Luffing Lassies History
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Heads turned back in 1972, when five women sailed their own small boats on Sarasota Bay for the first time. A woman at the helm was an uncommon sight back then. They sailed together frequently, developed some skills and soon realized that racing against one another enhanced the learning process. They dropped a couple of marks and raced around the bay, competing for the thrill of crossing the finish first. The Sarasota Sailing and Sinking Society was thereby established by our founder Lilly Kaighin and friends.
Decades after those beginnings the spirit remains intact. Our name today is Luffing Lassies and each year the Lassies introduce a new crop of women sailors to the joy of sailing and racing. The annual late summer Introduction to Sailing program is a cornerstone of the organization. We wish we had exact numbers but we can confidently say that over the years we have trained several hundred women to sail their own boats. Some improved their skills, some made the transition from crew to skipper and some held a tiller for the first time. If it wasn’t already, most made sailing part of their lives. Every week they carved out time between families and children and careers to sail Sunfish and Prams, 420’s and Flying Scots. We still do.
Like our founders, we compete against one another weekly, every Thursday, from September through May. Also like our founders, we compete against other clubs within the Florida Women’s Sailing Association, founded in 1973. Luffing Lassies were charter members of the FWSA. Now nine women’s sailing clubs established along the Gulf Coast of Florida sponsor regattas and interclub competitions at all skill levels. The more accomplished and competitive Luffing Lassies also compete in Florida, regional and US events. We even have a few world class competitors in our membership.
From the beginning, Luffing Lassies have launched their boats from the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. The two organizations have relied upon one another for decades. The all-volunteer Squadron hosts dozens of national and international sailing competitions every year. Luffing Lassies have been and are today an integral part of successful regattas at the Squadron. Not only do we compete in these regattas, we help organize events, assist with registration, serve on race committee, tend bar and flip dozens of burgers. Luffing Lassies are part of every regatta, all year long, in many different ways.
Today’s Luffing Lassies are artists and writers; we are medical professionals and lawyers and educators. We sell real estate, work in finance and are entrepreneurs. Some have retired, others fit sailing into their work schedules. Many are mothers and grandmothers. Collectively, we are friends. Luffing Lassies add to one another’s lives, both on and off the water, with a common love of sailing and a contagious enthusiasm for life. Lilly and the four other women who started this organization in 1972 would feel right at home today.