MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Ensign National Championship Regatta races are sailing full force in Marquette. All of the boats are powered by wind but some of the crews would not be complete without some girl power.
A few U.P. leading ladies have anchored their way into the sport of sailing and are making their mark on this year’s national race. Marquette native Jenifer Grant grew up around the water and knew this sport was a passion of hers from a very young age.
“Probably 7 or 8 years old, my dad would take us out,” Jenifer Grant, the owner and a crew member on the boat ‘Kai‘ said. “I started racing as I got a little bit older than that. We have always been families of sailors. My mom sailed with us, like my sister and my dad so we grew up doing it.”
Now more than ever women have been pushing the boundaries to show that they are capable of having a spot on a boat’s crew, all while earning way more than just medals and accolades.
“I think it builds confidence and sets a really good example for other women younger generations coming up,” Grant said. “That we have women steering boats, driving boats, docking boats doing all the things that we see the fellas do. It’s really important in our community.”
Gabrielle Gentz, a Michigan Tech senior who fell in love with racing Ensign boats the last time the National Regatta was in Marquette back in 2012, says she is overjoyed to see the amount of younger women coming up in the sport just as she did.
“Over the past 10 years, there have always been an older generation of women who have done it for years past, but this newer generation women aren’t afraid to throw themselves into roles that were originally male-dominated,” Gabrielle Gentz a crew member of on the boat ‘Zonker’ said. “I think that’s super important also for the future of sailing is having boats that are half women and half men or even all women boats.”
In 2015 Gabrielle was a member of a national competition all women’s youth boat, an experience and crew she will hold close to her heart.
“Sailing has brought me career opportunities, it has brought me friendships but most importantly it has made me comfortable more than ever on the water,” Gentz said. “I am a forrester as a career, I love the outdoors and the natural resources are super important to me so to embrace it through sailing and sailing with other people who also appreciate it is great.”
This event has drawn in women from outside of the Upper Peninsula as well. Alexandra Wiedeke and her boat filled with her dad, brother, and a family friend hailed all the way from New Jersey in order to defend their national title here in Marquette. She said she learned from the best as her aunt and mom were great role models for her while growing up within this sport.
“Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t be here,” Wiedeke said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of that anymore but I know that for my age range, it really drops off after college, and it’s mostly male-dominated after that. But stick with it, it’s important and it’s fun. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be on a boat, even if you don’t want to race.”
The final day of racing will begin Thursday at 10:30 A.M. in Lower Harbor.
For more information on the Ensign National Championship Regatta, click here.