The muscle factor comes into play in the TP class, one of the reasons these hard core racing machines are handled predominantly by men. At the inaugural TP52 Southern Cross Cup being held on Port Phillip in Victoria this weekend there is a handful of women among the 100 crew contesting the grand prix series opener.
TP52SCC Jade Mackay hard at work on Calm 2
John Williams and Graeme Ainley’s Calm, Michael Martin’s Frantic from Newcastle and Jason Van Der Slot’s Calm 2 all have a woman on the team, and all bring different expertise to the campaign.
TP52 Southern Cross Cup, Sandringham Yacht Club, Melbourne (AUS). 10/02/2013. Female sailors Elizabeth Williams (Calm), Emma Wilson (Frantic) and Jade Mackay (Calm 2)
Jade Mackay’s role is mid bow on Sandringham Yacht Club boat, Calm 2, managing sails and sail changes. She believes she’s completed the most Rolex Sydney Hobarts on a TP for a woman – five – and has been on the Calm program for the past three years, sailing the original TP Calm and now Van Der Slot’s new toy.
'Mid-bow is pretty challenging when the breeze is up,' she admits. A regular weekly gym session with the crew is part of the commitment to racing a boat of this pedigree.
'The more these boats develop the more muscle they take,' Mackay reckons.
At this regatta the owners introduced a crew limit as well as a cap on the number of professionals each of the eight boats could carry.
For Elizabeth Williams, navigator on Calm, this means as well as running the computers and stepping in to call tactics when her dad, John, takes a break from the wheel, Williams is down inside the boat in the ‘sewer’ pulling the enormous kite back into the boat at each drop.
Navigating is less physical than Mackay’s role, but long days on the water and the mental drain of hours of concentration take their toll.
TP52 Southern Cross Cup, Sandringham Yacht Club, Melbourne (AUS). 08/02/2013. TP52 Calm owner John Williams with daughter Elizabeth
'Dad and my brothers have always sailed big boats and when they needed a fill in they could rely on me to turn up, even in foul weather, because I’m family,' said Liz dockside at SYC.
Her advice for women wanting to enter this league of sailing is, 'know what you can offer and put yourself out there. These are not the sort of boats you get a ride on randomly.'
Emma Wilson does ‘strings’ on Frantic, the 2004 model TP, which means she pulls the halyards that hoist the sails. Going into day three Wilson says the energy level is still high. 'It’s great being so active. We have found the level of competition here really exciting; we are picking up new things every day.'
Gavin Brady, helmsman on Karl Kwok’s Team Beau Geste from Hong Kong, has plenty of Northern Hemisphere experience in the TP52 class and says the United States is where women are chiefly racing TPs.
'It’s technique more than grunt. These boats are about finesse and on our boat we say ‘grind smarter not faster’', says Brady from his perch at the top of the pointscore going into today’s final races. 'It’s great to see a few women getting in the mix at this regatta.'
Mackay hopes to see a few more at the next stage of this exciting new series, 'I’m all for supporting more women in sailing.'
A new Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series endorsed by Yachting Victoria and created by the Women and Girls in Sailing Committee is receiving great support from the major clubs. The umbrella pointscore is designed to develop participation and more skilled women who could very well find themselves part of a TP52 crew down the track.