Skip to main content

Sailing Noire: Changing the Face of Sailing

Ayme (left) had just one day to train her crew once she arrived in Kenya

Ayme (left) had just one day to train her crew once she arrived in Kenya

New York native Ayme Sinclair didn’t grow up sailing but she’d always loved the water, so when a friend offered to take her out on a Sonar, she didn’t have to think twice about agreeing. She was instantly hooked and sailed on every boat she could get on, eventually finding a permanent position on the J/109 Sweet Caroline.

Ayme soon noticed that she didn’t see any teams on the water that looked like hers—diverse, co-ed millennials—so she created an Instagram to share Sweet Caroline’s adventures. This Instagram proved such a success that Ayme decided to make a career change and become her own boss, working in social media management. “It allowed me the freedom to travel and sail as much as possible,” she says.

When preparing for one of these trips, she realized that her stay in Lamu, Kenya, would coincide with the area’s celebrated dhow race. She knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sail and set to work putting together a team, despite the fact that the race had historically been limited to men. A Kenyan television station caught wind of the Amye’s all-female team and sent a crew to cover them. The crew included not only a few friends from the United States but women from Ethiopia, Kenya and Liberia.

There was just one problem. “We had one day to practice, and I was the only one who knew how to sail,” she says. To complicate matters, the names of everything on the boat were in Swahili. Then there was the woman she met in Lamu who told her to quit because it was dangerous, and women weren’t strong enough to handle the dhows (which don’t have winches). She insisted they’d flip the boat and risk drowning.

The dhow race is among Lamu’s greatest attractions

The dhow race is among Lamu’s greatest attractions

Undeterred, the team used their one day of practice well, so that a few hours in, as Ayme puts it, “There was this moment where it just clicked like a light switch. I felt this immense sense of pride, like ‘we can do this.’”

The day of the race came and so did a huge crowd (including the woman who’d discouraged them from taking part).

“We beat her husband, and he ended up being the one who flipped his boat. Twice!” Ayme recalls. “The best part was afterward, the men told us that their sisters and cousins and wives who’d seen us sail were asking the men to teach them.” Seeing the all-female team compete, Ayme says, made the women watching realize what was possible for them. “The idea that you can change the way people see themselves with sailing is so empowering.”

After her success in the dhow race, Amye was inspired to continue pushing for diversity in sailing. “Sailing changed my life. I have this renewed passion to spread that beyond me and our team.” And so she started Sailing Noire, a movement aimed at changing the face of sailing by bringing new people to the sport.

Ayme’s goal is to empower communities with sailing

Ayme’s goal is to empower communities with sailing

“There are really three things the sailing community can do to become more inclusive,” she says. “They can register with Go Sailing, which is an app that helps people looking for crew get connected with people they don’t know who want to sail. They can ask their sailing center or club to host programs that get young kids in their community involved, like Adventure Sail. And finally, they can just invite people who don’t look like the people you normally see sailing to come sailing with them.”

As for Ayme, she’s already planning her next trip back to Africa where she’ll visit communities all over the continent to help set up sailing programs. To keep up with Ayme, follow sailingnoire on Instagram. 

Photos courtesy of Ayme Sinclair

October 2018

Related

maintenance

Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will ...read more

01-LEAD-DSC_0953

The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar and AIS. They help me be a safer and more ...read more

02-En-route-Jost-Van-D

Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these ...read more

220307FP51_1JML0332

Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it ...read more

00LEAD-IMG-9035

Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Dates for the 2024 America’s Cup Announced

Ever since making the controversial decision to hold the next America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, instead of in home waters, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has been hard at work organizing logistics for the event.  The Racing Area for the Challenger Selection Series and the ...read more

00LEAD

A Force for Change: Captain Liz Gillooly

I first heard about Capt. Liz Gillooly in 2016 from my cousin while working three jobs in our shared hometown on the North Fork of Long Island and living with my parents to save money for a boat. But despite being the same age and growing up only 13 miles apart, Liz and I never ...read more

291726157_3222349914654950_8713674249134934221_n-2-1024x684

Sailing in the Growth Zone

The Goal This year, I’ve had a specific goal to be a better sailor. Some people have laughed and said, “Why do you need to be a better sailor? This was my 22nd year racing on the same boat, with the same crew. I like to win and want to make sure we stay at the top of the fleet. ...read more