Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award Archive

The Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award, co-sponsored by NWSA and BoatU.S., the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters, begun in 1990. The award is given annually to honor an individual who has a record of achievement in inspiring, educating and enriching the lives of women through sailing. In recent years until 2020, the award has been made at the Women’s Sailing Conference in Marblehead, MA the first weekend of June. In 2020 the award was presented virtually.

2023 Dr Anne Kolker

Congratulations to Dr. Anne Kolker for being selected as the 2023 Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award honoree. NWSA and BoatUS announced and presented the Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award to Anne Kolker at the June 3rd National Sailing Conference in Sail Newport in RI.

Kolker grew up sailing, first as a youngster, then through college, medical school and into marriage. However, when her husband died in 2008, she realized that she needed to learn more about sailing and grow her confidence behind the wheel. Up until his passing, she had never docked the boat that she had purchased with him, a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Stellar 52, or competed in an offshore sailboat race. read more


Newland holds the fastest woman, singlehanded San Francisco-to-Japan record and has sailed and raced extensively on the West Coast. She is a two-time, 2,025-mile Los Angeles-to-Honolulu Transpac competitor as well as a Pacific Cup veteran. In the 1997 Transpac aboard her own boat, Newland skippered an all-women crew to a second-place division finish.

A 100-ton merchant marine license holder, Newland teaches sailing and is a certified American Sailing Association instructor. She has served as secretary for Recreational Boaters of Washington, which represents recreational boaters’ interests in Washington legislative and regulatory actions, and is a past commander and now assistant squadron education officer of the Point Wilson Sail and Power Squadron in Port Townsend, Washington. She is a long-standing board member of NWSA, having served as vice president, president and co-chair of the AdventureSail committee.

2021 Marie Rogers

Marie was the second woman in 118 years, the second black person, and the first black woman to be the commodore of the historic Los Angeles Yacht Club (LAYC). In fact, when she looked in 2019 to see if there were any other black women at the lead of a major club in the US, she found none, certainly not on the west coast. Marie races avidly. She was able to race last year in the 50th Transpacific race. She told me she didn’t see another black person, let alone another black female, in the fleet. Marie also races close to home on her J 29, Rush Street, and does coastal racing on Marie, a Nelson Marek 55, that she shares with Bill, her husband. Besides all this, she loves doing deliveries, cruising, and teaching sailing at LAYC and other yacht clubs.

Marie has fully dedicated herself to increasing equity in sailing. In doing so she joined NWSA’s board of directors. She works with US Sailing and Yacht Clubs around the nation to help them sailors recognize barriers and to increase inclusion. Rogers firmly believes sailing is for everyone. She actively spreads the idea inclusion is not only a healthy direction for the sport, it will bring a new vitality to clubs which embrace equity.


2020 Margaret Pommert

Pommert is a Pacific Northwest native, who has sailed in many parts of the world’s top cruising destinations including the Caribbean, South Pacific, and Greece. For several years Pommert taught sailing in California, on dinghies and keelboats, monohulls and catamarans. She began her formal certifications in 2006 when she became an ASA certified instructor. She is also a US Sailing certified instructor, and holds a 50 ton U.S. Coast Guard Master’s License. She developed a website, www.seattleonthewater.com to promote programs and opportunities for women to learn more sailing and boating skills. Pommert is a skipper of an all women J/105 where she enjoys sharing the fun of racing fast boats and flying spinnakers.

Pommert has been leading the Seattle Sailing Women’s Program since 2013, with monthly sails introducing a wide variety of boats, destinations, and fun adventures. Pommert encourages women to step up to new responsibilities, to expand their capabilities and confidence, and thus their horizons. In doing so she has truly shown exceptional leadership in women’s sailing and is most deserving of this award.



2019 Pat Dieselman

Pat Dieselman“Through her own experiences as an adult woman entering the sport, she saw learning to sail had challenges. Acting on that recognition, Pat has worked to encourage and educate women in the art of sailing.”

At the Women’s Sailing Conference, Dieselman has been a workshop leader as well as a member of the Conference committee. She is also CYC’s Race Committee co-chair and past chair of the club’s Sailing Committee. She was the first female chair of the Blue Water Sailing Club’s race committee and past commodore. Additionally, she’s co-chair of the AdventureSail event for young girls at risk held at Courageous Sailing Center in Charlestown.

