In 1972, five Sarasota sailors banded together as the “Sarasota Sailing and Sinking Society.” They sailed together frequently, learned from one another and welcomed others who wanted to learn to sail. They laughed as they rounded the marks and cheered each other across the finish. Sailing being a convivial sport, this was not unusual. But what did turn a few heads back then was the fact that these sailors were all women.
Thirty-eight years later, the spirit remains intact, the name is “Luffing Lassies” and likeminded groups of women sailors learn and compete together on US waters from coast to coast. The Florida Women’s Sailing Association, founded in 1973, includes eight sister clubs and charter member, the “Luffing Lassies.” The annual FWSA Rainbow Regatta, rotates among the clubs, promising good times and great sailing every Spring.
Over the years the annual “Luffing Lassies” learn-to-sail week has launched nearly 600 Pram-sailing women onto Sarasota Bay. Some honed their sailing 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. They made the time, between families and children and careers, to sail Prams or Sunfish every week. They still do.
Every Thursday, from September to May, Pram and Sunfish sailors race on Sarasota Bay, then gather for a brown bag lunch on the deck. This habit is hard to break, so many continue to sail and lunch together throughout the summer. Having fun and sailing together is the essence of this group.
An integral part of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, the “Luffing Lassies” have contributed their expertise, on and off the water, to Squadron events. The Sunfish World Championship, the US Opti Nationals and many Squadron regattas have relied on “Luffing Lassies” support for everything from race committee to skipper registration to grilling hot dogs.
The current “Luffing Lassies” membership includes artists, writers, medical professionals and lawyers, there are also real estate, finance and retail professionals. Some have retired, others fit sailing into their work schedules. Many are mothers and grandmothers. Collectively, they are friends. Friends who add to one another’s lives with a common love of sailing and a contagious enthusiasm for life. The five women who created this organization thirty-eight years ago would feel right at home today.