The 25th Airlie Beach Race Week is set to take place from 8th-15th August with the Schouten Passage’s team of nine women stepping outside their comfort zone to take part.
Skipper Jan Howard has entered the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club boat in the IRC Cruising division. The Benteau 40.7 crew all have extensive offshore experience with some 39 Sydney Hobart Yacht Races between them. However, regatta racing is a new discipline for this team.
Howard also knows the team will have some fierce competition in this IRC division as they battle around courses of both windward/leewards and passage races. As a result they are participating in an intensive training program in the lead up to the Race Week.
'I sail with an all-female crew in the club’s Wednesday twilight fleet-start races and then we sail on Sunday afternoon with a mixed crew in the normal club races.
IRC Cruising division entry Schouten Passage crew IRC Cruising division entry Schouten Passage crew (LtoR) - Jane Woodward, Anika Goninan, Jan Howard, Sarah Howard, Mary Holley, Sharon Lovell, Kris Anderson, Tracey Hanson, Maureen Rae. - 25th Airlie Beach Race Week
'We also have a training program during March with one of the local guys giving us some training. Then we will again have another coaching program during June just so we can polish our crew work up a bit and get used to doing the jobs that are going to be allocated,' Howard said.
An all-women crew is a passion of Howard and her friend, Mary Holley. They have developed an informal women’s mentoring and training program at their home club and have been taking out women on their boats, giving them training in the basics of sailing.
'My friend Mary and I have always sailed with mixed crews. She and her husband have one of the older style Farr 40s.
'Mary hung up her Sydney Hobart boots last year after 16 Hobart races. Since she and I are not going to do Sydney Hobarts anymore we wanted to do something at our local club level to try and encourage more women into sailing.
'Like a lot of yacht clubs, we are very short of crew. We have about 14 or 15 really good racing boats here, but sometimes they won’t go out because they don’t have enough crew. By coming out with us they can get those key, fundamental competencies, which enables them to step eventually onto other boats and be confident, useful crew members.
'About half a dozen of them that have started with us are now doing offshore racing.'
The Schouten Passage crew, which has an average age of mid-fifties, is made up of Jane Woodward, Anika Goninan, Jan Howard, Sarah Howard, Mary Holley, Sharon Lovell, Kris Anderson, Tracey Hanson, Maureen Rae.
'We just want to have fun at Airlie Beach and push ourselves outside our comfort zone,' Howard said.
On the sidelines for the regatta will be Howard’s staunch supporter, husband Rob. The experienced helmsman is now looking for a position on an IRC Racing boat.
The Notice of Race and the online entry for the nine divisions is at Airlie Race Week
Entries close Friday 1st August 2014.