Here's Our Story
A "Virtual" Yacht Club
Where it started
In 2016, at a local restaurant where many of us sailors hang out, a friend suggested that we have a women's progressive dinner party, going from boat to boat, sharing food and friendship and the love of sailing. Unfortunately, the night of the party, it began to rain and made it unpleasant to keep moving between our boats. So, because we were boat-hopping at Camachee Cove Marina, we moved the party to the boaters' lounge there.
As the evening progressed and we were sharing stories of sailing and racing, one of our avid female sailors (who also races) quipped, "We should do an all-women's sailboat race!" Or course, while most of us laughed and shrugged, seeming somewhat skeptical, there were enough of us that pondered it in the moment and thought it was a GREAT idea!
Sure, many of us had raced our sailboats, but only a few had actually been at the helm during a race. Still, even fewer had actually taken their own sailboat off the dock!
But the seed of this idea was planted, and so we started growing a plan...
What would we name our race? The instigator of this crazy idea chimed in, "Let's call it a Bikini Race... and we can all wear bikinis!" The response: "Sure! Why not?" Maybe not all wearing bikinis (LOL).
As the plans unfolded, we decided to have two classes for the August race: one class with all-women crew, one class with mixed crew so we could include our male sailmates. However, above all else, there had to be a woman at the helm at all times during the race, and there had to be an equal or greater number of women on the mixed crew sailboats.
Our inaugural race brought twelve sailboats to the starting line, three of which were all-women crews! We considered this a great success and had so much fun making this crazy idea a reality.
Spring Fo*ward Race
(Yes, we know it's spelled wrong... there's a story...)
In an effort to keep the momentum for this kind of race with women at the helm, we added another race in the spring of 2017. The Spring Foward race was created specifically around and named for the weekend of Daylight Savings, and timed to get boats on the water in preparation for the local spring racing season and in advance of St. Augustine Race Week. This second event of its kind proved to be another great success with about ten sailboats competing with both all-women and mixed crews.
With the encouragement and support of all the women participating in these events, we decided to do more with the concept of the womens' race and develop it into a fundraising event, including a celebratory launch party on the night before our Bikini Race. All net proceeds from the race would be donated to a local organization that was associated with helping women and children in need.
In 2017 and 2018, SASS donated $3700 and $5000, respectively, to the Betty Griffin Center. In 2019, we added a second beneficiary, Rethreaded, and donated $5000 to each organization.
Then Covid hit. In 2020 during the pandemic we launched the "Vote for a Boat Challenge" in an effort to continue our mission to help women in the community. With this Challenge in place we were able to donate $6000 to Betty Griffin and provided each family in the shelter a $100 gift card to a local retailer.
In 2021 with the pandemic still in full sail, we were able to donate $8000.
Since its inception, we have raised and donated over $33,000. As we look toward our upcoming Annual Bikini Races, we hope to continue to exceed our past fundraising totals each year.
Wendy Thomson Memorial Race
Sadly, in 2019, we lost a beloved and prominent figure in the sailing community, Wendy Thomson. Wendy, a founding member of SASS, was the driving force behind the creation and development of the youth summer sailing program at the St. Augustine Yacht Club. Her impact on local youth sailing was something that SASS wanted to recognize, so a combined youth and off-shore sailboat race seemed the most appropriate way to remember her. In Wendy's honor, SASS added a third race which is scheduled during the month of May, to coincide with the celebration of Mother's Day.
2020 marks our Fifth Anniversary of St. Augustine's Sailing Sisters and our signature event, the SASS Bikini Race. Plans for this year's race include a sponsor appreciation event at Meehan's Irish Pub, a launch party, Bikini Breakfast, and the awards presentation hosted under a "big top" tent at the City of St. Augustine Municipal Marina, live music, and more...
We are looking for sponsors, donations and anything to make this our most successful year yet - we hope you will join us!