Skip Links

Dr. Anne Kolker: Paying It Forward In Sailing

She’s an accomplished doctor who wanted to improve her sailing skills. Along the way, she encouraged and inspired a generation of female sailors.

Middle-aged Caucasian female wearing pink baseball hat and red jacket steering a vessel in the open waters on a sunny day

Dr. Anne Kolker grew up sailing, first as a youngster, then through college, medical school, and into marriage. However, when her husband died in 2008, she had never docked the boat she had purchased with him – a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Stellar 52. And she had never competed in an offshore sailboat race.

This inspired her to take command of the sturdy sloop and learn to manage it, choosing to gain expertise by sailing with other knowledgeable women and keeping the vessel under her ownership. Along the way, she crossed the Atlantic and, in turn, inspired dozens of women to seek out sailing opportunities, hosting all-female crews in offshore races from New England to Bermuda.

For this and more, BoatUS and the National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) honored Kolker with the annual BoatUS/NWSA Award that recognizes an individual with a record of achievement in inspiring, educating and enriching the lives of women through sailing.

“As Dr. Kolker had done for herself, she has encouraged other women to seek out the skills and experience they need and has offered other women opportunities to learn by sailing with her and her teams,” explains NWSA president Debby Grimm, “Many women sought her out to be on her teams or get advice. She has offered encouragement to other women to enter their own boats in challenging races and been an inspirational speaker for a variety of sailing organizations.”

Middle-aged Caucasian female wearing sunglasses, a red baseball hat and a navy blue jacket at the wheel of a vessel on a sunny day

Kolker’s crews have won the Faith Paulson Trophy five times, an award to the first-place finisher for all-women crew in the biennial Marion-Bermuda race.

Kolker, an anesthesiology specialist, has also offered her medical knowledge on ocean crossings and safety at sea, has been instrumental in developing race strategies and has lectured to teams about safety practices.

A member of Stonington and New York Yacht Clubs, Cruising Club of America, and Ocean Cruising Club, Kolker has given lectures at NWSA events and is a leader at Safety at Sea programs, preparing crews for unexpected medical events. She is also credited with saving the life of a crew member during a trans-Atlantic passage.

“Somehow men always find it so fascinating that we [women] are so capable, but we are!” says Kolker. “The best thing about sailing is every time you go sailing you learn something. ‘Confident competence’ is my constant goal. Women are great shipmates with many competencies.”

Related Articles


Click to explore related articles

lifestyle people sailing


Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.