Dieselman’s husband introduced her to sailing, first on a J-29, then on a cruising boat, on which they explored New England. Bareboat charter trips with the Blue Water Sailing Club to Turkey, Croatia, Greece, France and the British Virgin Islands followed. When Dieselman recognized that most of the women in the club had never taken their boats out without their husbands, she initiated weeklong cruises for just the women, empowering them to take the helm. Twenty-three years later, those cruises are still going strong.


2018 Sheila McCurdy

Sheila McCurdy of Middletown, Rhode Island, skippers her own boat, Selkie, a 38-foot sloop designed by her father, Jim McCurdy.

She has sailed more than 100,000 miles offshore including a passage from the Galapagos to the Marquesas in 2014, the 2015 Transatlantic Race and 17 Newport Bermuda races—skippering to second place in class and fourth overall in 2016. In 2017, McCurdy cruised the west coast of Sweden and then sailed from Spain to the Azores.

McCurdy is a trustee of Mystic Seaport Museum, serves on the board of Ida Lewis Yacht Club, was the first female commodore of the Cruising Club of America, and served as a director of US Sailing Association where she ran the national faculty for 13 years. She was an advisor to the US Naval Academy Sailing for 20 years. She maintains a position on the Advisory Council of the National Women’s Sailing Association, writes and lectures on education and training, runs safety training courses and certifies instructors for the U.S. Sailing Association. McCurdy also holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton master’s license and a masters degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. She has received several awards, including Rhode Island Boater of the Year 2011.


2017 Linda Lindquist-Bishop

Linda Lindquist-Bishop was a member of the first and only all-women’s America’s Cup team. Lindquist-Bishop became the first female sailing master at her yacht club. She achieved a leadership role on the SC70 team setting records on the Great Lakes. Lindquist-Bishop has sailed with more than 100 teams and won two world championships. Lindquist-Bishop is a co-founder of Rising Tide Leadership Institute, a non-profit organization. She also helped to develop the NWSA and is on the advisory board.





2016 Kathie Ohmer-Arnold

Kathie Ohmer-Arnold began sailing dinghies in California’s Newport Harbor as a teen and then later raised a family. After the kids grew up, she sailed to Europe and into the Mediterranean, logging over 10,000 miles. In the West Indies, she acquired her 100-ton Master License, was first mate on a Hatteras 70, worked as a charter captain on a 44-ft ketch, taught local women how to handle large boats by themselves, and raced J-24s in her spare time. Returning to California in 1988, she continued involvement in sailing, starting in Dana Point with the repair and restoration of historic sloop Virginia. She also taught Sea Scouts how to sail, became a instructor with Orange Coast College of Sailing & Seamanship, and over the next nine years taught over 500 women to sail aboard the school’s 47-foot Saudade. In the 90’s Kathie was active in the precursor to the Women’s Sailing Association of Orange County, was a supporter of the Sail for the Visually Impaired, and joined Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club (BCYC) where she sailed her Catalina 34. Kathie mentored many female members, being active in their social events, club cruises, and junior activities as well as serving as Port Captain and also as Fleet Captain at BCYC and participated in H/20 harbor races. Kathie supported the Leukemia Lymphoma Society charity regatta and invited young leukemia survivors aboard on her boat for a number of years Kathie has been active in the SCYA’s Women’s Sailing Convention for the past 25 years and second-in-command.


2015 Sally Helme

Sally HelmeAs a young woman, Sally Helme sailed for her college team and earned seats on several boards and committees that support and promote sailing, particularly for women.”Helme also worked with Offshore Sailing School CEO Doris Colgate to create and sponsor NWSA’s Take the Helm series of women’s educational and networking events. “I have always believed that women can have a significant impact on our industry, and it’s been my goal to spread that idea and encourage more efforts to meet the needs of this very important market,” said Helme. Inside the marine industry Helme remains a role model for women. Climbing the corporate ladder to the pinnacle of two very widely read and respected sailing magazines, Helme was the first female publisher in the sailing industry. She advocated for positive depictions of women in the magazines, showing them in leadership roles on boats, on boards, in competitions, and in photos and articles to inspire and illustrate the many challenging aspects of sailing. Helme is a past president of Sail America, the trade association for the US sailing industry. She has served on the boards of Sail Newport and US Sailing, and is currently a vice president of Marine Marketers of America. Helme was also a founding member of International Women in Boating, a marine industry professional-development organization for women. In 2011 Helme was honored with the SailMagazine Industry Leadership Award, and in 2014, the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association Anchor Award.


