her first Caroline Starr Trophy win in 2008.

J/120 Pole Dancer- women's crewAt the time we met, it was difficult for women to get a spot on a race boat; “It was a real ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma,” said Crowfoot. “No one wanted you as crew unless you had experience, but how could you get experience if no-one invited you aboard?” Women had to create their own opportunities, so organizations like WORSA were formed to help get them out on the water to cultivate their skills. “Over time, scores of women have proven themselves on the race course, and now gals are more integrated into racing in general,” Crowfoot added. “But it is still the most fun to go out sailing with your girlfriends.” She applauded the new Nauti Chicas All Female Crew Cruising Class Non-Spinnaker Trophy as a way to motivate novice women into offshore racing.

Also on Manok’s team is Lesley McDonald; bow gal extraordinaire, who she met when coaching for the Sea Gals program in Long Beach. Angela McDowell has just a few years’ experience yet Manok says she’s a natural sailor and a great main trimmer. Kaci Yachecak, an avid J/24 racer from Montana, joins the team this year. They met while sailing at a women’s regatta in Puerto Vallarta several years ago. And Terrie Canon is a local sailor who owns her own Catalina and has been racing on various boats for many years.

Manok reports that Pole Dancer is an absolute dream to sail. “J/Boats got this one right for sure,” she said. The boat, named for how the spinnaker looks dancing off the pole, sails well to its rating, is fast yet offers nice creature comforts, is well balanced; and easy at the helm.

What races to do each year has become somewhat of a tradition at her house.  She and her husband sit down every New Year’s Day and go over the upcoming race calendar.

This year, they’re focused on one-design and playing with the strong J/120 fleet in various venues (Yachting Cup, NOOD, Newport and Long Point.) Previously, they focused on supporting their home club, OYC, in local races. Other years they make a point of competing in the more challenging, long distance (Santa Barbara to King Harbor, Newport to Cabo, Newport Ensenada, etc.,) events.

Either way, Terri still likes to go sailing - on her boat or someone else’s, at least twice a month. This of course is how one gets the experience and skills to be a competitive sailor and earn your place - twice now - a trophy won previously by some of Southern California’s most talented and successful women racers.

All told, she has competed in 8 N2E’s. Three were on other boats and 5 have been on the J/35 or Pole Dancer. She thinks the number of times might pale in comparison with some who have done the race for 40+ years, but she hopes to compete in another 10 or so.

Team NOSA says they look forward to seeing her and Pole Dancer in N2E 80!

The inscription on the trophy reads:

In dedication to the women
who cast off the lines
and venture away from shore.
It's a symbol of strength and perseverance.
It's a symbol of love of the sea
and the joy that is found in sailing.
It's a symbol of women with a sense of adventure
that can only be found on the water
and among friends.

As a recipient of this award it is your obligation
to continue the journey and
share your experience and knowledge
of sailing with others.

Thanks for contribution from Laurie Morrison Add to Flipboard Magazine.