Did you know that women are the fastest-growing demographic in the sailing world today?
The professional sailing scene is brimming with successful, highly regarded females who are making their mark on the international circuit. And their highly publicised presence is attracting more dynamic women into the sport every year.
Yet there is another flourishing sub-culture being actively embraced by women – local club racing and cruising. This type of yachting is at the heart of the sailing community throughout the world and what’s more, it’s inclusive of all skill levels and open to everyone.
Intrigued by this developing trend I decided to chat with some of Windcraft’s female boat owners to get the lowdown on their Sydney Harbour club racing and cruising experiences. I learned what draws this passionate bunch of women to this type of sport – the challenge of learning to sail and to experience their own boat, the thrill of competing, and connection to a community of cruisers and racers that they feel a part of. And just the sheer joy of sailing.
Sue and Carole – Hanse 315
Sue and Carole, owners of Hanse 315 ‘Days Like These’ learned to sail in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney Harbour through a professional sailing school and immediately bought their first yacht. That’s a big investment after a few lessons but they were hooked.
Sue says, ‘sometimes we sail two up – her size is perfect. We can manage the headsail with the autohelm on, even one up. She has plenty of room, lots of storage, a big sail locker and cockpit, two wheels and a drop-down platform – what more could we want?’
These ladies enjoy a relaxed style of racing from the Balmain Sailing Club in Sydney. They love the obligatory Summer twilight series and the Friday afternoon Winter handicap pursuit race – it’s a super calm start as there is no jockeying for position when the gun goes off. And if that wasn’t enough, they race every other Sunday in a combined clubs’ race. That’s a lot of racing.
Carole says, ‘Sue is the true sailor, she is helmsperson and I just love the social side. Friday night twilight racing is my favourite thing to do. Just being out there on Sydney Harbour racing at that time of day, then meeting for dinner, red wine and an avid discussion of the race with the other yachties is brilliant. There is such great interaction between the Balmain Sailing Club community which spans all ages and includes kids and even dogs.
Sue makes mention of the tricky conditions in Sydney Harbour. ‘It’s quite testing especially around Cockatoo, Spectacle, Snapper and Goat Islands because of the changing winds which funnel around in all directions. It can be 20 knots in one place and nothing around the corner. On top of that, the depths change quickly so it’s important to negotiate the shallows safely. The centre of Sydney Harbour is different again. It comes with its own set of challenges with other watercraft, ferries and all sorts of boats that may be racing. You really have to be on the ball!’.
As far as cruising goes, they are members of the Casual Cruising Club of Australia (CCCA) who organise weekend sail aways’ every six weeks or so in Sydney Harbour and Pittwater, a little further north. And there are always social events held locally in Lane Cove River, Glebe, Cabarita and Middle Harbour which of course, Carole loves.
Sue says, ‘we do a lot of sailing because we have the time. We even have a two-week sailing holiday on our Hanse a couple of times a year in Pittwater where we raft up with friends. It’s very relaxing and social and Pittwater is beautiful.’
What do you like about sailing in Sydney harbour Carole?
‘I’m gobsmacked by the beauty of Sydney Harbour every time we go out….where else in the world do you find a harbour like it. It’s a yachties paradise, there is always something to wonder at and you can always find shelter no matter what the weather.’
Picture by Scott Connor
The Windcraft Experience:
Great advocates of Windcraft and the Hanse brand, Sue says ‘when we had our first Hanse, the 350, Windcraft were so helpful and responsive, they did everything right. We were so impressed that we purchased our current Hanse 315 from them at the 2018 Sydney boat show.
And we have now experienced Windcraft’s reputation for backup service. You just don’t get this level of backup anywhere else. The entire Windcraft crew is extremely professional, helpful and thoughtful. There is a lot of heart and kindness behind this company and we could not be happier customers.’
Genevieve Slattery – Hanse 345
Genevieve is the proud owner of Hanse 345 ‘Genovefa’ and a long-established member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron at Kirribilli in Sydney Harbour. I’ve had `Genovefa for 6.5 years now and she is as perfect as the day she was born. I treasure her – she is my baby and I look after her’, she says.
