Main photo: Skiff Girls Alumni – Tash Turner, Fiona Walker, Clare Hozack & Lisa Darmanin

It literally was a day for the ladies as girls ruled and showed the strength of female sailing at the official Australian 13ft and 16ft Championships’ Ladies Day celebrations at Manly.

A function featuring some of the country’s finest women sailors was followed by the fourth and fifth heats of the nationals, which saw three young women standing at the head of the 13s pointscore tally by the end of the day.

EBIX (Jemma Hopkins & James Hopkins), Bartley Construction (Taylor Springett & Hugh Skeen) and Botany Scaffold (Sophie Hart & Bella Divola) hold down the first three spots at the halfway point of the regatta after dominating the early races.      

It was the perfect exclamation point on a red-letter day for female sailing, with many of the girls partying well into the evening as celebrations continued back at the Manly club. Ladies Day started with a morning tea forum titled Inspiring Girls and featuring Manly foursome Jessica Iles, Sarah Lee and Alanna and Georgia Clancy. Host Lisa Darmanin then took to the microphone to interview former Manly junior and current Sail GP star Lucy Copeland and Zoe Dransfield, back in the skiff fleet after stints in the 29ers and 470s.  Young female sailors were encouraged to ask questions and took the opportunity with both hands.

“Lisa received a lot of the questions and you could see the girls were so impressed that someone could go right through the juniors and onto the world stage,” Iles said. “Sailing is unique in that you can approach people who are state or national or world champions and have that close connection with them. “There are not many sports where you can get to learn from the best in the business. “But I think the thing that impressed me the most was that at the end of the day there were a number of teenage girls who have been sailing in the juniors and are now interested in sailing in the 13s.”Like all sports, the challenge is keeping girls in sport from a certain age and hopefully events like these encourage that ongoing participation.”

Clancy added: “When we were coming through the juniors there were a few of us and not many transitioned into the senior classes, but hopefully now with some good guidance and good role models we can see even more come through.

“The club is doing a good job in promoting the classes and you can see that with the number of girls coming through in the 13s.”

Ladies Day festivities then moved onto Celebrating Women on Deck, with Manly alumni Clare Hozack, Fiona Harris and Tash Turner discussing how the 16s has evolved and the future of women in the class.

Hozack, who sailed skiffs between 2003-11 and was the sixth woman registered in the 16s class, recalled the early challenges and struggles. She said: “I was both discouraged and heavily supported by my male peers – from telling me I’d be too small and too weak to ever sail a skiff, to donating their prize money to support me going to Europe in my dinghy, and the club giving me boat storage for free. “Hubble had me steer every race Nathan Wilmot couldn’t make it for years and the worst I did at any level, including nationals, was third. “But because I was always a fill-in, I don’t actually know what I could have achieved, but it was good to show the fleet, which only had one other female skipper back then, that women were perfectly capable of handling it.”

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the tremendous send-off given the 13 and 16  girls as they headed out for heats four and five of the Australian Championships. When the spray settled, three local females – Hopkins, Springett and Hart – held down the top three spots on the overall pointscore tally.

In the 16s fleet, Dransfield (Southerly), Georgia Clancy (Outback Marine), Capital Brewing Co (Iles), Eva Attwood (MH44), Matilda Lang (Edenda), Shead (Marilyn Sorensen), (Amy Hargrave), Weathertex (Jess Rivers) and Bella Group (Georgia Steenson) are flying the flag for female skippers and crew.  

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by Adam Lucius

Photos Sail Media