Reminiscing: A Conversation about Women on the Water

Reminiscing: A Conversation about Women on the Water

In April 2019, Sømand Co-Founder Laura had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the Pacific Boat Show that was created and moderated by San Francisco local, Captain Kira Maixner. The discussion centered around the topic of Women in Sailing and featured four different panelists from the Bay Area that have a unique experience and story to tell.

The participants included Nichole Ortiz, an active member of the Modern Sailing Club and the Club's first female club skipper, Captain Darci Bogdan, the first female practicing captain in a Santa Cruz 70 called Chardonnay and Captain of Sea Spirit Ocean Safari, and Joan Byrn, a local racing skipper and promoter of women's sailing as well as a lead organizer for the Red Bra Regatta, the largest all-women regatta on the Bay.

Looking back it seems like just yesterday we were at the boat show discussing Sømand for the first time and learning the stories of the inspiring panelists around us! Sailing has been dramatically impacted just like any other sport in the Covid-19 environment, but this information still rings true to us and inspires our vision.


Here is a Q&A from Laura related to the panel on what inspired Sømand and some advice for women in sailing. If you are interested in listening to the full audio of the Panel you can find it on the Out the Gate sailing podcast here.

Q: What made you decide that we need a sailwear company for women? 

A: When I started sailing in the Bay I realized quickly how important it is to have the right sailing apparel. Men currently have 4x the options and the 1 option for women seems to only fit one body type and often comes in just 1-2 colors. I would like to see better options and I know my fellow female sailors feel the same way. When I met my co-founder Noelle we immediately bonded as we both have a background in design and had the same pain points about our sailing gear, we decided to work together to solve this problem and bridge the gap in the market.

Q:What goals does Sømand have - what pain points are you trying to ease for women?

A: Our Goal is to create a brand that puts female sailors at the forefront. The phrase “shrink it and pink it” can be applied to a lot of the gear currently available on the market and we want to avoid that approach. Our designs are anatomically cut for superior fit, and offer full range of motion without excess fabric. When discussing challenges women overcome in Sailing fellow panelist Nichole mentioned “I don’t look like a sailor, I don’t look like the people that are at the helm in magazines.” We want to change that perception by creating a brand that offers uncompromising Sailwear for Women.

Q: As a female sailor, what is your greatest tool or “super power” that you discovered on the water? 

A: My “super power” is being a great listener. It’s important to be open to listening and learning from others especially when sailing with a new crew. It is also important to not doubt what you know to be true and speak up for yourself. A sailing mentor of mine provided the following advice which I think is true for many women. What you don’t have in muscle mass or body weight can be made up for with technique and stamina. Another piece of advice echoed in the panel that I would like to mention is showing up early and asking questions can be a “super power”. Feeling prepared for the day can give you a big advantage and ensure confidence on the water.

Q: Besides getting involved in any type of sailing program, what is your best advice to getting on the water in the Bay Area/in General?

A: When I was new to the Bay Area I used a crew finder list to get started and meet local sailors. Most yacht clubs and local sailing organizations have a crew finder section and you can create a listing for yourself and also see boat owners that have posted looking for crew. A friend of mine first got involved in the Bay Area community by volunteering on the Race Committee at a local club. For many clubs membership is not a requirement to be a volunteer. Another opportunity is to show up at the dock ready to sail for anyone that needs crew. Our co-founder Noelle landed a ride in the Rolex Big Boat Series on a Santa Cruz 50 by just showing up and asking if anyone needed crew.

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