Learning to sail in the Ladies of the Sea programme at the Squadron was the perfect introduction to yachting for Genevieve. She loved it so much she took up her husband’s suggestion to sail Ynglings, an international class design.
She says, ‘it was a dear little boat and quite soon into racing I was asked to sail in the world championships which was incredible. I came 38th but wrecked my shoulder so, I decided to look for something automatic and less wet.
I fell in love with the Hanse 345. It was clear that a boat like this had options to make life easier such as a press button winches and toilets which I had never experienced before. I was completely won over!’
Genevieve’s sailing revolves around club racing through the squadron where she competes various times during the week. She says, ‘one of my favourite races is the Tuesday Ladies twilights. I have a fantastic crew of women from all walks of life – a professor, a psychiatrist, a nurse, an ASIO employee and someone who has done 3-4 Sydney to Hobarts. Each crew member adds value in their own way. We have a lovely time at the club afterwards. And every twilight crew gets to host an evening and give out the prizes, it’s so much fun. Then there’s the Friday night twilight where I sail with my husband and a mixed crew of men and women which is different again.
In the cooler Winter months, we prefer to pleasure cruise. We tend to explore Sydney Harbour with family and friends and there is always somewhere different to go. We often end up mooring at the squadron for a bite to eat and an overnight stay.
Whether we are racing or simply cruising, Sydney Harbour really is the most magical place to sail.’
Melissa Taylor – Dehler 35 ‘Coco’
Mel says, ‘my lovely Dehler 35 ‘Coco’ was a 50th birthday present. We came across her at the Sydney Boat show in 2011 and that was it – how lucky am I.
I love the beautiful German finishes; the quality is very good – 8 years later she is still in perfect condition and just as good as the day we bought her. There have never been any major issues.’
The Taylor family uses their Dehler 35 as the multipurpose yacht that they are known for – an all-round cruiser-racer.
Can you tell me about Coco’s diversity Mel?
‘We use Coco a lot – at least twice a week. And at 35 feet she really suits our big family. I learned to sail on her as I was a complete novice and even though our three sons went through the youth programme at the Squadron, they became competent on her as well. They take her out all the time with their friends. It has been great for their confidence and we have enjoyed watching them develop yachting skills over the years.
One of our favourite things to do are the Tuesday night twilights from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. We have a great crew of four to five females and two guys. I can helm and I’m a competent yachtsperson but after many years I’ve realised it’s not my thing, so I’ve handed over the tiller to Kate McCann who loves to steer – she is well known on the circuit and has a lot of experience on 50 foot X yachts. I love doing the mainsheet now – it’s something I really enjoy. We also sail on Friday night twilights with my very experienced husband at the helm. We have a different crew and its also lots of fun.
Our new challenge is to embrace offshore cruising. Even though we spend a week cruising up and around Pittwater every year we want to push things further. The next step is to join the Cruising Division at the Squadron and do an organised trip to Port Hacking which is not too far away – I can ease myself into it to see if I enjoy it.
The Windcraft Experience:
We have only ever had good experiences with Windcraft. When we first purchased Coco, Ric Hawkins came out sailing with us until we got used to her which was really helpful. And we did the Windcraft Pittwater Owners Rally a couple of years ago, it was such a terrific community of people and very social.
Sailing on Sydney Harbour:
I love sailing on Sydney Harbour and Tuesday night twilights are iconic. Every race we round the top mark at the Sow and Pigs, to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House with the sun setting as a backdrop – it makes me feel lucky to be alive. And the craziness of it all with ferries and the cruise ships and the camaraderie of the Squadron Ladies twilights is amazing.
Sailing on Coco has given so much to our family – the racing, the challenge of learning to cruise offshore and the socialising with a fantastic community of people.’
Carole from Hanse 315 ‘Days Like This’ relates her sailing in Sydney Harbour to a few lines of a poem by William Blake:
To see the world in a grain of sand
A heaven in a wildflower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
Eternity for an hour
It was such a pleasure to hear the stories of these fabulous women who are shining a light on the sub-culture of local club racing and cruising – clearly a challenging and addictive hobby alive and well in our own, very special backyard – Sydney Harbour.