Columbia Sailing Club hosts National Women’s Sailing Championship

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 12:38 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - If you drive by Lake Murray this weekend, you might notice a few more sails speckling the water.

What you might not be able to see are the women sailors in every Sunfish boat, competing in a national championship.

From Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25, the North American Women’s Sunfish Championship will take place at Columbia Sailing Club on Lake Murray.

The three-day competition will host nearly 50 women from all over the country, vying for top spot in this world-qualifying event.

“We have nine competitors from Columbia Sailing Club and of course, it’s all female, so that’s just wonderful,” says Margaret Clarkson, rear commodore at Columbia Sailing Club.

While it’s not the first-time CSC has hosted a national race, it’s fitting that the club is hosting this race, as it resonates with its values and commitment to women sailors.

“We are steeped in history- we’re 62 years old, but the really interesting thing about our club is we have an awful lot of female sailors,” says Clarkson.

One of those sailors is Sarah Weiss.

Weiss has grown-up in the club and became its first female commodore in over 50 years.

For Weiss, competing in this race is special, “I had kind of retired for a while from racing because I had gotten a little burned out,” says Weiss, “So I kind-of disappeared. When I heard this regatta was going on, I decided, I’m going to come out and sail. Of course, I’m not expecting to be in the top, but I’m hoping I’ll be in the middle of the fleet.’

Regardless of placement, Weiss and Clarkson both stress that sailing is for everyone.

And unlike other sports, sailing is an equalizer.

“To know that I can be competing against young girls that might be juniors and then I could be competing against 20, 30, all the way up – it’s cool,” says Weiss.

From juniors to college and beyond, sailing has been a way of life for Weiss and Clarkson.

Now they’re focused on getting more kids involved in the sport and of course, more girls.

“We’ve had a long-term commitment to the junior sailing program,” explains Clarkson, “And if you don’t get the next generation on the water, the sport will die, so it’s really important. Women don’t have enough tiller time, so you’ve got to always cultivate not just guy sailors, but also little girl sailors.”

Weiss adds, “There’s a need out there for more female sailors and they can do it. We can compete right there against the men, that’s the cool thing about it, I would not be able to be on a basketball team, but I can be on a sailing team.’

The Sunfish Women’s North American Championship begins Friday, September 23 and runs through Sunday, September 25.

Spectators can view the races from the Lake Murray Dam or from personal boats on the water.

Columbia Sailing Club is not open for spectators.

More information on the national championship can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

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