2012 Elaine Dickinson

Elaine Dickinson A life-long sailor, Elaine Dickinson learned to sail at age 25 by taking an Outward Bound course and immersed herself in the world of boating, both personally and professionally as journalist and lobbyist for BoatUS. She served on the National Safe Boating Council, a three-year appointment the US Coast Guard Boating Safety Advisory Council, and NOAA’s Hydrographic Services Review Panel which advises NOAA leadership on navigation issues. She raised awareness about women’s sailing educational events and women in maritime fields in articles for BoatUS Magazine, started the BoatUS Women in Boating website and served as a National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) board member for ten years. Retired in 2010 after 26 years with BoatUS’ Government, Public Affairs and Publications departments, Dickinson now enjoys cruising the Atlantic coast with her husband, on their Catalina 42.



2011 Dawn Santamaria

DSantamaria When Dawn and her husband Jay purchased their tall ship, she witnessed first hand how their four young daughters enjoyed learning how to sail the ship while gaining confidence and leadership skills. She wanted other young girls to have the opportunity to have the same experiences so she developed a program and created the non-profit organization, Sisters Under Sail, in 2005. Its classroom is the 110-foot, square topsail, gaff-rigged schooner STV Unicorn, said to be the only all-female crewed tall ship in the world. This unique leadership program has taken nearly 400 girls aboard from all over the United States and Canada to learn new skills on the ship and expand their lives with accomplished sailors. Santamaria grew up in Chicago, Illinois and attended Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana – an all women’s college. Her adult program has brought aboard nearly 200 women who have enjoyed the experience as much as the teenage girls. Sisters Under Sail has worked with the generous support of communities, individuals and many organizations such as Girl Scouts of America wishing to sponsor teenagers to participate. Dawn, is on the Alumnae Board of Directors at her alma mater, and is Saint Mary’s New Jersey Alumnae Club President. She serves as the Chairwoman of the Sisters Under Sail Board of Trustees.


2009 Maureen McKinnon-Tucker

Maureen-McKinnon-TuckerProving that despite a major setback, the will to sail and compete at the highest level can prevail, Maureen McKinnon-Tucker has doggedly pursued competitive sailing. After being the first woman named to the U.S. Disabled Sailing Team and winning a silver medal in the 2007 world championship, McKinnon-Tucker went even further in 2008 and won a gold medal in the Beijing Paralympic Games, along with the late Nick Scandone in the SKUD-18 class. She has also served on numerous boards and committees advocating for those with spinal cord injuries and is a peer mentor for those recently disabled; she is the adaptive sailing coordinator at the Piers Park Sailing Center in Boston, MA. The mother of two has also managed two businesses. She is a Marblehead, MA, resident and her web site is SailChallengeInspire.org.



2008 Pat Seidenspinner

Pat Seidenspinner Pat Seidenspinner is a native of New York City who grew up in Rochester, NY, and enjoyed a career as a flight attendant with TWA. Upon retirement to St. Petersburg, Seidenspinner became very active in race management and eventually managed many national and world sailing championships. She is a member of US SAILING’s Race Management Committee and is the editor of its Race Management Handbook. She served as Chairman of the Race Administration Committee, and as a member of both the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Among some of her “firsts” in her sailing career, she was: First female Principal Race Officer, Southern Ocean Racing Conference and many other championships at St. Petersburg Yacht Club 1st female appointed as International Race Officer by the International Sailing Federation 1st female Principal Race Officer at an Olympic Games 1st female Commodore of St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Sadly, in June 2014, after a series of illnesses, Pat Seidenspinner passed away.


2007 Janet Baxter

Janet Baxter

Janet Baxter, is a Chicago-based racer, sailing judge and the first woman elected president of United States Sailing Association, the national governing body of the sport in the US. She’s raced in 27 Chicago-to-Mackinac races and excelled in racing Lasers, Etchells, as well as offshore boats. She is a member of the Chicago Yacht Club.



2006 Nancy Erley

Nancy Erley Nancy Erley, is a Seattle-based sailing instructor and two-time circumnavigator, Erley holds a 50-ton Master of Oceans and 100-ton Master Near Coastal license and is an instructor-evaluator for the International Sail and Power Association. She led two all-women voyages from Seattle around the world aboard her Orca 38 sailboat Tethys. As founder of the Tethys Offshore Sailing for Women in Seattle (www.tethysoffshore.com) Erley teaches women beginning sailing up to captaining skills, either on learning cruises or individually. She’s a Ham operator as well as advanced SCUBA diver, and delivery captain.



