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Jerelyn Biehl honored with 2024 BoatUS/NWSA Leadership in Women's Sailing Award

by BoatUS 13 Jun 09:52 PDT
Jerelyn Biehl, commodore of San Diego Yacht Club, on Opening Day 2019 © BoatUS

The youngest of three children, Jerelyn Biehl was born into a sailing family. She learned sailing from her parents and as a teenager absorbed all things boating at her father's marine store. She shared sailing with kids during summers in high school and college. After competing for the University of California, Los Angeles Sailing Team, she met her husband on the racecourse. They fostered a love of sailing in their sons, Graham (a two-time Olympian) and Cameron (a world champion).

At the 2024 National Women's Sailing Conference held at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) and the National Women's Sailing Association (NWSA) honored Biehl with the Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award, recognizing her record of achievement in inspiring, educating and enriching the lives of women through sailing.

Biehl has supported women's and girls' sailing for more than 40 years at the local, national and international levels. Recognizing the influence of role models, she served as a board member of the California International Sailing Association (CISA), which held an annual advanced racing clinic. She and CISA worked hard to ensure there were female coaches and instructors to encourage and teach high-level sailing skills to girls.

Biehl worked to create more recognition and support for girls' racing in the 29er class, which eventually led to a change in the World Sailing requirements for women's Sailing World Championships, which had been too restrictive. Around the same time, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), now World Sailing, was looking for a women's skiff to complement the men's skiff in the Olympics. Biehl and a small team worked tirelessly to make this happen.

In 2019, as the second female commodore of the San Diego Yacht Club, Biehl made a concerted effort to promote women's involvement that year. The majority of club committees were chaired by women, and she introduced a "Sail with the Commodore" series that helped train women who had never raced or had little racing experience. They were given working roles on boats to build their sailing skills. The program also trained and encouraged 130 women to take their boats to Catalina Island for the club's first women's cruise.

She was also involved with the 49erFX Class Association, served as CISA president and board member, was on the US Sailing Olympic Sailing Committee, and was US Sailing interim vice president.

"Jerelyn Biehl has taken on roles that assisted in assuring quality education and fairness in racing, with the goal of attracting more women to the variety of competitive Olympic classes or getting recreational boaters to stretch their comfort zone," noted NWSA president Debby Grimm.

The 2024 BoatUS/NWSA Leadership in Sailing Award is only one in a long list of recognitions Biehl has received, including a 2022 induction into the International Snipe Class Hall of Fame, the 2002 US Sailing One Design Leadership Award, the 2023 Peggy Slater Memorial Award of the Southern California Yachting Association, and two San Diego Association of Yacht Clubs awards.

Biehl continues her positions as vice commodore of San Diego Association of Yacht Clubs, SDYC Sailing Foundation Board president, and CISA board member. She resides in San Diego, California.

Upon notification of the award, Biehl said, "I can't express how thankful I am to have had all the volunteers and fellow women sailors with me over these years to make such progress. We finally have 50/50 representation in sailing in the Olympics! I'm very grateful for the people who surrounded and supported me, including my parents and family, the members of San Diego Yacht Club, and many friends I've had the pleasure to race and work with."

For information on past award recipients, visit womensailing.org/leadership-in-womens-sailing-award.

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