Sailing: You Should Have Started Yesterday!

Meet Alana Haddox, who started sailing and got into it in a big way

Haddox sailing
I started sailing a couple of years ago, when I was in my late 20s. I was talking with a dear friend, Bob, who used to sail but currently is unable to because of his battle with cancer. We were talking about life and passions, and he told me about his love of sailing. His passion was inspiring. He said, “I think you’d have a good time sailing. Why don’t you give it a try?” Bob introduced me to his old team on the Victorine, and my journey began there. I was hooked right off the bat.

Did you have any preconceived notions about sailing?

I thought it would take raw strength and quick thinking, and that you should probably be able to take some sh*t. All of which I was looking forward to. I enjoy a good challenge, and, yes, you better be able to take a lot of jokes. My notions all proved true.


Big boats and small boats

I’ve been sailing on the Bay aboard David Conlon’s 32-foot Columbia Victorine out of Queenstown, MD. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel with my team and race a bit in Key West, FL, last year before the pandemic began. Last season I also sailed on a Snipe One Design dinghy about half a dozen times. What a difference between the two boats! The Snipe is a constant workout and has helped me better understand the mechanics of the larger boat. 

All my training has been hands-on learning from my captain and teammates, who I appreciate so much. Everyone brings something different to the table, which makes the learning environment really enjoyable. This past season I also participated in a one-design workshop out of Severn Sailing Association (SSA) in Annapolis on the Snipe. What an awesome opportunity. The organizers filmed a lot of the workshop and provided feedback for the participants. Of course, I would be open to taking classes and more workshops to enhance my skill sets as I progress. I am beyond excited to move further into my sailing experience and to get to know the community around it better.

Did you encounter any obstacles or barriers when you began sailing?

Being a woman, I find there are barriers for me to conquer all the time in comparison to men in the same situations. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy a good challenge and part of the fun is showing peers that women make great sailors, too. I try not to linger on these types of barriers. I don’t pay them any mind or give power to them, so that hopefully one day they won’t even exist. 
Learning the lingo and knots has been challenging for me. They seem like such simple things, but they have been definite hurdles for me. However, everyone on my team has been super helpful and patient in my learning process. 

A challenging experience I’ve had was aboard Victorine during an evening transport of the boat back home after a race to Oxford, MD. It was just my captain and me, and we soon found ourselves in quite a squall. After several hours of battling waves and rain in the dark, we made it home. I got in the car at the end of the night drenched and exhausted. But honestly, I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Advice for anyone who is considering sailing

One hundred percent, try it! You should have started yesterday! It depends on the type of learner you are, but for me it’s hands-on learning all the way. Just get out there and try anything you can. Pick a crew that you gel with. Ask if you can join for a day sail and see what feels right. Try different sized boats, too. I’m so glad I hopped on a Snipe and hope to have opportunities to explore other types of boats. It will only make you a stronger sailor. I would also suggest checking out a sailing association, such as SSA, which holds many beginner and educational activities. 

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