Victorian Sailing Awards 2017 recognises diverse female achievements

by WGIS Committee

YV President Cherry Birch with Female Sailors of the Year Ella Grimshaw and Laura Harding
YV President Cherry Birch with Female Sailors of the Year Ella Grimshaw and Laura Harding

Victorian Sailing staged their annual celebration of excellence and endeavour in the sport on Sunday 18 June at Sandringham Yacht Club, and saw many of our female membership receiving recognition for their contribution and achievements over the 2016-17 season. Congratulations to all those nominated and awarded.

The presentation led off with Cherry Birch, President of the Yachting Victoria board (and the first ever female President in any Australian state/territory) welcoming all attendees and reporting a record 27,000 membership for Victorian Sailing and a raft of successful events across multiple classes for the season.

Female youth sailors rose to the top with Australian Sailing Squad 420 sailors Laura Harding (Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron) and Ella Grimshaw (Parkdale Yacht Club) taking out the Female Sailor(s) of the Year award. The girls have set a cracking pace since joining forces on their 420 in October 2015 and competing in their first international event at the World 420 Championships in Italy in July 2016. At home, they have been consistently taking out honours around the country in state and national titles. Both are second year Sport Scholarship holders at Victorian Institute of Sport and will be representing Australia in China this December. Good luck and fair winds to the girls in their endeavours and 'watch this space'.

Former Olympian Krystal Weir (Sandringham Yacht Club) took out Coaching Program of the Year for her program assisting junior sailors to transition to the intermediate Laser 4.7 class. Initially established only for female sailors, the success of the program with sell out audiences and 100% participation and retention rates, created a demand which saw the program extended to include male sailors.

Young Kate Hyde from Rye Yacht Club was awarded Instructor of the Year. Kate has had a very busy season, running 57 courses through the Mobile Boat Shed, Rye Yacht Club (RYC), Black Rock Yacht Club (BRYC) and The Boatshed. Kate has organised, safe and well structured Tackers programs in the Opti dinghy class, introducing 1405 participants to sailing. At her home club RYC, Kate took on the role as the Head Tackers Instructor for the season overseeing all Tackers Courses as well as being involved with many school programs and Sailability. Kate has been described by her club nominees as ‘a magnificent mentor and role model for our younger instructors and Assistant Instructors.’

Also nominated for the Instructor of the year, was Michelle Pickford (Mornington Yacht Club) who has been a driving force in establishing the GOSS (Girls Out Social Sailing) program, which has attracted both previous female sailors and novice ‘newbies’ to participate in a relaxing social and sporting activity.

Glenys Hitchen (Daveys Bay Yacht Club) received a Race Official of the Year award, for ‘a magnificent year of sustained contribution to so many classes, junior and youth sailing, numerous yacht clubs and also to her fellow race officials through her 24/7 availability, her professionalism, her collaborative manner and her infectious personality’. A dedicated volunteer at her home club as the 'eveready' Race Officer, Glenys has officiated for the advanced fleet at ISail Lidgett Trophy and Open fleet Girl Sail, Schools Team Racing Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons and Victorian State Titles, John Middleton and Helen Middleton Schools Racing, Bill Bell Teams Racing and Krystal Weir Teams Racing for girls. More recently, her talents have also seen her on the start boat for the Finn World Masters at Torbole in Italy.

Women & Girls in Sailing (WGIS) committee member Rosie Colahan received a Services to Yachting award for her contribution to the promotion of women’s sailing. Not only as a willing teacher, skipper and mentor, but also as a long standing committee member of the original Women in Sailing Interest Group (WIGIS) which became the WGIS committee in 2012, and for her role in establishing the Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series (PPWCS) and serving on the Brighton Lady Skippers Series (BLiSS) committee at her home club.

The WGIS Committee also celebrated our sailors and those that support our sailing females. Monica Jones, Overall Champion for the Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series 2016 and 2017 (first place in all divisions – AMS, EHC, IRC) was nominated for both Keelboat Sailor of the Year and Female Sailor of the Year. Her home club, Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, took out the PPWCS Teams Trophy (which recognises the club with the highest level of participation across several criteria) for the third time.

In recognition of those who support our female sailors, the WGIS Local Hero Award for 2017 was awarded to Vanessa Twigg. Not only WGIS Club Representative at both her home clubs, Royal Brighton Yacht Club and Cowes Yacht Club, but also a leader on club committees and a generous boat owner who provides mentorship and sailing opportunities for women to participate in high level female focussed events, often handing the helm to an aspiring crew member.

The WGIS Committee also salute Royal Geelong Yacht Club on being awarded Yacht Club of the Year. In particular, for their activities as Discover Sailing Centre of the Year, for introducing four new women's programs during the 2016/17 season which contributed to a massive 63% increase in female participation.

As Yachting Australia has moved to ‘one sailing’ and has evolved to Australian Sailing, so has the sailing horizon in Victoria. This season has been a ‘coming of age’ for many of the initiatives of the former Yachting Victoria (YV) including the establishment of the WGIS Committee in 2012.

Cherry Birch was elected to the YV Board, took on the Chair of WGIS in its infancy and is now the President of the YV board, a first across all states. In recent years, the range and diversity of opportunities for females to participate more fully in the sport of sailing has expanded to see females occupy roles across Victoria as sailors – elite, novice and aspiring, race officials, instructors and coaches, committee members and leaders, mentors and supporters.

The Victorian Sailing Awards confirm the skills, passion, committment and dedication of our female membership. Congratulations to all those who have been nominated for awards and may we see many more of you being recognised in the future for all that you bring to our sport.

And speaking of the future, meet our emerging elite female sailors who are at the head of their game and working hard to do Australia proud.  Go girls!!!!

2017 Victorian Institute of Sport Squad - Australian Sailing Squad (ASS)
Eliza Solly
Laura Harding
Pip Pietramonaco
Tess Lloyd
Ella Grimshaw
Tayla Rietman
 2017 Victorian Sailing Team (VST)
Laser Radial
Claire Olding
Laura Thomson
Sarah Gleeson
Sally Danks
Olivia Nelson
Sophie Jackson
Ruby Blackwell



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