On Saturday, 3 February 2024, Sarah Ramson joined a panel at the biannual US Sailing National Sailing Programs Symposium (NSPS). The panel, organized by Dr. Derrick Cogburn, Commodore of the Seafarers Yacht Club in Annapolis, was entitled "Diverse Ways to Diversify: Reimagining and Enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Sailing.”
The panel, moderated by US Sailing board member and 2023 Transpac skipper Marie Rogers, featured three unique organizations using different ways to pursue pathways to inclusion in the sailing community. The first organization was Rocking the Boat, a community boating program based out of City Island in the Bronx, NY. RTB was followed by the Seafarers Summer Seamanship School in Annapolis, organized by the Seafarers Yacht Club and the Seafarers Foundation. The final program was Pleasant Bay Community Boating (PBCB) in Harwich, MA. Sarah, who is a member of Sea Scout Ship 1959 - Seafarers Commitment, participated in the Seafarers Summer Seamanship School. She was invited by Commodore Cogburn to talk about her experiences in the Sea Scouts and in the Summer Seamanship School.
We talked to Sarah when she returned to learn about her experience.
Q. What was your overall experience?
A. I learned a lot especially from the keynote speakers, and I got to demo the Topaz Taz! It was my first time single handing with a jib. I capsized but it was easy to get back up very quickly. I army-crawled my way back through the stern. The panel was super cool…the other people were talking about what they are doing to support diversity and get kids from other communities sailing. I had to talk for 7 1/2 minutes! I just started talking about how the AYC Foundation has supported me in sailing endeavors and then I talked about West River Sailing Club where there is a lot of team building so everyone feels included…all teams as one unit. I finished by talking about the Seafarers summer program which was so cool to see kids who look like me and Latina kids because I don’t usually see black and Latina sailors. Then we had a Q&A session.
Q. How did it feel to be a kid at this conference?
A. Everybody was nice to me and congratulated me for being only 14 years old and the only kid at the entire conference. I walked around with my name tag representing AYCF with an extra ribbon that said “Presenter.” People asked how old I was and said, “Wow, you are a Presenter!” I felt special.
Q. What did you like about the Conference?
A. I loved the Keynotes. They were super inspiring! Eric Kapitulik talked about how he led a mission flying a plane back on a ship and something went wrong and dragged them into the sea and only 3 people survived. He still felt responsible and started a program to help the kids who lost their dads that day to raise money for them to go to college. There was a lady Admiral, Admiral Sandy Stosz. I got her book. She was a woman leading missions even when some men were against her. She got promoted anyway. The last speaker was Charlie Enright who sailed around the world for six months. I love sailing but I couldn’t do six months on the water. I really liked his videos of the racing, fixing things and how a boat hit them and they got redress.
Q. How is AYCF helpful to you?
A. I would not be able to afford to sail without AYCF for both my high school sailing and summer sailing at the West River Sailing Club. Sailing has taken the place of ballet being my number one favorite thing for YEARS. I love sailing so much because it is so freeing and when you are on a boat the possibilities are endless.
Q. What is your biggest takeaway?
A. Even though I was the youngest and only kid at the entire conference I was able to make an impact on how they see sailing and diversity. It changes people’s perspective when they hear things from a kid who is actually experiencing it.
Q. Anything else?
A. During Demo Day I was very nervous to single hand and maybe mess up a new boat. I almost didn’t get on because I didn’t want to damage the boat or have something happen and since I was the only kid people would think we shouldn’t have kids here. Heidi (Heidi Bay, Jr Fleet Director at WRSC) walked me down, gave me confidence and reminded me I had once before sailed a Topaz so I knew how it worked. Oh my gosh! I forgot to tell you there was a dolphin who swam right up to me while I was sailing! I had never seen one before.
Q. What’s next?
A. I’m super excited to start spring season of high school sailing and summer sailing at WRSC. I am hoping to do at least 3 sessions. I want to spend the whole summer sailing starting in June! Oh, and I have to write a report about this conference since I missed school to attend.
Sarah Ramson with Robert Lippincott, Director of Junior Sailing, Annapolis Yacht Club Sailing Center