Doris Colgate helped design the Colgate 26, used at the Naval Academy to teach midshipmen to sail. Photo: Offshore Sailing School

Md. Native, Boat Designer to be Inducted into Sailing Hall of Fame

Doris Colgate, the president and co-owner of the Offshore Sailing School who hails from Maryland, was recently announced as an inductee into the 2022 class of the Sailing Hall of Fame.

Colgate has been an institution in the world of sailing education for over 50 years, teaching over 150,000 sailors how to feel comfortable and competent on the water. What is often most overlooked is that she is one of Offshore’s most noteworthy alumni, as it is where she herself learned to sail.

Colgate grew up in Bethesda, Md., where her father was a biochemist. She was not raised sailing, but was introduced to the sport in 1968 when working in the editorial department of Yachting Magazine. Colgate was assigned to cover Offshore Sailing School, which was at the time a small sailing school operating out of New York.

Steve Colgate, the school’s owner and founder, was a highly experienced sailor, having sailed in the Fastnet Race, the Pan American Games, and the 1968 Olympics in Acapulco, Mexico. He and Doris connected immediately, both on land and on the water. They married a year later.

Doris Colgate joined Offshore Sailing School full-time in 1970, becoming President in 1978. She was instrumental in building the School’s global footprint, creating a flotilla of over 100 boats within the Continental United States and Caribbean. She and Steve designed the Colgate 26, a training sailboat designed to the specifications of the novice sailor who needed a technical, easy sailboat for training. Today, the U.S. Naval Academy has a fleet of 30 Colgate 26s to train midshipmen.

On the water, Colgate was an active participant in offshore racing with her husband onboard their 54-foot ocean racer, Sleuth. She was luckily on shore in Plymouth during the 1979 Fastnet Race, waiting with white knuckles as Steve helmed Sleuth in the race that left 15 sailors dead, five yachts sunk, and 136 sailors rescued.

Steve Colgate, however, won his class. When the couple returned with Sleuth two years later, they raced it together.

From a young age, Doris Colgate’s father instilled in her a dedication to philanthropy. Using her own introduction to sailing as a template, in 1990 Colgate founded the National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) to encourage and support more women in their sailing endeavors.

“You Can Sail Escapes” provided all-women training programs through Offshore, and AdventureSail introduced mentorship opportunities for at-risk women and girls through the sport. The Women’s Sailing Foundation, which Colgate established in 1997, dedicated itself to bringing access to sailing for women and girls. Colgate’s “Take the Helm” seminars foster a paradigm shift in onboard relationships, creating confident and intelligent female sailors.

For over 50 years, Doris Colgate has been at the helm of her family’s success. Working closely with her husband (a 2014 NSHOF inductee) she has taught over 160,000 students to sail confidently and competently. The Offshore Sailing School is internationally recognized as one of the best places to learn to sail due to her focus and drive. And Doris Colgate has effectively changed the face of sailing through her work with women and girls.

For more on Doris Colgate and the Offshore Sailing School, visit offshoresailing.com

-Duffy Perkins