Main photo: Jessica Iles driving Capital Brewing

The smiles said it all.

Minutes after crossing the finish line in the sixth long course heat of the season, the first three females to “trifecta” a club race at Manly 16ft Skiff Club shared a special moment 100 years in the making.

Winning skipper Sarah Lee, on IMEI II, turned to see Zoe Dransfield (Southerly) and Jessica Iles (Capital Brewing Co) behind her in second and third place respectively – and the trio could not wipe the joy from their faces.  Since racing began at Manly in 1923, the first three places in a race have never been filled by women.

“I was so excited to cross the line and realise there were two female skippers heading to the finish behind me,” Lee said. “It’s such an awesome moment. The three of us were all smiles and congratulating each other on shore.

“The quality of female sailors in the fleet has really picked up, which makes sense given that we’ve got more females entering the class. There’s no reason why women can’t sail skiffs competitively.”

Dransfield is still buzzing days after the 1-2-3 finish. “I think it’s great what Manly’s done, with the new female prizemoney incentive encouraging more women to jump into the 16s,” she said.  “And it’s great to shake up the norm and have three female skippers beat the guys. Female participation and talent is so much stronger in the juniors and that’s translating to the skiffs.”

Iles added: “I’ve never doubted the ability of the female sailors and it’s great having Sarah and Zoe competing when they can. “There’s lot of potential with the female sailors in the 13s coming through, so hopefully results like this will encourage them to keep moving through to the 16s.”

It now begs the question: Are we getting closer to a female skipper winning the Australian 16ft Championship for the first time?

“Winning a nationals is not easy and everything needs to align at the right time, but it’s definitely possible,” Lee said. “Being a girl doesn’t stop you winning races.”

Just to make it an extra special day for Lee and crew Trent Barnabas and Rob Napper, Saturday’s win was the crew’s first outing in the new IMEI boat. In a light and lumpy easterly, they started well and extended their lead the longer the race went.

Lee said: “It went pretty smoothly. The boat felt great. “We were in the top bunch at the top mark and battled with Zoe for a while before we eventually found ourselves out in front. “We sailed well as a team, picked some great shifts and communication on board was good.”

The girls went one-two on handicap, with Capital Brewing Co taking the honours from Southerly, Joe Walsh Rigging (Max Downey) and Employment Hero (Will Divola).

Manly Skiffs is celebrating 100years (1923-2023) and will be hosting the Skiff Nationals 7-14th January 2023,au

by Adam Lucius

Photos SailMedia