Offshore Sailing School’s Co-Owner, President and Chief Executive Office
When Doris joined the advertising department of Yachting Magazine in 1967, she was not yet a sailor. “Everyone around me came in on Monday mornings tanned, smiling and exhilarated, because they sailed,” she reports. Doris asked her co-workers where to learn to sail they said, “Steve Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School,” and the rest is history. In January 1968 she met Steve when she flew down to the Bahamas to learn to race sailboats in a Performance Race Week course he was conducting. In 1969, she married “Steve Colgate and Offshore.” In 1970 Doris joined the business full time as Vice President, rose to President in 1978, and became President and CEO in 2001.
Inducted Into the National Sailing Hall of Fame
In November 2022, Doris was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in Newport, RI for her many sailing accomplishments, especially her involvement in bringing more women into the sailing lifestyle. Read more here. Together the Colgates have grown Offshore Sailing School from a one-branch, two-instructor, two-boat operation to a widely acclaimed educational company focusing on sail and powerboat learning vacations with multiple branches and a staff of instructors unequaled in the industry. The school’s graduates, most of whom came to Offshore Sailing School having never set foot on a sailboat or powerboat, number more than 160,000 since the company was founded by Steve Colgate in 1964.
Women and the Sailing Lifestyle
In 1990, Doris brought 12 women from across the country together under the auspices of the National Women’s Advisory Board on Sailing, to focus on programs and events to get more women into sailing. Within the year, Colgate changed the Board’s name to the National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA) with a mission to create more awareness of sailing among women and help women build confidence in their sailing skills. That same year she spearheaded “You Can Sail Escapes” to provide all-women training programs in conjunction with Offshore Sailing School.
For eight years, Doris organized and conducted multi-day NWSA seminars for women, primarily held at sailboat shows in Chicago, Oakland, Atlantic City and Annapolis. Called Take The Helm, these events attracted women and their spouses/significant others with presentations by panels of women who had sailed long distances with their families, workshops focusing on engine and winch maintenance, knot-tying sessions, and inspiring keynote speeches from women who live the sailing lifestyle. At their peak, Take The Helm Seminars had 800 sailors attending in a single event
In 1991, Doris and NWSA’s board launched AdventureSail – a sailing-mentoring program for at-risk girls. In 1997, she established the Women’s Sailing Foundation (WSF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of women and girls through education and access to the sport of sailing. WSF manages NWSA and AdventureSail activities. After 10 years of leading the two organizations, in 2000 Doris turned NWSA/WSF over to a board of dedicated women who continue with its mission, events, and programs today.
Programs for Middle School Kids
No longer actively involved with NWSA/WSF other than to be on its Advisory Committee, Doris can happily report that both organizations are going strong with continuous leadership from dedicated women who sail. But her interest in getting kids sailing at an early age goes on. In 2013, Doris set up a Team Building and Learn to Sail program for the Cypress Lake Middle School in Ft. Myers, Florida. This event introduced sailing to boys and girls with emphasis on learning how to successfully work together on the water.
Living the Sailing Lifestyle – Cruising and Racing
In 1972, Doris and Steve originated the idea of sailing trips they called flotilla cruises, taking Offshore graduates and other sailors to sail in exotic locations, including the Caribbean, Bahamas, the Pacific Northwest, Maine, French Riviera, the former Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, Belize, Tonga and Tahiti on fleets of 4-10 cruising boats. In 1978, the Colgates bought a 54’ ocean racer they named Sleuth and campaigned it in major U.S. and international competitions for four years. When Steve moved into maxi racing, they competed in big boat racing in the Caribbean, around Sardinia, in Norway, Palma Majorca, Bermuda, San Francisco Bay, the Chesapeake and coasts of Florida. Doris’s extensive collection of slides turned into digital images, taken on more than 70 flotillas and during many racing events on Sleuth and other yachts, are used in presentations, talks, articles, and books.