2005 Cory Sertl

Cory Sertl Cory Sertl, is a world-class sailor and youth coach, Among Sertl’s many accomplishments: Member of US SAILING’s delegation to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Coaches high school sailing at Rochester Yacht Club, Rochester, NY Skipper of the team that won the 2004 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship. Two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, a former Olympian, and a winner of the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship. Winner with Jody Swanson of the Women’s Open Doublehanded Championship in 1990 and the U.S. Women’s Championship for the Adams Cup in 1992.  Served on US SAILING’s Women’s Sailing Committee.


2004 Doris Colgate

Doris ColgateDoris Colgate, is President and CEO of Offshore Sailing School. Doris has served on the BoatUS National Advisory Council as well as the board of directors and marketing committee of Sail America, the sailing industry association. Within the schools’ offerings, Doris created innovative women’s educational courses and cruises. In 1990, she founded the National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) to create more sailing opportunities for women and educational offerings for women to build confidence and skills. Doris also helped NWSA launch AdventureSail in 1991, a sailing-mentoring program for at-risk girls. In 1997, she established the Women’s Sailing Foundation (WSF) a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of women and girls through education and access to the sport of sailing. She is the author of SAILING: A Woman’s Guide (International Marine/McGraw Hill). Colgate received the Betty Cook Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award from Boating magazine and International Women in Boating for her work in the marine industry. In 1996 she shared with Steve Colgate, the Sail Magazine Industry Award for Leadership. And in 2003, US SAILING, the national governing body of sailing in the U.S., awarded Steve and Doris the Timothea Larr Trophy for their leadership and excellence in sailing education.


2003 Dawn Riley

Dawn RileyDawn Riley, is a world champion sailor who has made great strides in developing sailing outreach programs for young people. Riley founded and leads the America True Foundation, whose goal is to bring the joy of sailing to youth nationwide. Other accomplishments include being the first woman to head up an America’s Cup Syndicate (2000) as well as team captain of the first all-women’s America’s Cup team, America3 (1995). She was the only female crew member on an America’s Cup team in 1992 and she led the Heineken team, the all-women’s entry in the Whitbread Round the World Race (1993-94). Riley was the first two-time winner of the world-class BoatUS Santa Maria Cup women’s match race regatta; the first sailor to be named President of the Women’s Sports Foundation; and also the 1999 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. She is currently the Executive Director of Oakcliff Sailing Center, dedicated to building American leaders through sailing.


2002 Gail Hine

Gail HineGail Hine, is one of the first female sailors in the U.S. to organize large-scale training events just for women. Thousands of women in California have either been introduced to sailing or improved their skills because of Gail’s efforts. She has a truly remarkable combination of sailing knowledge, organizational skills and, boundless energy. For over three decades Gail has volunteered her time to expand the sailing arena for women. Hine was one of the first women in California to be elected commodore of a yacht club, Palos Verdes, which later named a perpetual trophy for her. In 1990, she was the first woman to be named “Yachtsman of the Year” — the Peggy Slater Award — by the Southern California Yachting Association. She has served on boards and committees too numerous to list and has made a significant contribution to improving boating in California through legislative advocacy work when she served as president of Recreational Boaters of California, a statewide organization. She also served on the BoatUS National Advisory Council. Gail raced her Nightingale 24 in local regattas.

2000 Betsy Alison

Bety AllisonBetsy holds 22 national and international titles, and mentors young people in numerous sailing programs. As coach, Alison led the U.S. Disabled/ Paralympic sailing team to a Bronze medal. Much of her leadership has been in advising and coaching disabled sailors. She recently coached the U.S. Disabled/Paralympic Sailing Team to a bronze medal in Sydney. She has also volunteered her time to the National Women’s Sailing Association’s AdventureSail®. Alison holds 22 national, international and world sailing titles.



1999 Bernadette Bernon

Bernadette BernonBernadette Bernon is the former editor of Cruising World magazine and founding director of the Cruising World Safety at Sea Institute which has educated over 15,000 sailors at their seminars. She has served on the BoatUS National Advisory Council, and the boards of the National Women’s Sailing Association, Sail Expo and Sail America. She sponsored numerous outreach efforts to make sailing and cruising more accessible to women.