Celebrating sisters in sailing on International Women’s Day

From the moment your toe hits the deck you know you are in for a treat sailing Sydney harbour.

Sapphire skies and crystal blue waters dance with a sea that sparkles and waltzes. 

The main is hoisted with a steady beat inching its way up the mast.

And there’s a quiet zephyr as the headsail unfurls with a crisp crunch giving away its status as a new sail.

The compression of the city, incessant traffic, noise, roads and construction slip away as the sails inhale the breeze, gently taking their fill, stretching to their gently rounded arcs. Slowly at first the boat skips and then with increasing acceleration we pick up speed and the hull begins to hum. 

We are happy to be on the water and at that moment there is nowhere else we want to be.

Racing routines are well established; pit, bow, trim, and helm are in place. We swing past the start boat as the Race Committee notes we’re here. As the prep flag goes up and the countdown begins, pre-start heightened senses kick in. Not a word is spoken as the boat becomes one and manoeuvres the start. It’s a passage race and the marks are up harbour. Although we’ve rounded these marks for many years, we check and recheck the course.

Over the next couple of hours there’s nothing but sailing. There’s traffic on the harbour and ferries around, a tide drawing across the course, and winds shifting in angles. There’s constant assessment of speed and position, opposition and direction as we trim for maximum speed. 

At the top mark we are prepared, the kite anxious to launch. The halyard is unhindered, the kite springs from the mast. The blue fabric – gossamer but strong – proudly crowns the boat with its optimum speed as we surge along. The boat is calm as we put in a gybe; voices are low and we know what’s coming next.

There’s nowhere else we’d rather be. We are five up – five women racing on Sydney harbour. 

We sail through the hot afternoon traversing the harbour from point to point as race positions become established. We reach for the water bottles while the sea breeze cools us down. 

We cross the finish line under kite smiling broadly and send out a thank you wave to the Race Committee; we are finished for today, exhilarated and exhausted.

We race to win, and we race hard but there’s more to it than that. The team afloat draws on each other and melds as a team. As a group of women, strong ties of sisterhood emerge and are forged. There’s a sharing and deep bond of support which over the years make friendships deep as the harbour. 

So, while I make the call for tack, hoist, and gybe, I’m grateful to sail on this harbour we have, but most of all I’m grateful to sail with these sisters in sailing.

Ruth Lawrence
Balmain Sailing Club 


Main photo by Marg’s Yacht Photos