When the first race kicked off at the 2017 British Virgin Islands Spring Regatta on March 31, there was one sailing team sporting rainbow gear. Trekr Racing made its debut as an all-LGBT racing team in a regatta that featured 150 yachts from around the world in 18 varied classes competing across three course areas.
The racing team is an offshoot of D.C.-based, LGBT-owned Trekr Adventures, which provides sailing adventure trips around the world. The move into racing for Trekr was in part an effort to increase the visibility of the LGBT community within the sport of sailing.
Already partnered with charter yacht company the Moorings, for their adventuring trips, the racing team utilized a Moorings 51.4 monohull for the regatta. After three days of racing, Trekr Racing finished eighth in the CSA Bareboat 1 class.
The regatta marked the first time that the eight-member Trekr Racing crew served on the same yacht. Skipper Dave Sossamon loves sharing the experience of sailing with others and looked forward to working with members of his own community.
“This was a fun opportunity to introduce the other crew members to racing,” Sossamon says. “In my years of racing, I haven’t met anyone from the LGBT community.”
Born in Baltimore, Sossamon took a sailing course on dinghies in the Baltimore Harbor at age 21. He now holds a United States Coast Guard Captain’s License and has been racing for six years out of Annapolis on his Beneteau 40.7.
“I bought my first boat 20 years ago, when I saw one for sale while I was out for a stroll on Maine Avenue in D.C.,” Sossamon says. “It was a 26-footer and a friend convinced me that I was missing part of the experience by not owning my own.”
Sossamon put off racing at first because he wasn’t sure he would like it. The desire to raise his skill level eventually won out and he continues to learn from racing in regattas.
“It turns out that I love racing and it makes me pay attention to things that I didn’t pay attention to before,” Sossamon says. “It’s an infinitely long learning curve and it increases when you throw in tactics on how to play off the other crew members.”
Another thing that Sossamon was looking forward to in Trekr Racing’s first regatta was the chance to interact as an out athlete at the international event.
“The best way to address bigotry towards a group is to make friends with someone from that group,” Sossamon says. “It’s easy to be publicly out with this crew.”
One of the Trekr crew members who raced for the first time in many years is Hilary Howes. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and learned how to sail through a Phys Ed requirement at San Francisco State.
“The thought of sailing always appealed to me and I was glad for the PE requirement,” Howes says. “It was mostly Flying Juniors and Lasers and after college I continued to sail with a professor along with some racing.”
After moving to the area in 2000 for her work in set and lighting design, Howes joined the West River Sailing Club and is now the proud owner of a Pearson 30. Howes stumbled into the opportunity to race with Trekr through her work with Gender Rights Maryland.
“As a new boat owner, I had the chance to learn more in one week than I could have learned in a year,” Howes says. “There was so much experience around me.”
Howes says it was also important have a T to go along with the LGB on the Trekr Racing team. She has been in a 39-year relationship with the same partner she had before she transitioned.
“Being able to meet the yachting community and participate in the race culture was both a benefit to me and our community,” Howes says. “It was big chance to make sailing visible to the LGBT community and to make the sailing community more aware of us.”