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Katie Love, living an 18ft Skiff dream

by Frank Quealey 7 Feb 21:54 PST
Chad's Angels flying high on San Francisco Bay © Erik Simonson / www.pressure-drop.us

One of the most enthusiastic 18ft Skiff sailors in the world must be the Northern California-based Katie Love, who is presently spending the 2018-2019 Australian summer as skipper of the Panasonic Lumix-sponsored boat in the Australian 18 Footers League fleet on Sydney Harbour.

Like almost every young sailor in Southern California, Katie began her sailing career in a Sabot then moved up through the ranks of sailboat racing, progressing through the different boat types raced by age group, and sailed the Junior Women's Single-handed National Championships when she was thirteen years old.

"I met a fabulous group of girls that I ended up racing with at regattas around the country. One of those girls and I decided to move into the women's 470 Olympic Class, and together we got the opportunity to travel around the country, and internationally, to race our boat in a very competitive arena.

Katie's enthusiasm for sailing, and the adrenaline rush of high-speed excitement, soon led her, in 2009, to the fledgling 18s fleet in San Francisco. She has since competed in seven San Francisco 18' Skiff International regattas.

Katie recalls: "It wasn't long before I wanted to go out on one with some female mates."

In the 2010 International 18 Foot Skiff Regatta in San Francisco, Katie realised this goal when she led an all-girl team of Mallory McCollum-Bozina and Yvonne Galvez on the former Australian Grand Prix 18, named Prudential.

Katie's all-girl, pink 18 raced as Chad's Angels but was affectionately known by the locals as the Love Machine.

According to Chad Freitas: "Katie had already shown her ability in a number of classes before she came along in 2009. Her motivation, determination and ability to put a team together were soon evident and she has been a wonderful competitor over the years since then."

Katie is just as complimentary about the efforts of Chad, and the Skiff Sailing Foundation, of which Chad Freitas is the Director.

"Woody (John Winning) and Howie Hamlin generously provided boats for the foundations history, then Chad is the one who taught me and gave me the confidence to sail in heavy breeze and big seas."

"Over the years, I have sailed with various people in the Skiff Sailing Foundation, but mainly with Chad."

In 2013, Katie led the first all-girl team to contest a JJ Giltinan (world) Championship contest, the same year as Australia's Alexandra South also led the first all-girl team.

Katie's team, which raced as Chad's Angels at the 2013 JJs, included Christine Neville and CC Childers.

"The foundation highly encouraged an all-female team to compete in the JJ's and supported us in the 2013 JJ Giltinan Championship. They provided the equipment and coaching to help us make it to the event.

Both the US and Australian teams performed well against the cream of the world's best 18ft Skiff teams. It was that experience which made sailing an 18 on Sydney Harbour something Katie wanted to do again, if the opportunity ever came her way again.

Just weeks before the start of the 2018-2019 Season, Katie made contact with the League to see if it was possible to "live her dream" and spend the full summer season in Australia's premier 18ft Skiff fleet.

Former Giltinan champion and League Club President, John (Woody) Winning knew Katie from his International Championship regattas in San Fran, her ability to drive a skiff hard on the demanding San Francisco track, and her enthusiasm for the sport, and immediately organised a boat for her to sail.

Along with local sailor, Yvette Heritage, these two young ladies are proving they are willing and able to match their skills against the more-experienced male competitors and they are adding a great new dimension to the local fleet.

Former Giltinan champion, and Australian 18 Footers League President, John (Woody) Winning said: "We're happy to have both Katie and Yvette as a part of our fleet this season. Both are very capable sailors, competing in a demanding sport, and their involvement is a welcome addition to the 18s."

Katie is making the most of her time while she's in Sydney and recently went for a sail one of the Historical 18s (1950s style boats) which also race each week on Sydney Harbour.

Woody says that according to her skipper on the day "I only had to tell her something once and she knew exactly what to do. That doesn't always happen when we have a 'guest' in our crew."

"Ever since I sailed the JJ's in 2013, I have been eagerly trying to get back to Sydney to compete in the 18's, but due to life responsibilities, I have only now made it back, but I couldn't be more excited."

"I have been working extremely hard on tug-boats for the last 8 years and have barely had anytime to myself or sailing. Over the last few years I have spent roughly 240 days per year at sea, as work and responsibility completely took over the time I had for sailing, which is not how I wanted my life to be."

"I have decided to take a break from the tug world and pursue my dream of sailing the 18 Season, and I really appreciate the warm welcome back to Sydney."

I love this place and love being part of the League."

"I am very fortunate that Woody and the League assisted me in getting a boat together for the season, and I really want to thank the League for allowing me to join the season."

"I'm looking forward to getting more practice, and sailing more races, in order to better our skills as a team, and putting up our best fight against some of the best sailors in the world."

Katie, Locky and James are showing the attitude and ability to achieve their goals, and the League officials are confident they made the right decision when they agreed to include Katie Love in their 2018-2019 Season fleet.

Aside from her sailing career, Katie still spends most of her time on the water, as a Captain with a tug boat company in Seattle, Washington, docking ships in the harbour.

Katie recalls that it was while she was in high school that she decided to start making boats her career: "I worked on old America's Cup sailboats, taking tourists out for 'three hour tours' on the bay; I worked on a Pacemaker 70ft private dinner charter boat that required me to wear a dress and heels as a deckhand."

"I worked at the yacht club, teaching kids how to sail, and taught adults how to sail at an adult sailing school. I was also hired by many people to race on their boats, and went fishing whenever I could."

"It was then, my cousin told me about the California Maritime Academy, which is a college for people who love boats."

"I realized shortly after I started at CMA that I wanted to go the 'workboat' route, and did my cadet shipping with Foss in San Francisco Bay. I knew then that it was exactly where I wanted to end up. The tug life was my thing."

"I worked on ocean going tugs, travelling around the world, and even repossessed a supply ship in Brazil."

There have been a few bad experiences for Katie, generally related to gender inequality, which is extremely prevalent in her industry.

"After college I continued working on tugs with a short stint in the Gulf trying my hand at Dynamic Positioning systems, but quickly found myself back in the towing world."

"I moved up from AB to AB/Tanker-woman, then to 2nd Mate/Cargo Mate, Chief Mate, and now Captain."

"I am currently a 2nd Captain at Foss Maritime, and couldn't be happier: these are my people. I now hold a 1600 ton Masters license/Unlimited 2nd Mate, Oceans."

"I'm very proud of what I've accomplished and what I've earned. It was quite an exciting day getting my Masters license in the mail."

Clearly, any male in the industry that thought Katie wasn't a match for them, was making a very big mistake.

Katie and her Panasonic Lumix team will represent USA in the upcoming JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championship from March 2-10.

In the meantime she will line up against 17 other hot 18ft Skiff teams on Sydney Harbour this Sunday when the Australian 18 Footers League conducts Races 6 & 7 of the Australian Championship.

The spectator ferry, which leaves Double Bay Public Wharf at 2pm, will follow all the racing action.

For those who can't make it onto the water, live streaming is available on 18FootersTV.

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