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Sail Canada On Deck: Marjolyn Van Der Hart

by Sail Canada 12 Aug 15:44 PDT August 29 - September 2, 2022

The first "Girls in Sailing" 5-day camp will be held August 29-Sept. 2 at the Ashbridge's Bay Yacht Club.

"On Deck" interview with the ABYC Vice-Commodore and member of the Program Development Team, Marjolyn Van Der Hart.

Can you tell us more about this camp?

This 5-day camp (9am-4pm) is being offered at the end of the summer during the week of Aug. 29 to Sept. 2. It will be led by Sail Canada Development Squad member and Olympic hopeful Clara Gravely, as well as Isabella Gillard, ABYC's Head Instructor. Any women-identifying or non-binary youth sailors who have completed at least their CANSail 1 (or are more than halfway through their level 1) are welcome.

On land, we will run a series of seminars including technical debriefs, group discussions and bonding activities. Clara will share her experiences about her career as a Sail Canada Development Squad member, and Isabella will share her experiences as a coach with the aim of inspiring the girls to stay involved in this amazing sport.

On the water, there will be a mix of training drills to build confidence in the boat, as well as fun games and races to foster a love for sailing in a safe setting. The goal of the camp is to wrap up the summer by giving our female sailors the chance to connect and share their love of sailing with other girls in the sailing community.

How did you come up with the idea for this camp?

We came up with the idea for the camp as a solution to the high dropout rate of girls from sailing after they complete their CANSail 1. This data was discovered after looking at registration rates for CANSail 1 and 2 in Canada.

We looked into reasons why girls do not continue in sports and found that one of the main causes for girls to not continue are the lack of shared experiences with other girls. The other reason we noted was the lack of women leading camp experiences. By creating a camp where girls can connect, learn from veteran female sailors and build their skill set in sailing, we hope that many of the participants will see that they belong in the sport and recognize its potential.

What are the camp's main goals?

We believe that if "you can't see it, you can't be it". Taking this motto to heart means developing a program where female-led programming is key to instruction and sharing of experiences in a girl-safe environment. Key components of redefining sailing with gender-neutral language, discussions about girls confronting obstacles in sailing and building friendships in a fun environment are the goals of this camp.

What should participants expect from this camp?

Participants should expect to develop their skill set in sailing as well as recognize their strengths in this sport. The goal is for girls (ages 10-16) to want to continue in sailing by building their confidence and social network. By providing on-the-water drills, building boat handling confidence and sharing their love for sailing with other young women, we hope that these attendees will want to stay involved in this sport.

What will the schedule look like?

The camp schedule will be from 9am to 4pm daily and will involve a variety of activities that includes on-water games, starting drills, mark rounding lessons, presentations about careers in sailing, the history of women in sailing, mindset and sailing.

Each day begins with a short seminar on a topic that focuses on girls/women in sailing, then rigging of the boats as well as on-the-water activities and drills.

Will you have special guests?

Currently we are looking for guest coaches who are former female Olympians, as well as experts in the field of sport and mental health.

What are your thoughts on the place of women in sailing in Canada?

We are hopeful that sailing will be adopted by women as we build towards greater equity and diversity. Slowly, women are rediscovering the sport and the potential for creating a network. Key to this development are the communication of events and the support of women's sailing events.

Recognizing that there is an attrition of girls from junior sailing is one of the first steps to increasing participation. A core element to anyone participating in sports is the belief that they belong.

Regattas that do not have women participating is problematic. For example, this year at the ILCA Masters Canadian Championships at ABYC, only two women competed. The question should be asked is: why? What is the friction that women are encountering to not want to compete? Understanding the reasons for not participating may give the sailing clubs ideas on how to break down the barriers for entry into the sport.

The lack of representation can also be seen in the ranks of Race Officers as Canada has only one female International Race Officer. Even if Sail Canada is responding and attempting to address this lack of female International Race Officer, we believe this "Girls in Sailing" initiative will contribute to raise the number of female officials in the country.

Can anyone register for the camp?

This camp is open to girls and those who identify as transfeminine youth between the ages of 10 and 16.

How much does this 5-day camp cost?

The cost is $375 for those who have their CANSail 1. Race team members receive a 25% discount for a total of $281.

If someone outside the Toronto area is interested, is lodging and accommodation available?

Participants must find their own lodging and accommodation.

How can someone register?

Everyone can register under the Junior and Youth programs through Ashbridge's Bay Yacht Club website in Toronto, Ontario. The website is

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