Vanessa swaps wheels for winches at Airlie Race Week

A member of one of Australia's most recognised yachting families is about to switch corporate wheels for recreational winches, when she makes the transition from an executive position with Cycling Queensland, to compete in Airlie Beach Race Week.

Vanessa Freebairn from Manly on Brisbane's eastern bayside will be the pit person – the sailor in charge of the halyards, kite poles and related equipment – aboard Night Nurse, a Farr 40 competing in the IRC class of the event.

The Meridien Marinas-sponsored Airlie Beach Race Week is a seven day regatta raced and played from Thursday August 13 to August 20 in the Whitsundays and forms part of a Queensland sailing tour.

Vanessa is the Events and Operations Manager for Cycling Queensland which is the governing body of cycling in the state.

The Freebairn family includes Vanessa's parents, Don and Margaret who owned the very distinctively laminated and varnished timber sloop, Koomooloo which after a 38 year life that included winning the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race and representing Australia in the Admiral's Cup in England, sank beneath big seas during the 2006 Sydney-Hobart.

Vanessa's brother is Michael Freebairn, winner of the Queensland Yachtsman of the Year award in 2006 and who skippers the family's current vessel, Spirit Of Koomooloo.

Vanessa will be crewing with Andrew Turton who has worked on international yacht racing campaigns including the America's Cup, for German, Swedish and Russian teams; Mark Matthews, Simon Pickering, Matthew Madsen, Andrew Wilson, Matthew Harrison, Rick Roberts and vessel co-owner, Russell McCart.

Before slipping on to the saddle at Cycling Queensland, Vanessa managed a luxury power boat charter business in the Whitsundays.

And on being the only female in a crew of nine? “It works perfectly,” Vanessa said. “I keep them all in check and maybe get spoilt a just a bit. But there are really no concessions for being a female – I get yelled at just as loudly as the other crew.

“Airlie Beach Race Week is a fun event, but you still always try to do the very best you can for the yacht owner – we have our sights set on winning.”

Vanessa sailed in the Brisbane to Keppel Island race last weekend and will go to Hamilton Island race week also.

This year's Airlie Beach Race Week will be raced in seven main categories ranging from recreational cruising yachts to thoroughbred sports boats and blue water racers. Entries remain open for all categories with further details available at the event's web site: or by telephoning the event's race director, Mr Denis Thompson on 0417 686 640 or emailing him at

NAV at Home
M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts
Cyclops Marine