Described by Essence Magazine as a “Fierce Entrepreneur,”Ayme Sinclair (aymesinclair.com) is the CEO and founder of a leading communications agency called Sinclair Social. She is Vice President of the National Women’s Sailing Association, CEO of the largest online community of female sailors, and founder of an online community celebrating cultural diversity on the water. Ayme holds a MA. in Graphic Communication Management from New York University and B.A and a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Art and Marketing Management. An enthusiastic team member on a very competitive J/109, she led the first all-women team to compete in a dhow race in Kenya.
WindCheck: Where did you grow up, and where do you live?
Ayme Sinclair: I grew up in Long Island. I now live in Queens, New York.
WC: Please tell us about your first time sailing.
AS: In 2014, I went out sailing with friends at The WaterFront Center in Oyster Bay. It was a four-hour cruise where we rafted up with another boat, and I completely fell in love with it. I sailed on a Sonar, so I got the real experience of being in a smaller boat and got to see what it’s like to sail singlehandedly.
WC: So, were you hooked from the start?
AS: Yes, 100%!
WC: Who are the owners of Sweet Caroline, and how did you meet?
AS: Sweet Caroline is owned by Chris Ercole and Lauren McVoy. My co-worker invited me to come to his club for a Wednesday night race shortly after my first sailing experience. I met the team that night, and have been racing with them ever since.
WC: Who sails on Sweet Caroline, and what are their crew positions?
AS: The crew varies. Some do just the local races in our harbor, and a different set of people will do the weekend races in other parts of Long Island Sound. Everyone pretty much rotates out into the various positions, but the women on the team have the more tactical positions of trimming main and calling tactics. The core crew that I’ve sailed with the most are Mina Scholl, Main; Ava Mandeville, Tactics; Brian Enright, Pit; Xiomara Perlaza, Pit; and Chris Ercole, Team Captain.
WC: What makes Sweet Caroline a great team, and what are some your best results?
AS: We trust each other, and we don’t just spend time on the boat. We ski together during the off-season and spend time with each other socially, so it feels like a family. In 2015, the team won the Vineyard Race on the Seaflower Reef course. We compete regularly in the J/109 one-design fleet, and each year we get better and better.
WC: Please tell us about your inspiration for the Sweet Caroline Instragram.
AS: We were focused on sharing the story of our team, how diverse we are, and how much fun we have on the water. I wanted to encourage others that don’t normally enter the sport to hop onto the water so we can change the way sailing looks.
WC: How did you get involved with the National Women’s Sailing Association (womensailing.org), what is your position, and what are your responsibilities?
AS: I was invited to come down to New Orleans for a speaking engagement at one of their sponsored programs called AdventureSail. This program encourages young girls of color to come out on the water for the day. It was there that I met the President and we kept in touch and eventually she recruited me to join the board. I’m now the Vice President. My main responsibilities are looking for partnership opportunities, developing a strategic plan, growing the membership, and supporting the direction of the current President.
WC: Please share some details about this year’s NWSA’s Women’s Sailing Conference.
AS: In thinking about how to keep our membership more diverse, I initiated a relationship with a yacht club in the Great Lakes region where the membership is primarily African American. Out of the 400 members of Jackson Park Yacht Club in Chicago, 300 are African American. By moving our conference out of Marblehead, Massachusetts to a more minority-focused club, we’ll increase our diversity just be being there. This will probably draw in a crowd of women sailors where women of color represent at least 50% of the participants…a complete 180 from the last in-person conference where I was the only woman of color.
WC: Please tell us about the NWSA’s new AdventureSail partnership with US Sailing and Tall Ships America, and the upcoming National AdventureSail Day.
AS: It’s a national event that will encourage US Sailing’s 1700+ affiliated centers to host a nationwide AdventureSail on one single day. Tall Ships America will invite their fleet to also take part in the day, so that we have programming on various boat types across the United States. We’re inviting thousands of young girls of color to come out and experience this wonderful sport we love so much, with the intent to keep them engaged after the day.
WC: Please tell us about Women Who Sail.
AS: Women Who Sail (womenwhosail.com) is the largest online community of female sailors. We are a community of 19,000 in our main Facebook group with another 30,000 members across our subgroups that are both regional and interest-based. The group is worldwide and has a regional subgroup on every continent except for Antarctica. The group was founded by Charlotte Kaufman ten years ago when she realized there wasn’t a safe online space for women to talk about sailing and learn from each other. We share our experiences on the water, and have a closed environment where we can connect.
WC: What is Sailing Noire?
AS: Sailing Noire (instagram.com/sailingnoire/) is a community movement to encourage more diversity on the water. It’s important for people of color to see themselves on the water. It’s hard to imagine a future you don’t see yourself represented in. Sailing Noire is a project aimed at tackling that.
WC: Please share the story of competing in the Dhow Race Festival in Kenya.
AS: I found myself in Africa for the very first time and I assembled the first all-women sailing team that Lamu, Kenya had ever seen. A big ‘Thank You!’ to the ladies who trusted me enough to make up this team of brave women. None of them knew how to sail and most didn’t know how to swim, but they all embraced their adventurous spirits. We placed very well, and we made history. Those guys are the real Women Warriors!
WC: Any other messages for the WindCheck Community?
AS: Diversity is a difficult topic and can be uncomfortable, but the end result is having a more inclusive space and the opportunity to open it up to more people who can experience something amazing.
WC: What’s next, Ayme?
AS: Finding more opportunities for women sailors to connect, having manufacturers in the boating world take a look at making more products specifically for us, and encouraging more diversity in clubs and in community sailing programs.
WC: What’s the best thing about sailing?
AS: The trust you develop and earn with your team, and the confidence it builds in you.
WC: Thank you very much, Ayme! ■