Women’s Sailing Squadron
“The Bitter Ends”
(History Complied by 2008-2009 Captain Judy Karr)
Meeting location is
Club VYBA Pram Shed at 1330 Tarpon Center Drive Venice,
The Venice Women’s Sailing Squadron (VWSS) was born in September
It was started by Nancy Herron who decided that Venice needed an
organization for woman sailors and with the able assistance of
Sally Zenker and Ann Spaulding she proceeded to create one.
At the first meeting they set their eyes on, for the first time,
an optimist pram. Not feeling very intimidated they showed up
for the first week of instruction at the
Venice Yacht Club
It was a week of grueling tasks such as completing six laps in
the yacht club pool and learning one of the most important
points of sailing which is how to capsize the boat and survive. Thus the wonderful sport of sailing was born to them. By
Christmas time they were ready to take on racing and held their
first Santa Regatta.
In May they entered the traditional year end Rainbow Regatta,
sponsored by the
Florida Women's Sailing Association (FWSA)
Treasure Island Yacht Club in
St. Petersburg. They raced against all of the other clubs who
are members of FWSA. To their surprise they finished fifth in a
field of much more experienced sailors.
They started with 12 members and 11 prams and initiated a
teaching program that is ongoing today.
Year 2011 – Our Club turned 35 years old - “we’ve come a long way,
Did Nancy, Ann and Sally ever dream that their fledgling sailing
club that they gave birth to in 1976 would still be in existence
over 38 years later?
Our current roster lists 33 regular members, 6 associates and 4
honorary members. They range from the mid 30’s to our most
celebrated sailor who is 92 (in 2009) and still racing every Wednesday in
her sunfish. Out of the two dozen adventuresome originals, only
full-timer Lois Steketee and snowbird Mary Jane Alford Park
are still on deck.
Club members own or lease 33 prams/IODs and 11 sunfish. On any
given Wednesday there are about 20 prams on the water as well as
a sunfish fleet with their own committee boat and race course. On rainy days, or when there is just too much wind, we have
education sessions on racing rules, tactics, sail trim, nautical
terms, boat handling, etc. A Bitter Ends can tack, reach, run,
jibe and tie bowlines with the best of them! VWSS has served as
a staunch support group through joy and sorrow for many women
with the seeds of long lasting friendships.
We race every Wednesday from September thru June and kick off
our season with the
Learn-To-Sail program starting the first
Monday after Labor Day.
The Learn-To-Sail teaching program was started in 1979 and is
still offered yearly for one week starting the first Monday
after Labor Day. There have been approximately 400 women
who have been taught their sailing basics since the squadron’s
founding in 1976. Although the group has grown, there is
still much enthusiasm and continuing resolution to encourage
women’s sailing in the area. The cost for the week’s
instruction is quite reasonable (currently $150).
The club has been fortunately allowed to sail out of the Venice
Yacht Club dock area and is allowed to utilize the
Boating (VYBA) pram shed
Venice Youth Boating Pram Shed
rebuilt in 1982. The Bitter Ends are still not
affiliated with any local sailing group but have been a member
of the Florida’s Women’s Sailing Association since January 1977. Our budget is small and currently dues are $150.00
(as of 5-20-18) for yearly
membership, plus a yearly fee for boat rental and boat
storage. The storage fee is then paid to Venice Youth Boating.