She started sailing Sunfish when she was seven years old. At 18, she was a FACES IN THE CROWD selection (SI Dec. 11, 1978) as a Tufts University sophomore. Now a sailmaker at Shore Sails in Newport, Alison has been Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year a record three times, in 1981, '82 and '84. And she could win the title again this year. Two weeks after the RIWKC, Alison traveled to San Francisco and finished first in six of nine Soling races to win the Adam's Cup, another major women's regatta.
What are the differences between an all-male and an all-female regatta? Well, at an all-male event it's doubtful you would see boat names like Smokin' Wenches, Twisted Sisters or PMS. And there are more pink spinnakers at a women's event.
"But out on the race course," said Isler, "I don't see any difference between a men's regatta and a women's regatta. Except maybe the screaming is a little more high-pitched."
Chris Evert, when she was at the top of her game, said that she couldn't even beat her brother, a middling college player. In sailing, mixed competition is much more competitive. The sport emphasizes tactics and experience, areas in which neither sex has the edge.
So then, are there any real differences between men and women in sailing? Yes, strength. When the wind kicks up, the women fall back. They can't muscle the boats as well as the men.
Does that mean the men are faster? For now, maybe, or at least until Betsy Alison starts lifting weights.