Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta 2024: Winners decided in light conditions

On the final day of the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR), competitors and officials alike were seduced by a forecast of up to 8 knots on Port Phillip, but the breeze did not break 8 knots.

A sunny but cool day in Melbourne and light weather again dominated the day, playing into the hands of those who are more attuned to light air with the boats to match. There was a long wait between the two races as the breeze fluctuated and died.

On all three days, the light weather specialists benefitted, which is reflected in the final results, where there has only been a slight changing of the guard between the top five in some divisions, but the top three in the S80 division did not change from Day 1.

Scored under EHC, Division 1 was won by Clare Olding, who skippered her Dad Tim’s Summit 35, Vertigo. The 23-year-old from Melbourne scored second and fifth places today to reclaim the lead and win the title.

“It’s very cool to win. We’ve been trying to do for about three years now and we finally got here,” Olding said.

Crew member Allison Wetzels added, “We sailed our own races today; we didn’t think about what others were doing. We had good clean crew work and we did lots of training.”

Olding, on the day’s first race: “It was a good 6 knots at the start, then it got so light – 1.5 to 2 knots – and very tactical. While we were waiting for the second race we followed some dolphins,” she said of the hour long delay.

“The second race was better and worth waiting for – 8-10 knots, but very up and down. Fickle,” said Olding, adding that most of the crew had sailed with her and her father on Vertigo at some point.

Seventh and second places lifted Spartan, skippered by Wendy Tuck up to second place from Justine Ella’s Jungle Juice (NSW), winner of Race 4. 

Division 2 went to the J70, Auretta, with Emma Maertens (Vic) skippering. They started the regatta with ninth place and ended it with 11th, with three wins between clinching the deal.

“The first race was a bit of a luck of the draw. We had a good start and then dropped down. Then we won a few after that,” Maertens said.

“This is our first time at the regatta. I found it quite challenging because of the conditions. I was a bit reluctant because of the all-female thing too, but we found it really good and we’ll definitely do it again.”

On the J70 she said, “Auretta is a club training boat I normally sail with the crew I have here with me. The J70 is the best boat I’ve ever sailed.”

Two Dogs, skippered by Megan Aulich (Vic), placed second overall, with Karyn Gojnich’s J70, The Jackal (NSW) in third, courtesy of a second place in the first race of the day.

Two Dogs also won the J24 division from Gridlock (Vic), skippered by Erin Foster, with Sophie Davidson’s Sidetracked (SA) third.

The S80 division was a lay down misère for Northern Territory yachts. Jenny Simondson’s Outlaw won every race and Fiona McManus’ Mood Indigo finished second in all five races. Third went to Kylie Balmain’s Hot Shot with a quintet of third places. 

“It’s great to get one and two,” Simondson said. “Thanks to the two boats’ sponsors, NT Shade and SOS Screen Windows and Doors – they eased the financial the burden for us.”

McManus said, “The first or second race we were close with Jenny, swapping the lead, but we couldn’t beat her. I think she has a secret in board motor.”

As fellow Darwin Sailing Club members, McManus said, “We’re great mates – we even share accommodation and information here. Jenny trains me and she’s hard to beat.” admitted.

Simondson, who placed second last year said, “Both Fiona and I are on a real high. In 2014 we sailed together and won here.

“We don’t know of any other regatta who loans boats, so we are both grateful. We’ve borrowed either Outlaw or Mood Indigo for the last 10 years.”

McManus said, “We’ve got to know both the owners. David Judge (Outlaw) and Roger Byrne and Keith Chatto (Mood Indigo). Keith has been down regularly to watch us and Roger usually comes, but he’s been unwell. They do barbecue and wait on the marina for us to come in. They’re very supportive.”

Both said they would be back next year. One to defend her title, the other to try and take it!

On the regatta as a whole: “It’s attracting elite sailors, like Katie Spithill, Vanessa Dudley, Karyn Gojnich, Wendy Tuck, Cathy Veal – and they’re a drawcard,” McManus said.

“It’s a really well-run regatta and Lou Hutton is a cool and calm race officer. She’s very good,” McManus said, adding, “I want to remind everyone the Northern Territory Women’s Regatta is coming up from 4-7 of July and we’d love to see everyone there.”

There was much praise and thanks for the organisers and volunteers from many competitors on the AWKR WhatsApp group.

With spare time waiting for wind, the crew found interesting ways to amuse themselves. From knitting on Jabula, dressing up on Liberator (Statue of Liberty – sheaths and all), to swinging from kite sheets, on board games and serious discussions.

Today, on No Mans Land, Jolene was practicing for the 2025 Spinnaker Packing competition after winning this year’s with a fellow crew member – and Helen on Mrs Overnewton, posted a photo of the sunny Melbourne city skyline, saying: “Just enjoying the view.”

If it sounds like fun, that’s because it is, so those who haven’t taken the opportunity to come and compete, sign up for 2025 and we’ll see you on the start line.

Trophies were awarded to the various winners mentioned earlier in the story, but there  some special awards too:

Rohan Brownlee Leadership and Endeavour Award: Robyn Ragauskas (Bullett)

Novice Skipper: Abby Young (Hot Shot)

Most Improved Performance over the event: Georgia Plumridge (Aye Sea Red)

Sportsmanship: Maree Fitzpatrick (Double Exposure)

Best Performed Owner/Skipper: Megan Aulich (Two Dogs)   

Team or teams that most embodied the spirit of the regatta – $1000 from the Corbett Family Trust: First place – Liberator (Kate Hyde)

– Second place – Hot Shot (Kylie Balmain)

AWKR co-chairwoman (Janet Dean is the other – she also loans out Jungle Juice for the event), Monica Jones, who skippered her Adams 10 Salamander III here, said: “I loved the vibe. I looked around and realised that we’ve created something special over the years. 

“We’d love to see our New Zealand friends come back and hope all our current competitors encourage their friends to get teams together for next year. The more the merrier.

“We had some great racing with the afterguard of each boat under pressure in these tricky conditions. I’d like also to thank our volunteers. We are fortunate to have the team we do, most of who come back every year,” Jones said.

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

By Di Pearson/AWKR media

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