Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta 2024: Day 1 a mix of conditions

Day 1 at the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) and the first of two races was as light as could be, forcing a late start and an early finish, then a second race in better breeze for the 33 competing yachts and their crews taking part in the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS) annual three day event.

Kites collapsed when the wind died out and Port Phillip looked more like a mill pond than its usual windy self in the opener, but it suited those boats and crews who are at the top their game in fickle conditions that require a lot of patience and concentration.

By the time the second race came around, the wind had improved and got up to 13 knots at times.

The day, sponsored by Rothwell Lawyers, was a moody one, with little bits of blue poking through an overwise overcast sky, but at least there was no sign of rain.

Scored using the EHC handicapping system, Division 1 went to Clare Olding’s Vertigo (Vic) from the Justine Ella skippered Jungle Juice (NSW) and Sunshine, skippered by Tatum Mackey (Vic).

“We had a bit of a frustrating first race in 2-5 knots. It‘s hard to stay focussed when it’s like that,” admitted Olding, who co-skippers Vertigo with her father in offshore races.

“But we got 10-13 knots in the second race, which was more our style. We were close with Clockwork and No Man’s Land, so it was good racing.”

“My crew remains predominantly unchanged from last year when we finished second. We have just three new crew. One is Isla whose 14 and new to the boat. She’s the daughter of our main trimmer Allie Wetzels and she’s loving it. This is her first proper regatta . I’m very proud of our team.”

“We’ll sail the same way tomorrow – keep it clean and have good clear communication,” Olding ended.

The top three in Division 2  were Megan Aulich and crew on Two Dogs (Vic), Karyn Gojnich’s J70, The Jackal (NSW) and Gridlock (Erin Foster) in third following two races.

Two Dogs and Gridlock backed up for first and second in the new J24 Division, with Sophie Davidson’s Sidetracked (SA) filling out third place.

“My partner, Steve, owns the boat, I usually sail on another boat here, Bruschetta VI,” Aulich said. Every now and again I jump on the helm  of this boat though, but I haven’t skippered it or any boat at a regatta before. “I have crewed at this regatta though.”

On today’s results, Aulich commented, “We honestly had no expectations coming in. We all sail, but not together, so the philosophy was to take our time, communicate and figure it out. We couldn’t have asked for better weather to do all that and it gave us some confidence.

“Gridlock was never far away from us – we’re keeping a close eye on them,” Aulich said.

“I have an internal conflict sailing at a women’s event, as I am a sailor first, but I have to say there’s a real buzz and a nice vibe here. The people genuinely want to help you and they do it well (at RMYS).”

Aulich, who is also president of the J24 Victoria Association, said, “This is the first time we’ve had six J24s at a regatta. We’re having the Worlds at Sandringham in 2026 and we’re hoping to get a big roll up from here,” she said. 

Northern Territory yachts filled the top two places in the S80 Division. Jenny Simondson’s Outlaw outdoing Fiona McManus’ Mood Indigo in both races. Local boat, Hot Shot, skippered by Kylie Balmain, was third.

“We had to wait a long time, as there was no wind. Then the course was shortened, as the breeze was so light, but we got that race in then had a second. We had a close race with Outlaw in that one,” she said of beating her fellow Darwin Sailing Club member.

“The second race we did the full race, but it was a nice short race. Both races were windward/leewards. We were very happy with our day. I’ve got a great crew. It’s a great regatta, well run by the Club. This is my fifth and the first one we came together with Fiona in 2014.”

Incidentally, third placegetter, Balmain, has supplied some exquisite pot plants for this evening’s Crew Dinner via her Haars Nursery. The beautiful flowering plants will decorate each table and lucky competitors will be able to take them home.

Sailing continues tomorrow and weather dependant, will start at 10am. Race Officer, Lou Hutton, will be aiming to give competitors at least two races and with up to 15 knots expected on Port Phillip, it should not be a problem.

For full results and all information, please visit: https://www.awkr.com.au/    

If you are looking for crew or would like to crew, please go to: www.awkr.com.au/crew-noticeboard or email: awkr@rmys.com.au  or phone (03) 9534-0227.

By Di Pearson/AWKR media

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