History of the 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 Sailing Convention for Women 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 day sails, 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

1985 – Shelli Dickinson
1986 – Jan Forbes
1987 – Jan Kaufmann
1988 – Linda Salter
1989 – Julie Ricklefs
1990 – Julie Ricklefs
1991 – Lindamarie Duarte
1992 – Julie Via
1993 – Julia Olmstead
1994 – Fran Thom

1995 – Julie Ricklefs
1996 – Constance Miller
1997 – Constance Miller
1998 – Charlie Warner
1999 – Rosalie Davis Green
2000 – Fran Weber Melville
2001 – Dana Hutton
2002 – Julia Brown
2003 – Barbara Barrett
2004 – Jeanne DiBella

2005 – Karyn Jones
2006 – Patti Eagan
2007 – Laura Guggenheimer
2008 – Susan Service
2009 – Diane Larson
2010 – Susana Hernández Araico
2011 – Christina Tarantola
2012 – Coco Leigh
2013 – Jennifer Zannelli
2014 – Mary Ho

2015 – Debbie Feinerman
2016 – Melody Kanschat
2017 – Jana Davis
2018 – Mary Jo O’Neill
2019 – Avghi Constantinides
2020 – Barbara Morris
2021 – Wendy Northup