May 18, 2024


Betsy Alison is a five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. She didn't enjoy sailing at first, but loved being with her friends on Barnegat Bay, NJ and that meant being in a boat. And it took. Starting in 1977, she sailed on Upper Mystic Lake while a college student at Tufts University, where she learned the technical aspects of racing from her teammates. In 1981 she received honorable mention for college All-American sailor.

In 1985, Betsy won her first Rolex International Women's Keelboat championship. In 1998, she won the Women's Match Racing event at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Dubai and was honored with her first ISAF World Sailor of the Year award. In 2003, she and her crewmates were the first all-woman crew to win the Open Yngling World Championship.

In 1998, Betsy began coaching the US team for the World Disabled Sailing Championship and is now the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider Paralympic coach. After an 18-month competition hiatus due to cancer surgery that involved 90% of her glute muscles, part of her femur, half of her pelvis, and having to relearn how to walkand just nine months post-opBetsy returned to the racecourse in the Netherlands. There, she once again stood on the podium. This time at the 2023 Sailing World Championships with a gold medal around her neck.

Michele Bartlow is a licensed U.S. Coast Guard Captain, holding a current Master 50 Ton Merchant Mariner Credential. She is an Instructor for SailTime Wisconsin—teaching ASA Certification courses in basic keelboat sailing, coastal sailing, bareboat sailing, and heavy weather docking—and has presented a docking class for the National Women's Sailing Conference. Michele was instrumental in establishing the youth sailing program at Jackson Park Yacht Club. Michele owns and sails her Catalina 30' "Spinx Jinx" with her partner out of Monroe Harbor, Chicago. Off season, she enjoys needlepoint, sewing, crossword puzzles, and reading a good murder mystery.
Jeannette DeFriest has been drawn to the water since her childhood on the edge of the Pacific. She spent part of her college tuition on a dinghy. When she did not have a boat, she found others to sail. She taught sailing to blind people. A recent sabbatical gave her a chance to sail from the Virgin Islands to Croatia. Her background in architecture and engineering paired with a tired old boat is how she began to play with fiberglass and epoxy. She owns a rebuilt J29 which she sails and races with friends as well as short-handed. She's also a graduate of West System's Fiberglass Boat Repair Workshop; the infamous "Glue U."  We think she may have given them a few tips.

When she’s not writing or traveling the country speaking about stress, Eliz Greene is sailing (or dreaming about sailing). She and her husband, Clay, cruise the Great Lakes on their Catalina 387 and are active members of the MAST Racing fleet where Eliz is race committee chair and Clay is a past commodore. Eliz starting sailing as a kid in small boats on small lakes in Minnesota. As a young adult she taught sailing at a summer camp and is delighted that one of her daughters is continuing the family tradition as an instructor at Milwaukee Community Sailing Center.

Angela Hayes has sailed most of her life. An accomplished inshore and offshore racer, she campaigns her current boat, Anafi, on the Milwaukee Bay and beyond. She also races as a crew member on weekends. Her racing accolades include overall winner of the Hook Race, podium places in the Queen’s Cup (including the Fon’s Trophy), MAST Cup winner, Milwaukee Bay Boat of the Year and Lady of the Wind (MBWOS). When not racing, Angela also enjoys cruising on Lake Michigan with her family. She has raced and cruised in the Greek Islands, off Nova Scotia, San Francisco Bay, Lake Huron, Flathead Lake (Montana) and Lake Pontchartrain (New Orleans).

Elizabeth Hayes is a lifelong sailor. She started her sailing career as a toddler and was raised by a family of racers. Based in Milwaukee, Elizabeth spent summers with the South Shore Yacht Club Juniors and racing in the SS-SSS, MBOS, and MBWOS programs. In high school, she competed in the J-30 Nationals in Annapolis and took a podium spot alongside her sister and childhood friends. Elizabeth shares her love for sailing with others as a youth and adult instructor at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center. For Elizabeth, sailing has always been a family affair; she is lucky to call her parents and sister her greatest teammates.
Kate Hayes started sailing in a car seat. She graduated to offshore racing when she was old enough to stay awake throughout the night. A former instructor at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, Kate has taught many different ages how to sail on many different types of boats.  She raced for the UW Madison sailing team in college while working in the Hoofers boat shop, sewing sails and fixing fiberglass. Her favorite type of racing is offshore and her favorite crew mates are the ones she’s related to.

Debbie Huntsman, as a product of her father’s intensive MacGyver training, began as a boating safety education instructor in 1997. Along with continually developing her seamanship, having fun safely has been a primary focus in her sailing. A licensed Coast Guard Captain, Debbie has served the sailing community for over 30 years in a variety of capacities with state, federal, and non-profit agencies. She has sailed most of the west coast of the U.S. and Mexico and loves the splendor of offshore sailing. She races as well, along the Gulf Coast and from Pensacola to Havana on a very fast boat, loving every minute of the adventure. With her husband, Debbie helped train law enforcement officers, patrolled San Diego harbor after 9-11, and found her way to Safety at Sea, where she can apply her wide array of sailing and training experiences with an emphasis on benefiting women.

