NWSA is honored to present Gail Hine as the keynote speaker on June 8 at the Southern Yacht Club for the 2024 National Women’s Sailing Association’s Conference presented by Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Gail Hine is a former long-time editor of NWSA’s Take the Helm® newsletter and an emerita Women’s Sailing Foundation (WSF)/National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) board member. She was also the 2002 Leadership in Women’s Sailing honoree. The Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award (LIWSA) was established and co-sponsored by NWSA and BoatU.S.® to honor an individual with a record of achievement of inspiring, educating and enriching the lives of women through sailing. Gail Hine certainly has a long record of doing just that. The Award has been earned by stellar sailors who have dedicated a good deal of their lives to the sport of sailing and to increasing the opportunities for women sailors in all aspects of the sport.

Debbie Huntsman, past president for NWSA recalled during the review and discussion of the Leadership Award nominees for 2020, Gail Hine commented on the extremely high level of accomplishments made by the slate of nominees. Hine indicated the nominees have all done so much, she probably couldn’t be in the running for the award that year.

Gail reaches thousands through her annual sailing convention

Gail’s comment was surprising. WSF/NWSA Board members have enjoyed several Gail Hine conventions. Women leaders have sought her council for several of their own conferences and events. The sailing community held Gail, in their highest regard. Anyone who witnessed the hundreds of women eager to attend her event year after year admired Hine. Huntsman recalled an attendee referring to the first Saturday in February, when Hine’s convention was traditionally held, as “My favorite day of the year.”

The slate brought forward that year and each consecutive year have been sailors who have built very impressive sailing and service resumes. The caveat is, their accomplishments might to some degree be products of inspiration, education and enrichment from visionary leaders, like Hine. Today’s women sailors have benefited from mentors who have been nominated and selected as well as from the innumerable ordinary mortals not in the running who joined these leaders volunteering in promoting our sport and lifestyle.

Hine gave women sailors the chance to learn many skills at her last event in 2023

Convention model is sought by other women’s sailing organizations

Gail Hine’s Sailing Convention for Women model has been used by other women’s sailing organizations throughout the country. Over eight thousand women attended her conventions alone. Her stellar model always included well considered on-the-water, dockside and classroom sessions of what women sailors wanted to learn.

The Convention gave aspiring women instructors opportunities to collaborate, learn and instruct women sailors in a supportive environment. Perhaps most importantly, through Hine’s efforts, women sailors have given back to the sport while connecting with likeminded collaborators. Lasting friendships formed. Gail Hine’s commitment to the value of women teaching women spread across the country, first to Marblehead, Milwaukee and Alameda. But none could match the Sailing Convention for Women bringing an average of 256 women sailors together, year after year, for over three decades. None could surpass Gail Hine’s attention to detail, creativity and consistent quality.

Linda Newland was involved in creating a women’s sailing program for the members of the Island Yacht Club (IYC) in Alameda in 1974. Gail had invited Linda to be the Convention key note speaker to talk about her triumphant solo race from San Francisco to Japan. Newland and Mary Quigley attended. Newland said, “I had not had previous contact with women sailors outside of the Bay Area, so it was a revelation to see a huge number of women show up with so much enthusiasm for the sport. We took Gail’s blueprint home to Alameda and held our first Women’s Sailing Seminar the following year. It has continued annually since 1992.”

Linda credits Gail’s ingenuity for prompting IYC to include women from outside of the club. She wrote, “Personally I credit Gail with expanding my own involvement with a broader contact with women sailors and my eventual Board position with NWSA in 2005.”

Instructors volunteer to share sailing for generations

For these events, women came in groups. They came alone. Some took their first sail at the convention. Women sailed up or down the California coast to the events, ofttimes as sailing student’s on a boat run by a woman captain. The captains offered both their boats and instruction upon arrival. Women came from nearby yacht clubs, where their husbands were members, as well as from far flung places. There were workshops for first-time sailors and for building competency and confidence for women who crewed and for those who owned and skippered their boats. Women’s sailing organizations benefited too. They became a yacht club staple that supported the annual event. Women began to gain membership. They quickly stepped into leadership roles. A great wave of change came about.

After squeaking in front of Covid in February 2020 with a vibrant conference boasting 212 women in attendance, the pandemic shut down the iconic Women’s Sailing Conference event in 2021. Hine carried on through two more successful events. Her physical ability, age (83), spunk and diminishing volunteer support, brought her to the difficult decision to announce her retirement.

As the director and producer of 32 sailing conventions for women— 27 presented under the Southern California Yachting Association, the last five produced and presented under her own well respected name — Gail Hine sadly retired from the very rewarding and popular event.

Upon Gail’s retirement announcement, Ginger Clark wrote, “You are a part of my life’s history. It began when I was editing the newsletter of the Redondo Beach Yacht Club … you were so wonderful about sharing history and your stories.”

Ginger continued, “I attended your Conventions for 15 years (according to my sailboat pins). You gave us the opportunity to meet the most amazing sailors; the opportunity to be one-on-one with people we could admire and emulate. And it was so lovely having a day, a whole day, among women who loved the ocean! … the fact that you are the genesis of a number of copy-cat spinoff events is a real wonder.”

Social hubbub begins after the last session at Gail Hine’s 2018 Convention

Hine never planned to be the mother of women’s sailing conferences

Gail was a competitive racer at heart. In Marina del Rey, Hine dominated inshore races on her beloved Wylie designed Nightingale 24 Hummer. She came into wider sailing notoriety after winning the 90 mile Marina del Rey to San Diego race in June 1984. Hine beat all 300 boats in the overnight race. Hine loved the competitiveness of sailboat racing. She began helping other women gain confidence to sail and eventually skipper their own boats.

Even though Hine says, “I’m not a teacher,” she facilitated top-notch instruction by organizing learning sessions for women sailors. These presentations for women, at first taught by men “who got it,” gave female sailors the opportunity to gain sailing knowledge and skills. Soon the educators presenting at Hine’s events included women. More and more had credentials, enviable skills and experiences. Frequent instructors such as Captain Holly Scott, Captain Nancy Erley, Captain Linda Newland are notable sailors — period — regardless of their gender. The title Captain referred to more and more women at events presented by Hine. It became the norm.

As a means to thank Hine, who left a wake for us to follow, and to continue the legacy of this incredible woman sailor, the National Women’s Sailing Association has established the Gail Hine Scholarship for Women. Details will be announced on June 8 at the 2024 National Women’s Sailing Association Conference presented by Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.