WSA-OC started in 1979 as a vehicle for local Newport Beach and Dana Point women to participate more actively in the sport of sailboat racing. Named the ‘Women’s Ocean Racing Series’, it all began at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club. Dick Bluel (who had a daughter interested in racing) and Marcia Last gave a helping hand to launch the series for women racers to encourage women to race big boats rather than dinghies.
It also inaugurated a response to a challenge from Dana Point Yacht Club’s ‘Dana Belles Race’, the only race for women in the area at the time. One boat from BCYC, after competing in the Dana Belles race, raved about the excitement and spirited competition of that first event, sparking more interest by many other gals at BCYC.
Soon after, the ‘WORS’ (subsequently named WORSA Regatta) began with seven local yacht clubs running races and supporting women in a series of PHRF events. They were Bahia Corinthian, Balboa, Capistrano Bay, Dana Point, Newport Harbor, South Shore and Voyagers Yacht Clubs. The Association of Orange Coast Yacht Clubs (AOCYC) donated a WORSA Overall Perpetual Trophy.
From 1979 through 1988, women in Dana Point and Newport Beach harbors raced in six series of races over three weekends from May through September.Â The first year 18 boats turned out for the series which had a non-spinnaker and spinnaker class, with most participants in the non-spinnaker class. However, some members were more proficient and triumphantly competed with spinnakers and inspired the non-spinnaker class. As the years passed, women have become much more experienced, and many top sailors have emerged. Today you see all-women crews competing in the Angleman Series, Hibachi’s, Sunkist and even the Transpac and Ensenada Races. “You’ve come a long way … WORSA!”
In 1990, WORSA, Women’s Ocean Racing Sailing Association, was recognized as an active, voting member of AOCYC, the Association of Orange County Yacht Clubs In 1998, WORSA legally attained its non-profit corporation status 501(C)(3) in addition to becoming an interim member of Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA).Â In February 2000, WORSA moved up to Associate status in SCYA.
The early 2000’s saw membership taper off and meetings were held infrequently. In late 2014, Valerie Burchfield Rhodes, a Dana Point sailor, reached out to some of her sailing friends to assess interest in resurrecting WORSA. She organized a January, 2015 planning meeting where about 30 people showed up who were interested in being a part of the fledgling group. A new Board was elected the following month and in March, 2015, WORSA membership voted to change their name to Women’s Sailing Association – Orange County (WSA-OC), to better reflect the organization’s desire to serve all types of sailors. WSA-OC expanded its mission to support women sailors of all stripes; racers, cruisers, day-sailors, and novices. WSA-OC is also committed to supporting the local community through programs that introduce at-risk youth to sailing and providing education about protecting the marine environment.
WSA-OC has grown from a casual group of women who raced in the summer to a recognized co-ed organization with over 200 members in Orange County, California and the surrounding area. The group’s calendar is filled with meetings and educational opportunities both onshore and offshore. WSA-OC’s membership provides a
paramount leadership role in management and facilitation of the Sailing Convention for Women, held at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club every February.
WSA-OC publishes a monthly e-newsletter, “The Whistle”, to get the word out