Women Skippers bound for Hobart and beyond

by Rosie Colahan

Jo Harpur and Jo Breen_sw
Jo Harpur and Jo Breen_sw
Sister and brother Annette and Andrew Hesselmans
Sister and brother Annette and Andrew Hesselmans
Sue Bumstead
Sue Bumstead
Sibby Izhofer_smh
Sibby Izhofer_smh
Lisa Blair
Lisa Blair
Karen Young_credit Tracey Johnstone
Karen Young_credit Tracey Johnstone

Southern hemisphere summer and sailors from around Australia and beyond are gearing up for the annual Christmas dash to Hobart, with the 73rd edition of the Sydney to Hobart (S2H),  the 35th running of the Melbourne to Hobart (M2H) Westcoaster and the most recently added event, the 11th Launceston to Hobart (L2H) race. 

This year will see record numbers of women at the helm and as boat owners for both the Sydney east coast race and the Melbourne west coast event.

On the ‘wild side’, the Westcoaster fleet will see 11 boats amongst the 22 boat fleet, testing out their skills and equipment in preparation for the March start of the double-handed Melbourne Osaka Cup 2018.  Female helms are well represented amongst the Osaka entrants, with four female co-skippers racing on board three Osaka-bound boats.

Joanne Harpur, owner of Jeanneau Sunfast 36 Spirit of Freya will be joining forces as co-skipper aboard Joanne Breen’s S&S 34 Morning Star from Hobart.  Annette Hesselmans will be racing with her brother Andrew on their Radford 12.2 Red Jacket based at Hobson’s Bay Yacht Club (HBYC). Sue Bumstead will be co-skipper on Grant Dunoon’s Moody 54 Try Booking from Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC).

On the east coast, the Sydney to Hobart has six boats entered with nominated female helms. Visiting Clipper Round the World race boats with female skippers, Australian Wendy Tuck on Sanya Serenity Coast and Nikki Henderson on Visit Seattle will contest the S2H race as part of the All Australian leg of the Clipper event.

Local owner Zoe Taylor will be at the helm of her recently purchased Cookson 12 G.O.

Previous 2003 Osaka entrant and return entrant for 2018, Sibby Ilzhofer, will skipper her Farr 47 Dare Devil to contest this year’s S2H race fully crewed. Sibby’s previous Osaka saw her onboard the Hick 50 Funnel Web with her then husband Ivan McFadyen.

In 2015, Funnel Web was sold to Lisa Blair who renamed the boat Climate Action Now and recently completed an epic journey to take out the World Record as the first solo woman to circumnavigate Antartica. Co-skipper Libby Greenhalgh from the UK, a veteran of the successful all female Team SCA for the 2014-15 Volvo Round the World race and a founder of the Magenta project will join Lisa for the race. Together they will lead a team of four professional sailors who will mentor four less experienced sailors, to be the first all female team for 16 years and the only all female team in the 2017 Sydney Hobart.

Amongst the four emerging sailors chosen to complete the Climate Action Now crew, former Victorian and now Queensland sailor Karen ‘Kaz’ Young was thrilled to be chosen from 170 applicants. Having followed Lisa’s Antartic circumnavigation via her blog and facebook, Kaz was further inspired by Lisa’s speaking engagement in Mooloolaba on her return. Kaz takes up her story –

‘I am heading to Sydney on the 18 December for five days of intensive training with the mostly international crew.  We have Christmas day off and then we're racing!! So excited!!!

My background in sailing started with sailing in dinghies in Melbourne, progressing to keelboats and participating in Port Phillip bay races, includingRange series, ORCV Winter Series and three Australian Women's Keelboat Regattas. I also crewed on the Adams 66ft ‘pocket maxi’ Helsal 11with awesome people including Noel May, Neville Rose and Simon Dryden, building ocean miles in Ocean Racing Club of Victoria (ORCV) Bass Strait races, including two Melbourne to Hobart Westcoasters and a Melbourne Vanuatu race. I also volunteered on the ORCV committee helping out with race management for a few years.’

‘With the arrival of kids and moving to Queensland, I did not have the opportunity to sail a lot, but over the last few years, I have competed in Port Douglas Race Week Regatta and completed all levels of the Women's Keelboat Skills Development program at my home club Mooloolaba Yacht Club. My goal now is to buy a boat to race locally, compete in major regattas and events and encourage more women to be involved in the sport! I dream of competing in the future in the two-handed Melbourne to Osaka Race on board my own yacht to promote more women’s sailing.’

With entries for the forthcoming 2018 Melbourne Osaka Cup closed in June 2017 and now only 100 days to the start, Kaz may be adding her name to the registered expressions of interest for the next scheduled event in 2023.

The arrival in Hobart of boats from three separate ocean races at this time of the year, along with the city being in festival mode, makes attendance in Tasmania’s capital, a not-to-be-missed event. The round the world Clipper fleet is joining in the Sydney Hobart race, but this year, Melbourne will provide a buzz in it’s own race village, hosting the designated stopover for the Volvo Round the World race 2017-18  from 27 December. From the world’s oceans, several Australian women from the successful all female Team SCA in the 2014-15 Volvo Round the World race, will be arriving on board various boats with mixed crews. Local Sophie Ciszek from Mornington Yacht Club is on Mapfre, Stacey Jackson on Vestas 11th hour and Liz Wardley on Turn the Tide on Plastic, the only boat crew with a 50-50 mixed crew of five males/five females led by the only female skipper in the race, Britain’s Dee Caffari. Dutch sailor and Australian resident Carolijn Brouwer is also a crew member on Dongfeng.

The leadership demonstrated and the mentoring opportunities provided by our current female sailors will no doubt translate into more women participating in iconic events both at home and around the world and encourage more women to consider boat ownership.

Fair winds and great sailing to all our sailing sisters getting out there and taking on the world of ocean racing. 

We will follow your progress with much interest as you inspire and challenge others to participate and push themselves beyond their own boundaries to achieve their dreams.

As Sir Chay Blyth, paratrooper, adventurer, sailor and founder of the British Steel Challenge captured so eloquently - ‘Seize the opportunity in the lifetime of the opportunity’ 

Get on board now!




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