ASA Featured Instructor: Anne Popolizio

By: Instructors, Schools, women on the water

Captain Anne Popolizio of Manhattan Sailing School

Getting to know someone through an interview is oftentimes disappointing. Just reading about ASA instructor Anne Popolizio makes me want to go sailing with her right now! Her story is one of a passion for sailing and a passion for learning.  I want to be out on the water with the sailor that just can’t get enough or with the young girl who just had to be in a sailing class.  Chasing down what you love and capturing it in order to share it with others is the definition of teaching.  That is what being an ASA sailing instructor is all about.

Captain Anne Popolizio of Manhattan Sailing School is ASA’s Featured Instructor

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ASA: What got you into sailing?

Captain Anne Popolizio:

I went to a Girl Scout camp in the Adirondacks called Eagle Island, and they had a sailing program. You had to be going into 7th grade to do it, but my best friend and I were only going into 5th grade. We were adamant that we wanted to sail, so we literally clung on to the older girls until they took us sailing. From that point on, I couldn’t get enough sailing. Still can’t.

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ASA: What was your most memorable student or class?
Captain Anne Popolizio:

I’ve had so many but there are two that stand out in particular.

The first was when I was about 13 years old. (I was finally old enough to be in the sailing program!) We took another unit out sailing. I was skippering and had a couple of girls and a counselor from the other unit. The counselor had never been sailing before. Sailing in a dinghy for the first time can be pretty unnerving, but she said to me at the end, “I felt safe in your boat.” It’s one of the biggest compliments anyone has ever given me.

The second memory was a few years ago at Manhattan Sailing School. It was my first weekend teaching there, and I had a group of four women. I did a drill with them to teach them how to power up and decelerate the boat quickly. They thrived off of the speed, the teamwork, and the power they felt controlling the boat’s speed completely by themselves. It was so much fun to see. All of those women joined the club and kept sailing.

Our Commodore stresses teaching people the love of sailing, and I’ve really tried to take that to heart in my teaching. I always try to give people a moment of mastery. The feeling of accomplishment keeps them wanting more, and when they have that desire, they keep sailing.

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ASA: Your favorite place to sail?
Captain Anne Popolizio:

This is hard! I love racing in Southern California. I love cruising in the BVIs with Manhattan Sailing School. And my happy place is Upper Saranac Lake, where I learned to sail.

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ASA: What do people not know about sailing that they should?

Captain Anne Popolizio:

Sailing will test you and push you. You will never stop learning, and it’s one of the few sports you can do your entire life.

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ASA: Why do you Sail?

Captain Anne Popolizio:

Sailing is my meditation. It’s the only thing that completely clears my head, and I love being one with my boat and the environment. Sailing has also taught me that I am so much stronger than society would have had me think.

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ASA: How do we attract more women to sailing? and
Are there obstacles to sailing for women that are not widely known?

Captain Anne Popolizio:

Marketing goes a long way. Women can’t just be in bikinis on the bow. They have to be driving and fully clothed. Men need to become more aware of the biases they hold or that they inadvertently condone. They need to understand how their slights and assumptions keep women away from the sport or hold them back if they do enter it. We have to change the culture so that when women and girls enter the world of sailing, they feel like they belong. They feel good about themselves here. That will keep them coming back. Women have choices today. If a space feels elitist or sexist, women don’t have to stay.

We are constantly having to fight for our space on a boat, especially in racing. The assumption is always that we don’t know, aren’t strong enough or can’t do something. I’ve had everything from a motor to velcro ripped out of my hands. I had someone say to my face that girls are a liability. A friend raced on a boat where the women weren’t allowed to step off during the dock landing to catch the boat. The guys that did these things are perfectly lovely people, but the assumption that a woman can’t do something is deeply ingrained in them.
And mentorship really matters. Men get opportunities to their potential. Women have to prove their capabilities first. And even then, there are still so many skippers who flat out refuse to have women on board.

“Sailing has also taught me that I am so much stronger than society would have had me think.” – Captain Anne Popolizio

Captain Anne Popolizio can be found at Manhattan Sailing School


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