Women Commodores Break the Mold in North Fork


Sailing has traditionally been considered a male-dominated activity, with men occupying prominent positions in professional racing teams and boards of directors across organizations. However, the North Fork and Shelter Island regions are challenging this norm, as women are currently serving as commodores at four out of the five yacht clubs in the area.

For the past two years, Alyssa Constant, Ellen Talbot, and Lisa Reich have served as commodores of the Orient Yacht Club, the Old Cove Yacht Club, and the Shelter Island Yacht Club, respectively. Mary Kalich has held the title of commodore at the Mattituck Yacht Club for the past eight years.

According to all four of these women, their boards of trustees and officers, which usually consist of 14 members, are fairly evenly split between men and women, with either 50% female representation or close to it.

Yacht club commodores Mary Kalich (Mattituck) and Ellen Talbot (Old Cove) - Credit: Nicholas Grasso

Although Greg Young is currently the commodore of the Southold Yacht Club, multiple women had previously held the position in recent years. Nevertheless, this current predominantly female group of commodores is a historical exception, despite the presence of women on yacht clubs' boards.

Commodores are top figures at yacht clubs and come from various backgrounds. They typically work their way up through the organization and oversee all operations. Yacht clubs are known to be family- and youth-oriented community centers that organize activities on and off the water. 

On the North Fork and Shelter Island, women currently hold four of the five commodore positions. The yacht clubs are part of the Peconic Gardiners Junior Sailing Association, which oversees the coed racing circuit across various clubs each season. The junior sailing program attracts a mix of boys and girls.

The boys at North Folks yacht clubs make up around two-thirds of junior sailors in the Peconic Gardiners Junior Sailing Association (PGJSA), which includes four South Fork yacht clubs. Many colleges offer all-women sailing teams as well as coed teams. Shelter Island hosts three all-women regattas throughout the season and has previously offered all-women and all-girls educational sailing clinics. These efforts aim to make women feel welcome and secure in the male-dominated sport, and the all-female regattas also feature an all-women race committee.

The Shelter Island Yacht Club member, Amanda Clark, competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and has hosted junior sailing clinics. However, commodore Jodi Reich, her mother-in-law was the one who introduced her family to sailing and inspired her to continue the multi-generational activity. Reich believes that community figures can inspire and guide the next generation of sailors.

For the full article visit The Suffolk Times.

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