Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay
In 1985, several women sailors met to found a new organization, the Women’s Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay. By mid-1985, under the leadership of its first Commodore Shelli Dickenson, WSA met on a regular basis at various yacht clubs and member’s homes, boasted about 40 members, and published an excellent newsletter, “Gal’ Warnings,” whose first editor was Gail Hine of Women’s Sailing Convention fame. That same year, the WSA board established the Marilyn Butefish award in memory of an ardent, dedicated sailor and WSA member. The award was created to honor a woman – not necessarily a WSA member – who had shown exemplary support and devotion to the advancement of women’s sailing. The first recipient was Cheryl Mahaffey, skipper of the J-24, “California Girl.” The Butefish award has been voted on and awarded annually ever since.
WSA was incorporated as a 501(c)(7) non-profit organization in 1986 (a special designation that exempts it from some federal taxes), joined the Southern California Yachting Association, and voted to admit men to its membership. The race clinics, daysail programs, and cruises continued to grow. Hats (or ball caps) off to our first Commodore, Shelli Dickenson, and her successors and Board members whose dedication and hard work built WSA into the organization that it is today.
WSA conducts several race clinics throughout the year. In addition, WSA annually sponsors a women’s one design team challenge for the Linda Elias Memorial Trophy sailing Catalina 37’s in Long Beach and co-sponsors Women on the Water/Woman at the Helm. Several skippers contribute their boats to WSA’s daysails, helping novices and beginning sailors learn the complex task of operating a sailboat. A strong cruise program ventures several times each year to locations throughout Southern California. The membership fluctuates, often to as many as 150 (with a third of the members being men), but size has not diluted the enthusiasm that was the hallmark of WSA all those years ago.
List of WSA Commodores
Rosalie Davis Green
Fran Weber Melville
Susana Hernández Araico
Mary Jo O’Neill