Robin Jimenez learned how to sail through the Prams in the Park program at the MCSC. She later worked as a sailing instructor for the program in high school and college. She now teaches at Hoofers sailing in Madison, WI. This summer will mark her 15th year as a sailing instructor. She enjoys teaching adults on keelboats, introductory, and advanced dinghies.

In 2017, Emily Joachim started sailing at Hoofer’s Sailing Club in Madison; before that, she had never stepped foot on a boat! Despite her later start to sailing, she quickly fell in love with it. She was a volunteer instructor at Hoofer’s in 2019 before moving to Milwaukee in 2020. Now, she sails, races (and fixes!) her boats, Te Fiti (Beneteau 36s7) and Thunderbird (Lightning) with her husband Dillon. While still new to racing, she has skippered her crew to first place finishes in the Queen’s Cup Cruising Division in both 2022 and 2023.

With over 15 years of diverse boating experience, Shelly Johnson has navigated the waters with a passion for adventure and a commitment to mastering the maritime world. Her journey began on a sailboat, where the art of harnessing wind power ignited a lifelong fascination. Exploring different facets of boating, she has captained pontoon boats and embraced the slower pace of trawlers. In successfully completing the Great Loop, she conquered a remarkable maritime challenge and is now training to become a marine captain. Shelly is committed to further honing her skills and sharing her extensive knowledge to promote safe, enjoyable, and memorable experiences on the water.
Anne Keel’s lifelong passion for sailing and racing began when she was just months old, sailing on her parents Ranger 26 out of South Shore Yacht Club in Milwaukee, WI.  As she grew older and could actually walk she was active in the Junior program -- dinghy racing as well as PHRF racing on keel boats.  After racing in college for San Diego State, Anne joined the U.S. Coast Guard, where she spent the next 20 years.  During her time in the Coast Guard she continued to race all over the country wherever she was stationed -- in dinghies, one design keel boats, and PHRF fleets.  She eventually bought her first sailboat (a Santana 20) which she raced all over California. Anne has since retired from the Coast Guard and moved back to where it all started (SSYC). She is very excited to be racing and cruising on the Great Lakes again! 
Meet Jane Larson, a seasoned sailor and passionate advocate for the maritime community. Jane's love affair with sailing began early, but it was in 1997 while sailing with Bill Gladstone's Chicago Sailing Club, that her passion truly ignited. Since then, she has sailed extensively and also actively contributed to the sailing community in various capacities. She has participated in Key West Race Week and numerous races on Lake Michigan including as the prestigious Queen's Cup. Jane is also an avid cruiser in the British Virgin Islands. Jane's commitment to the sailing community is evident through her involvement with the Milwaukee Bay Women's Sailing Organization, MAST racing fleet, and the South Shore Yacht Club. She serves on the board of the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, where she also volunteers as an instructor. Jane has raced and skippered a diverse range of vessels, including a 470, J/24, Melges 24, Laser 28, Tartan-10, J/92, and Beneteau 42s7. Her ownership history includes a Cape Dory 25, a Holder 14, and her current venture into the realm of classic boats—a 1959 wooden lapstrake powerboat.
Cheryl Lowry is an active sailing instructor and a USCG licensed captain. She has raced in the Chesapeake Bay, the Panhandle of Florida, and the Tampa Bay Area. She divides her time between sailing and teaching in Florida and throughout the Caribbean aboard several vessels, including her 51 foot sloop. She is responsible for the Wilderness Medical Society’s MedSail program, educating medical professionals in techniques as a ship’s medical officer. She has over 15,000 sea miles throughout the US and the Caribbean. As a retired military flight surgeon, she still provides consultation for shipboard medical operations in the US Antarctic program. Cheryl will be a co-moderator for our Safety at Sea program on May 17th.

Phyllis McDonald started sailing in college and, in her first two years, made 9,300 miles of passages. Leaving the Great Lakes, she headed south on the Mississippi, transited the Gulf of Mexico followed by the SORC and Atlantic Seaboard deliveries offshore and on the Intracoastal Waterway. To complete the loop, she traveled the Welland and Erie Barge Canals… just ‘cause. Her logged miles and broad experience earned her a USCG license. Since the 1970s, Phyllis has worked in the marine industry and has varied experience in boat maintenance. She had been part of MWSC since its inception. After four years as chair, she has returned to the workshops to share her expertise.  

Originally from Michigan, Heather Myers began her professional career in health and fitness as a personal trainer with a strong interest in anatomy and biomechanics. After fifteen years as an elementary school teacher, she returned to fitness to deepen her study of yoga and earned her instructor certification. Combining her passion for yoga with her love of sailing, Heather founded Cruisin’ Along Yoga in 2022 to offer yoga retreats and sailing trips around the world. Now a liveaboard, she is gearing up to navigate the oceans and is currently working toward earning her captain's license. When not on her yoga mat or sailing, she is elbow deep in grease fixing something on the boat, in nature among the trees, or dreaming up her next adventure.

