[Editors note: Sailing Blu contacted us to help spread the word about their efforts to promote women in sailing. Here is their post.]
Sailing is a man’s game. But don’t tell that to Hoboken resident Donna Antonucci, the founder of America Blu, a non-profit organization that promotes women in sailing.
In a city that harbors the Hudson River waterfront, water activities are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s become evident as the topic has immersed itself in the city’s new development projects.
The city’s planning of an uptown park north of the Tea Building in an area known as Weehawken Cove received significant input from the Hoboken Cove Boathouse organization at a meeting in December. Kayaking has also increased in popularity, and is available near Maxwell Place. The new opening of Pier C Park featured a designated fishing area.
As development continues (and as summer approaches) it appears that more residents are taking advantage of Hoboken’s waterfront.
One aspect of waterfront life that hasn’t been addressed is the sailing and racing scene. While some people may have leisurely sailed along the Hudson River, few have taken part in racing, which Antonucci says “has a real culture to it.”
America Blu first formed in 2000, when Antonucci decided among friends to jump right into the men’s world of sailing and racing.
“Racing particularly was male dominated,” Antonucci said. “There are very few opportunities for women in racing. So, we founded America Blu, a non-profit.”
For more information about AmericaBlu, visit www.http://americablu.blogspot.com
The group depends on sponsors, and this year, Prudential Insurance Company’s logo will fly on the boat’s spinnaker. Don’t know what a spinnaker is? It’s a large sail that helps the boat run along with the wind. If sailing vocabulary is foreign, it might help to take a class.
In addition to races, Antonucci also teaches an eight-week free training course.
“We have a four week classroom program, in a lecture style,” Antonucci said. “Then we have four weeks out on the water.”
The classes are taught in parts of Hoboken and New York City, depending on where space is available. Although all are welcome, Antonucci said the classes are particularly for those with some sailing experience.
Her team, which races J-24s in the Hudson River, is primarily made up of women. The team has had males in the past.
The crew has traveled all across the world to race, including in the 2002 Heineken Cup in Saint Martin, which was televised on ESPN.
“We were the only female boat out of 3,000 sailors,” she said. Each boat has approximately five people.
Breaking the barriers
Antonucci began sailing after spending time on a boat with male racers.
“I got to sit on the side of the boat, and when the boat tacked back and forth I just had to make sure I didn’t get hit,” she said. “They didn’t want to let me do anything.”
But Antonucci didn’t sit on the sidelines long, as she eventually worked with friends to form the women’s team.
“When America Blu started we were the only female boat out of the 24 boats [in a local New York based racing league],” she said. “It was a slow start.”
Antonucci began her sailing career as an adult, which she says made the transition to the sport difficult, but definitely not impossible.
The team was originally founded in Manhattan, where Antonucci lived before she found her way to Hoboken.
“We went out there to race not knowing a lot, but enough to be safe,” she said. “But we did not do well.”
The team is made up of five racers and four alternates.
However, she sees the promise that can come from a community like Hoboken.
“People sometimes forget we are a waterfront community,” she said. “We have a beach. If you wanted to put in the effort, this opportunity to sail exists. There are ways to get out in the Hudson River, and they’re expanding.”
One boat in the Manhattan Club where Antonucci is a member has a Hoboken theme, named My Way, after famed Hoboken resident Frank Sinatra.
America Blu races once a week beginning in the middle of May and ending in October. Racing in the Hudson River presents its own challenges, mostly due to the high volume of traffic.
“You couldn’t call it a great place to sail because of harbor traffic,” Antonnucci said. “But the fact that you’re able to make sailing part of your life is very convenient. When there’s a steady wind, it’s a beautiful place to sail.”
For more information about AmericaBlu, go to http://americablu.blogspot.com.