Women In Sailing & RANSA Networking & Speakers Evening

Published Tue 02 Apr 2024

The warm and welcoming environment of RANSA saw 8 speakers, in 2 panel sessions, take to the front of the room for an informative evening on the recently completed Sydney Harbour Women’s Keelboat Series.  The interest in the evening was encouraging with over 60+ interested sailors from 10+ different harbour clubs.

The Sydney Harbour Women’s Keelboat Series has been running for a few years now and is now seeing growth in entries year on year.  In this women’s helm racing the focus is on growing women’s participation and skills whether it be on fully female crewed yachts or female helm with mixed crewed entries.  

To summarize 2023/24.  Racing started with the first race back in September 2023 hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club, October saw CYCA’s turn on a stunning day of racing for race 2.  Followed by RSYS race 3 on a spectacular day in November 2023 as summer approached.   RANSA kicked off 2024 with the 4th Race of the series in February and Manly Yacht Club’s Helly Hansen Women’s Challenge closed off the season with the 5th race on the 24th March this year.

5 races in all, 5 different courses and combined total of approx. 112 yachts raced, with an average of 22 yachts per race.  6 clubs had entries including Balmain Sailing Club. while the number of casual entries saw an increase. 

This evening was to reflect on the series and to hear from some of the competitors who participated and contributed to the overall racing.   Picked from participating clubs, each speaker had their own unique contribution and perspective to share.  

Our First Panel of 4 included Merrilee Hansford (RANSA) Valentis, Ruth Lawrence (BSC) Alcamy, Liz Hogan (RANSA) Valentis, and Macie Bourke (MYC) Okavango Delta. 

We heard about their yachts, their crews, the benefit of sailing in such a series, some of the challenges they encountered, and how they navigated through them: what they had learnt about themselves and what they would do differently, next time round.

Macie a 15 year old boat co-owner of two small yachts J24 + 13ft Skiff spoke about getting crew, sailing on a Sydney 38, her inspiration, racing a skiff this coming season, and the challenge of being under 18 racing the series.

Ruth, an Australian Keelboat Instructor from Balmain Yacht Club, owns her own S80 yacht which she has been racing for over 15 years.

Merrilee proud mother of 3 boys has come back to sailing now that the boys are older and enjoys regatta racing. and this is her first SHWKS.

Liz took the helm of RANSA’s Rear Commodores Matt’s yacht and stepped up to embrace the challenge of skipper and teamwork. Liz is a seasoned sailor, experienced in numerous lengthy deliveries and dedicated to volunteering with Making Waves Foundation.

The next panel of 4 included Matt Bryant Rear Commodore RANSA, Jackie Sapir Race Officer CYCA, Katie O’Mara MHYC Women’s Representative and Sara Ladd RSYS Ladies of the Sea.

Each of these panellists shared a different insight into the series. Matt had loaned his boat “Valentis” to Liz and Merrilee. Sharing his decision-making process, reasoning, and benefits of handing over the helm to enter the series. We would like to encourage more owners to do the same.

Jackie from the CYCA, has been enjoying giving back to the club through her volunteer work as a race officer on the CYCA start boat, keeping her engaged with sailing during a her recovery from an injury. Australian Sailing provides training for those who wish to learn more and step up to becoming a race official.  Since her initial outing in 2019 her knowledge and skill have opened up additional opportunities in World Match Racing, SailGP and the Youth Dinghy regattas. 

Katie skippered Birubi in the series against Sara Ladd who is co-owner & skipper of another J70 Jabiru. These two ladies enjoyed the competition between these two J70s. 

Katie sharde details of what is happening at the MHYC and one of their new women’s sailing initiatives which is going to be announced shortly.

Sara, an incredible advocate for the RSYS Ladies of the Sea programs, Tuesday twilights, and October long weekend coaching regatta, spoke about her pathway and what her biggest takeaway was from the SHWKS series. 

Most memorable was the audience participation with questions and answers bounced back and forth. It was great to see the attendees look for more information, asking our panels how they have handled various situations and one of the biggest surprises on the evening was the hands that went up in a show of who owned boats. 

The evening provided the sailing women of Sydney Harbour with a real voice and a platform to provide positive feedback, creative suggestions were tabled, and a real insights from participants, which has gone back to RANSA’s Sailing Administrator Roger Wragby to share between clubs and the organising committee of the Sydney Harbour Women’s Keelboat Series.

Many thanks to the team at RANSA, Matt, Kate, Roger, and Nick.

By Deborah Wallace

Sailing Women’s Network & Women In Sailing Events & Podcasts.

March 2024

There are some photos of the evening in the Gallery on this website