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Been sailing all her life - Australian Women's Keelboat Regatta

by John Curnow on 9 Jun 2012
For all 22 years of her life, the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) has been happily racing away on Melbourne’s Port Phillip over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

For just about all of those, the Adams 10 has been a priority boat for the all-female crews looking to place well. 2012 is to be no different in that regard.

A lot of the intervening time, light to no wind has been the order of the day, albeit fog, mist and a large dose of frustration have also come to the fore. Typically, it is usually after a wild tempest has tried to blow the region of the face of the planet and again, 2012 has proven to be no different. 15 knots and subsiding down to fives from the East, which means variable in this part of the world, are what the forecasters are talking about for the three-day event. None the less, it is miles better than over 35, when they’d be confined to the pens at St Kilda’s Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron.

This year, it looks like the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria is out to make a serious claim, with five of the 16 vessels haling from there, even if the crews are from other clubs. In a sense, they’ll be led by the little Scampi 30, Nouannie, who have been winners in many of the last few years. Unlike other regattas, however, the winners from IRC, Australian Measurement System (AMS) and Performance Handicap System (PHS) all share equal glory and this is the way the event’s founder, Gai Clough, wanted it to be all that time ago.

David Ellis, the owner/driver of the very well campaigned Archambault A31, Penfold Audi Sport, has given the keys to his pride and joy to Coleen Darcey from Hobart, Tasmania. Representing the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, a lot of the crew spend time on the A35, Archie. ‘It’s an Archambault family gesture, just like the French company themselves, who are now up to their third generation of boat builders’, said David. Gareth Bryant, the Dealer Principal from Penfold Audi Sport was, ‘… delighted to see the boat, with the kind of pedigree David and the crew have built up, out there yet again competing and going for gold. Good luck and happy sailing.’


After Race One you could definitely say they are clearly enjoying the 10-15kn Sou’westerlies currently running down the course, as they took out all three – IRC, AMS and PHS. I’m sure they’ll want that sort of performance to continue, but the breeze is definitely waning, presently.

‘I’m just really glad to again see friends amongst our crews from South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales. We even have one sailor from WA, Mandy McEvoy who is on board Executive Decision, so I wish them all well out on the track and know the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron will look after them back at the clubhouse’, said Linda Goldsmith, the club’s Commodore. ‘We should see three races for the day, which will be good for the quality fleet of dead keen sailors that have assembled. They’re utilising wonderful craft too, so thank you to all the owners for allowing the teams to access these well prepared and campaigned yachts. We have eight vessels racing under IRC, 14 in the ever-expanding AMS and all 16 in PHS. As a female Commodore, it is also great to see Gai’s vision continuing so strongly.’

Inside said fleet are some very seasoned skippers. Janet Dean on Jungle Juice is one of the Adams 10 hopefuls and she should be, as the money has her as the favourite to take out at least part of the regatta. She won the RMYS Lady Skippers’ race by half a leg and collected both Line Honours and Performance Handicap for her efforts. Dee Mason is a regular crewmember on board the Flying Tiger 10, Tigris, and she has taken the helm this year as Alison Binks deals with her new child. Look for Top Gun, yet another Adams 10, with the very determined Erin Foster on the tiller. They are a real threat. QED. Currently, they are well and truly on the scoreboard, as are the other Adams 10s. Sunshine is an Adams 10.6 and has Rebecca Baddenoch driving. She is a long time club person, as well as being a Partner in the law firm, Logie-Smith-Lanyon, who are event sponsors. Sabina Rosser, another long term RMYS member and who has competed in each of the previous AWKRs is driving the Radford Sprint 35, Silk. With Graham Radford doing his apprenticeship under Joe Adams, it kind of has that sort of look and feel and watch out for this vessel under AMS.

Helen Willmer is back again for 2012 and brought an entire crew from the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron to crew Mrs Overnewton. Tara McCall and the CYCA’s development squad are down to try their hand at the AWKR and they are taking the J24, Gatsby, out to meet the opposition.

One of the larger vessels out there is the Hanse 40, Kaberet. Her owner is on board crewing with the very capable Rosie Colahan and Robyn Brooke calling the shots. As a final note and probably getting the nod for dark horse, look out for Executive Decision. Grant Botica’s Adams 10 smashes just about every event it enters. For the AWKR it is being crewed by Jo Norbury’s Chikara Chicks, who have done a lot of racing together, both around the sticks and into and over Bass Strait.

Ultimately it all makes for great racing and as the weather is set to play its part, we get to watch it all unfold whilst staying dry.


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