PORT TOWNSEND — As the women of Team Sail Like a Girl set out on their newest adventure, their fuels are threefold: the wind, what they proudly call “girl power” — and a brand-new song.
This tale started back in January when Linda Dowdell — Sequim composer, bandleader and musical arranger — was casting about for inspiration.
“It’s a pandemic. I need to keep my brain alive,” she thought as she signed up for an online lyric-writing course. The assignment was to pen a song about victory.
Dowdell did some research and learned of a local triumph: Team Sail Like a Girl’s win in the 2018 Race to Alaska.
Now the Bainbridge Island-based crew, led by Jeanne Goussev, is competing in the inaugural WA360, the race starting today from Port Townsend.
Dowdell, co-writer with Denise Winter of Key City Public Theatre’s original musical “Spirit of the Yule” and other works, plunged back into songwriting.
From her Sequim studio came “Sail Like a Girl,” an ode to the women who race together.
Sunday afternoon, the song arrived on board the team’s 32-foot Melges, poised at Point Hudson with its seven-woman crew. With singers Lindsay Hamilton and Laura Showers of Port Townsend by her side, Dowdell first taught the song to the supporters gathered around the boat, then led them in a singalong.
The chorus was easy: “Sail like a girl,” repeated as the lyrics tell the story of racing from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska, strictly on wind and pedal power.
Dowdell, a musical director who’s worked with performing artists around the world, led the group expertly, lifting their voices with her arms, belting out the words and pausing for the applause.
Weeks ago, the songwriter had introduced this piece to the team by sending a recording to Goussev, who loved it on first listen.
“Oh my gosh. I was so flattered and blown away,” the captain recalled.
“I had a huge smile on my face … I can’t believe she wrote a sea chantey about us. It’s just incredible,” that Dowdell was inspired by Sail Like a Girl’s mission.
“I’m not a sailor,” Dowdell said, but “I’m a feminist.”
Goussev and crew have created a not-for-profit organization, online at saillikeagirl.us, to inspire and motivate women to become leaders — on the water, yes, but also in all forms of adventure and challenge in life.
As for the WA360 — a 360-mile counterclockwise race to Skagit Bay, Bellingham, Point Roberts and back around to Port Townsend — 57 teams have entered. They’re setting out at 6 a.m. today from the Northwest Maritime Center dock area at the foot of Water Street, and they’re trackable at nwmaritime.org/WA360.
Racers have two weeks to finish. But Team Sail Like a Girl, Goussev said, plans on five days or fewer.
Her crew — Laurie Anna Kaplan, Lisa Cole, Christa Bassett Ross, Elisha Van Luven, Alexia Fischer and Georgia Lomax — have interlocking, mutually supportive skills, she added.
With the event cancellations of the past year, “there’s a lot of pent-up energy,” so the WA360 should be fun to track.
“This is very different from the Race to Alaska,” Goussev said.
“It’s going to be a cat-and-mouse game the whole time.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]