Mickey Nielson entered the sailing scene with a vengeance and has not looked back. She’s sailed in numerous U.S. Sailing Championships, J/24 and Melges 32 Worlds, 38 Chicago/Bayview Mac Races, Super Mac, 21 Queen's Cups, Catalina 30 NAs, Key West Race Week, NOODs, double-handed races, and the list goes on. She has raced on boats from 19- to 70-feet long. Mickey and her husband own a Star Class boat and an S2 7.9 Class boat, both of which they sail on local, national, and international levels. Mickey also volunteers at Nielson Sailmakers in Racine, WI.

Born into a sailing family, Sarah Pederson’s love of the sport started early. While growing up in Kenosha she learned to sail in Penguins and raced a Thistle with her family. She taught for Offshore Sailing School in Florida and Tortola, BVI.  When she returned to the Midwest, Sarah taught children and adults in Kenosha and Racine through their yacht clubs. She’s been active in all types of racing from local championships, skippering a Mirage 24, J/24 (all-woman crew), and a C&C 30, as well as long-distance races such as the Chicago-Mac, Port Huron-Mac, and the HOOK. She is a member of the US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee: Arthur B Hanson Award  (Survivor Liaison and, recently certified US Sailing Keelboat Instructor.

For over 35 years, Hazel Penn has been working with the BVI Tourist Board in numerous capacities from being the former director’s assistant to heading up the Board’s Atlanta and Virginia offices. Since 2015, she has overseen the Midwest and Canada regions. Hazel studied travel and tourism management at Rochester College in Rochester Hills, MI and Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. While pursuing her studies, she had the opportunity to serve on the White House's “White Paper on Tourism.”
As a life-long sailor, Kristin Pratt grew up in a family of sailors. Kristin spent her summers in sailing school, first with the youth fleet and then with the adults in the scow fleets (M, MC, C, and E scows) going to regattas around the Midwest. After college, Kristin continued sailing -- teaching and racing in the Milwaukee Bay area. She sailed the 2022 Queens cup on an all-women’s crew from the South Shore Yacht Club. She is eager to sail as often as she is able and has a passion to help people of all experience levels and physical abilities enjoy sailing.

Terri Schmidt enjoyed climbing aboard her grandfather’s Sunfish as a child, but didn’t learn to sail until taking her first class at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center as a grandparent herself! Since then, her sailing has taken her on adventures she never could have predicted. After a few years of sailing the MCSC Ensigns and Solings, Terri became a Volunteer Instructor and then an Adult Basic Staff Instructor. She wants all of her students to feel as passionate about sailing as she does! She currently races on Milwaukee Bay aboard Cattywampus for Friday night MAST races. Terri doesn’t own a boat, but loves the social connections made and the sailing knowledge gained by crewing aboard other people’s boats. She also enjoys stargazing in quiet anchorages while chartering boats on the Great Lakes. Next up? The BVI, someday!

Jennifer Steffler grew up on or in the water from the time she was six months old. After taking over the family Cape Dory 27, she became involved in race committee when it was suggested she give it a try to learn more about sailing in the Chicago area. After a season of frostbiting RC, she was hooked. Nine years later, she was the Principal Race Officer for the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, serves on the CYC RC Steering Committee, and has done RC around the U.S. for various OCR and World/National Championships. Despite spending the majority of her time on power boats doing RC, she fully believes "any day on the water is a good day."
Dominique Wright is 30 years old and has been racing sailboats for 22 years. Since being introduced to sailing at such a young age it has always been a part of her life and she is very passionate about it. She was the captain of the University of South Florida sailing team for two years while on the division one varsity team. It wasn’t until after college, though, that she discovered the joys of cruising for pleasure and was lucky enough to begin working for The Moorings. Dominique is now the marketing manager for the company and has enjoyed not only cruising the British Virgin Islands but also running regattas and flotillas in paradise.
Tyann Zehms learned how to sail on 27' foot catamarans while working for a sailing charter in the beautiful Door County peninsula. Once she earned her captains license, she continued working on the water for charters in Wisconsin, on yachts in Florida, and eventually living aboard a sailboat in the Bahamas. From there she ventured across the pond to England, to take part in a complete refit of a 40' steel schooner. When she came to Milwaukee to finish her degree, Tyann found the local racing scene and has been taking part in both 'beer can' racing and offshore races like Queen's Cup and the Race to Mackinac. Lately, she's been chipping away at building a 24' pacific proa, which she plans on taking to the Race to Alaska in 2025. 


Tel: 414.522.7764

Midwest Women's Sailing Conference
P.O. Box 1099
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1099


Milwaukee Community Sailing Center
1450 N Lincoln Memorial Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

lat/long: 43.045746, -87.886805

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