Sailing and Boat Industry Recognitions and Other Awards
In 1994, Doris received the Betty Cook Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award from Boating Magazine and International Women in Boating for her work in the marine industry. In 1996, she and Steve were honored with the prestigious SAIL magazine Industry Award for Leadership. In 2003, US Sailing, the national governing body of sailing in the United States, awarded the Colgates the Timothea Larr Trophy in recognition of their outstanding leadership and excellence in sailing education. A year later, Doris received the Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award sponsored by BOAT U.S. and NWSA. In 2010 Steve and Doris Colgate, together, received the highest recognition from The Beaches of Sanibel & Ft. Myers Visitors and Convention Bureau – the Junonia Award – for “their tremendous commitment & dedication to the Lee County Tourism Industry.” In 2013 The Beaches of Sanibel & Ft. Myers Vacation and Convention Bureau presented Steve and Doris Colgate with the Chrysalis Award for Offshore Sailing School’s contribution to Lee County tourism in the Sales & Marketing category.
Author and Speaker
Author of SAILING: A Woman’s Guide, published January 1999 by International Marine/McGraw Hill, Doris received the 2000 Southam Award in the book category for this informative how-to guide for women. With husband Steve, Doris also co-authored Fast Track to Cruising, which was published by International Marine/McGraw-Hill in November 2005 and Fast Track to Sailing, published by International Marine/McGraw-Hill in 2009.
At the 2011 Women’s Sailing Conference in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Doris gave an inspiring keynote speech to 125 women who were participating in the 10th Conference conducted by the Women’s Sailing Foundation, which was also celebrating its 21st anniversary. She has been a key speaker at several International Sailing Summit (ISS) events, and is often asked to speak about her sailing experiences at yacht club and other venues.
A biography about Doris, her husband, Steve and Offshore Sailing School called OFFSHORE High debuted in October 2021. Written by Herb McCormick, Executive Editor of Cruising World Magazine and published by Seapoint Books, OFFSHORE High is “At once a biography of sailing pioneers and also a fascinating panoramic of the sailing industry during its formative years,” according to acclaimed sailing author Larry Kretschmer.
Featured in Many Publications
In April 2023, Doris was featured in an interview with another iconic sailor, Lin Pardey, for an article in Cruising World Magazine, written by Editor-at-Large, Elaine Lembo. Read the complete interview on our blog here.
In April 2014, Doris was featured in Grandeur Magazine. The header photo above was the lead-in spread, celebrating Doris’s role in the longevity of Offshore Sailing School, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary that year. In the October 2019 issue of the prestigious Gulfshore Life Magazine, Doris was again featured in a story about “Game Changers.” Recognized for her many years of working with at-risk girls to get them out on the water and learn how to be in command, in 2018 Doris was one of five “local sports stars” featured for giving back “in the best way they know how.” Here’s a photo of the Game Changer opening page and Doris’s feature:
Becoming a Grande Dame
In 2019, Doris was honored as a PACE Center for Girls, Lee County, Florida Grande Dame. The PACE Center is a Florida statewide organization that provides girls and young women opportunities in education, counseling, and training. Doris will be recognized for her business leadership, community service, and philanthropic efforts at the Grande Dames Tea in Fort Myers in March, an event that attracts hundreds of women and men in support of education and counseling for girls.
Sailing Industry and Other Leadership Roles
Doris has been listed in Who’s Who of America, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in the Southeast, Who’s Who in Education, and Who’s Who of the World. A former chairman of the Commercial Sailing School Committee for US Sailing, in 2014 she retired from 17 years on the BOATU.S. National Advisory Council. Doris served as a member of the Board of Directors of Sail America, the sailing industry association, from 2000-2006, was on Sail America’s Marketing Committee and is US Sailing’s Commercial Sailing School Marketing Committee for many years. Doris has been on the Florida Repertory Theatre’s Board of Directors for many years – fulling another of her passions, supporting theater and the arts.