North Sails LOFT NEWS
WOMEN OF OUR LOCAL SAILING COMMUNITY
Nothing Can Stop Kristina Gilbert From Achieving It All
The typical story for most sailors begins with “I started sailing at a young age” or “I was put in sailing lessons” as a kid however that is not the story for everyone. We take a look at some of the leaders in our local community who have contributed to the growth of the local sailing scene. These women are simply athletes, we don’t see them as women on the boat, they are just like everyone else – a sailor with a passion for adventure. They are individuals who enjoy the sport and keep coming back for more while continuously giving back to a community where they’re outnumbered.
Meet Kristina. She is a certified Sail Canada mark setter and trained regional race officer (and all around bad ass) who has been doing race committee for 12 years. Her introduction to sailing began when her daughter Blake was in sailing school. She recalls, “I figured it was time to learn what she was talking about when she said things like boom and gybe. I had no clue what she was talking about.” Kristina’s story is unique and inspiring – she didn’t start at a young age, although sailing was in her family, she didn’t grow up around racing or the docks. She began later in life to connect with her daughter and better understand what Blake was doing. What really pushed her to get into sailing actively was when she got invited to do race committee and volunteer. She used to drop off her daughter at sailing school every morning; eventually she got invited to come out sailing and then do race committee.
Recalling her first impressions of the sailing world, Kristina shares how it was really hard to integrate due due to lack of terminology and cultural norms/cues. It took her two years before feeling comfortable around the sailing scene, sharing “it felt like you had to give it time” and be patient. Her best advice? Volunteer, “Once I got involved with the volunteers it changed everything.” The best way to integrate is to volunteer because it allows you to meet more people and for people to see your face and see you’re involved; it opens up the whole community. Beyond this, Kristina’s advice is to not judge a yacht club on your first season, explaining “the sailing community you need to give it time.” It seems her patience and persistence has paid off as now you can’t walk down the dock or through the bar without someone stopping Kristina to say hi or ask how she’s doing. That being said, it is much more accepting of women now that it was says Kristina.
Joining the sailing world can be intimidating, there is no doubt about it, and some obstacles can arise. For Kristina though her biggest obstacle to overcome was her own fear. She says “my own intimidation and my own idea of what I thought I had to succeed at was my biggest obstacle. She gives the example of going out to a dance club. When you go out to a dance club everyone is their together whereas sailing you’re in a boat by yourself in the middle of the lake – it can be daunting. Facing those fears though head on is the best thing you can do says Kristina. An important antidote to remember.
What keeps Kristina coming back for more? The love of water. Being out on the boat, be it race committee or keel boats, it’s her happy place. She shares “the minute I hit the dock, all my stress is gone, I forget about what I was stressing out about on the way down in the car.” Even though it’s not always rainbows and sunshine on the water, Kristina believes “its beautiful even in the storms.” Beyond the beauty and serenity of sailing, she wants to be a better sailor because of all the women she see’s out doing it now – it looks attainable. She sites helms-woman Wendy Tuck, Liz Wardley and Dee Cafari as inspirations. Beyond this, Kristina details how the people and the whole community keep you coming back, “everything that intimidates you in the beginning is what keeps you coming back now.”
Looking into the future and women’s involvement in the sport, Kristina would like to see equal number of boats competing that are all women, an entire crew of women kicking it on the podium. Her biggest desire she shares is “have it not be written into the sailing rules that you must have one woman aboard.” The barriers to achieving this is two fold says Kristina. We need to have “more women realize they can do it, take the lead more instead of letting others even when they [women] know what to do.” Secondly, we need to have our male counterparts look a little harder when it comes to having females on board. Kristina explains, “take the time to train a female that shows potential rather than taking the already trained male, aka the easier route.” Investing in potential will help build good crew, as they aren’t found, they are made.
When it comes to advice for women looking to get involved in sailing, Kristina says “if you love it, don’t let anybody change that for you. If you don’t have a good fit then change the group or boat you’re on.” A very good point is made here ; sometimes it’s just the personality of people but that doesn’t mean the sport or activity itself is wrong for you. Sometimes people don’t teach the way you need to be taught. She also advocates for taking lessons and being hands on, don’t be a bystander. “Learn what happens and then you know how to handle the situation” says Kristina but most of all “don’t let anybody deter you.”
You can catch Kristina on the water all summer long, you’ll see her regularly setting marks and adjusting to ensure the best possible course for racers. You’ll also see her pulling 200 feet of chain and line at the end of the day; a true inspiration to us all and example of how being hands on and tackling what scares you can make you not only a better individual but also sailor.