Women's Keelboat Regatta crams in three races ahead of high wind warning

Planning ahead for tomorrow’s forecast strong wind warning, the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron’s technical delegate Lou Hutton and race officer Tony Lukeman banged off three back-to-back races seaward of the iconic St. Kilda Pier on the opening day of the 25th Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta.

Though it’s the race committee’s intention to run two races on Port Phillip tomorrow, Sunday June 7, 2015, the forecast indicates 20-25 knots on the track by the first warning signal at 0955hrs.

The EHC handicap system of the Helly Hansen sponsored series covers all entries. Division 1 leader after a long day in 10 knot average northerly winds is Stephanie Strong’s Archambault 31 More Noise flying the Sandringham Yacht Club burgee.

Mainsheet hand Claire Hunting reckons the day’s highlight was pumping out the tunes in between races and dancing to keep warm. “The racing highlights were our race two start and given we’ve never sailed as a team before, our teamwork was amazing,” Hunting said. If tomorrow’s strong northerlies eventuate she says they’ll go out but acknowledges “it won’t be stress-free”.

Illustrating how tight it is at the top of division 1 EHC results, a weeny one point margin separates the top four placegetters. Salamander III is second to More Noise on a countback and Phantom and Tigris are a point off, in third and fourth.

Division 2 EHC leading skipper Mandy McEvoy, who has borrowed Steve Barker’s S80 Rock n Roll, said today’s mild conditions and flat water made for a great regatta opener for the Fremantle Sailing Club crew. “It was competitive but friendly racing. For us, we may have well have taken three bullets we are so delighted. It’s our first time sailing together on a new boat and the crew work was excellent. To see people learning is the number one thing for me.”

Second to Rock n Roll in EHC div 2 is another S80, Recycled Reputation led by New Zealand skipper Melinda Henshaw. Supported by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the crew of five experienced sailors including three who took out the New Zealand women’s nationals in the MRX class, are appreciative of the boat loan and being part of the event’s silver anniversary.

Back in 1991 after travelling across the Tasman to the NZ National Women’s Keelboat Championship, AWKR founder Gai Clough was quoted as saying, “after competing in that regatta, it was obvious that New Zealand showed the way as being the frontrunner in promoting women’s sailing.

“It’s fitting that a Kiwi team is part of the line-up for Australia’s premier women’s keelboat regatta celebrating its 25th year,” committee chair Jody Lukeman said.

A lot more than the hairstyles have changed since the inaugural Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta back in 1991. Sabina Rosser is the only competitor with all 25 AWKR notches on her sailing belt and she vividly remembers crews came ashore for lunch in between races at the inaugural event.

The memory is stuck firmly because on the way back to the RMYS Rosser dived off the St. Kilda Pier to rescue a young boy who had ridden his bike off the edge. “The kid who was about five rode off the pier and was in trouble. The father was taking his time so I dived in fully dressed. I remember they had to find me some dry clothes for the next race.” This Queen’s Birthday long weekend Rosser is skippering her regular ride, the S80 Mood Indigo.

Leading IRC division 1 boat is More Noise and division 2 is Recycled Reputation. More Noise also heads AMS division 1 and Kirsty Harris’ J24 Hyperactive is the division two front-runner after three races.

The AWKR race committee will meet in the morning to review the conditions and will send the record 25 crews and around 160 sailors out if they feel it’s safe to do so.

Major sponsors of this year’s winter series include Helly Hansen, Club Marine, IBG Insurance and Logie-Smith Lanyon Lawyers and the charity partner is Think Pink Foundation.

Full results here.

– Lisa Ratcliff

Jeanneau SO380
M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts
Jeanneau JY60
JPK August 2023
Cyclops Marine