Please select your home edition
Zhik 2024 March - LEADERBOARD

Short-handed female crew to line up for Melbourne to Hobart Race

by Di Pearson 8 Oct 2018 21:51 PDT 27 December 2018
Red Jacket at start of M-O © Martin Vaughan

The 5500 nautical mile Sundance Marine Melbourne Osaka Double-Handed Yacht Race and return journey left Annette Hesselmans still champing at the bit, so she solved the problem by forming a short-handed female crew to take part in the Melbourne to Hobart (the Westcoaster) in the new Four + Autohelm division.

Both races are run by the progressive Ocean Racing Club of Victoria, which continues to come up with inventive ways to keep backsides on boats in our increasingly busy lives. It means an autohelm and a maximum of four crew can race as part of the main fleet for all offshore races emanating from the Club.

Hesselmans and crew are also the first ever all-female crew ever in a race that allows her, 20 year-old daughter Sophie Snijders, Sue Bumstead and Robyn Brooke – all experienced offshore sailors, to sail in their preferred configuration – shorthanded. All have sailed the Melbourne Osaka Race, with the exception of Snijders, who did the return journey with her mum and Snijders' boyfriend Jack.

In the 440 nautical mile Melbourne to Hobart, the four women will race the Radford 12.2m Red Jacket, owned by Hesselmans (and her brother Andrew), a remote nurse whose job takes her to locations such as Weipa, a mining town on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast in Queensland, where she is this week.

A Victorian, who calls Koonyum Range near Byron Bay home these days, says: "One of the reasons I'm doing the Melbourne to Hobart is to encourage other women to get out there and develop their confidence - have courage to give it a go – that's the whole rationale.

"It's about trying to raise the profile of women in sailing – that's what I'm trying to do – to tell women to have a go and have confidence in themselves. Encourage them to push out of comfort zone and not be afraid."

Hesselmans and Bumstead forged their relationship during the latest edition of the quadrennial Melbourne-Osaka in which the latter raced Victorian Water Tracks with Grant Dunoon, with whom she has done many other ocean miles.

"She is an incredible person and sailor. I am thrilled she is doing the Melbourne to Hobart with us," she says of the Victorian who is currently working and lives in Airlie Beach, Queensland.

"Robyn (Brooke, from Victoria) did a previous Melbourne-Osaka with George Shaw. She is an inspiration to me – she's confident and bubbly."

As skipper for the Melbourne-Osaka, Hesselmans says, "It was a relief to start after two years of preparations and commitment. Sailing with my husband was truly special, as we knew each other's abilities. I had Gerry's support and he respected my decisions and offered welcome ideas.

"In contrast, I brought Red back with two young people who hadn't sailed offshore before, so I felt a greater sense of responsibility. I am very proud of what the three of us achieved, as it was a challenging voyage with constant squalls, headwinds - and crossing the equator with the notorious Doldrums.

"Sophie really stood up to the challenge. It was lovely to see her grow in confidence. I feel like I've proven myself too – 4,500 miles to Townsville. I am capable," says Hesselmans, a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster.

"Sophie has bought her own yacht and wants to sail around the world with Jack. They wanted experience to do that, so sailing back from Japan was perfect. She's always loved the ocean and she's intuitive with sailing and competent."

Sophie, who lives in Brunswick Heads (near Byron Bay in NSW), has done myriad ocean miles with her parents, who met sailing and have virtually owned a yacht since.

"I think the four of us will make a formidable team," states Hesselmans. "A crew of four is extravagant really."

And newly elected ORCV Commodore, Martin Vaughan, concurs. "We're pleased to see Annette and her crew as the first Four + Autohelm entry and the first female entry ever in the race. They are very experienced sailors and this division suits them down to the ground, as it does others we know are entering," he says.

On the challenges of sailing four-up, Hesselmans says: "Red Jacket has shallow bilge, so gets quite wet. Sue and Robyn are used to sailing on five-star boats, so their challenge will be moving to backpacker accommodation! But we're looking forward to good food, good conversation, to enjoying the sail and being open in our communication."

Red Jacket is currently at Airlie Beach. Once it arrives in Manly, Brisbane, Hesselmans will have the life raft serviced, fix leaky windows and do other jobs before the boat leaves for Melbourne.

As the four are not used to sailing together, to train, she says, "We'll do Brisbane to Sydney or Sydney to Melbourne delivery together and work out watch systems etc. for the race. We're planning to get Red to Melbourne by the beginning of December for final preparations.

"Are we looking forward to the race? We can't wait," ends Hesselmans.

Find out more at

Related Articles

2024 Apollo Bay Race
Tactics and determination secures Valiant the win Valiant, an Adams 10.6 skippered by Jason Farnell from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, is the overall winner of this year's Melbourne to Apollo Bay Race. Posted on 27 May
Near record fleet for 2024 Apollo Bay Race
The ORCV Coastal Championship decider As the sailing season draws to a close, offshore sailors are now focusing on the Melbourne to Apollo Bay Race which starts at 9am on Saturday the 25th of May. Posted on 21 May
KISS 2024 is open now to “Count Her In”
The third running of the Keelboat Introduction to Sailing Savvy program Yes it is on again! The third running of the Keelboat Introduction to Sailing Savvy (KISS) program is now open for registrations. Posted on 8 Apr
Ginan wins prestigious King Island Trophy
Turquoise blue skies and seas greeted the nearly 200 sun-drenched yachties Turquoise blue skies and seas, local cheeses, freshly caught crayfish and sizzling rib-eye steak greeted the nearly 200 sun-drenched yachties when they finished the 2024 Melbourne to King Island Ocean Yacht Race over the weekend. Posted on 10 Mar
Ocean racers set course for King Island
The fleet will set off from Queenscliff bound for Grassy Harbour On 9th March 2024, the 114 nautical mile race across Bass Strait, organised by the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria and supported by the King Island Boat Club, starts. Posted on 29 Feb
J/111 wins wild West Coaster M2H Race
The Melbourne to Hobart is one of the world's great ocean races If the sailors participating in RSHR thought they had a rough go of it getting around the famous "Organ Pipes" formation on the northeast corner of Tasman Island, then the racers in what is known as "the West Coaster" certainly had it as bad, if not worse Posted on 9 Jan
2023 ORCV Melbourne to Hobart Final Wrap
Soaking up some Tasmanian summer sun after the Westcoaster Skippers, sailors, supporters and plenty of locals finally got to soak up some Tasmanian summer sun in the Willie Smith Race Village in Hobart on Sunday afternoon for the presentation of trophies for the 2023 Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race. Posted on 2 Jan
Alien wins fourth Heemskirk Perpetual Trophy
And Peccadillo smashes multihull record in the 51st Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race After a gruelling last 24 hours of sailing in winds gusting greater than 40 knots and battling 4 to 5 metre seas along the South Coast of Tasmania, Alien, skippered by Justin Brenan from the Royal YC of Victoria, was victorious in the intense battle Posted on 30 Dec 2023
Peccadillo leads 2023 M2H Race
Ginan, Lord Jiminy and Ryujin battle for Heemskirk Perpetual Trophy and line honours Peccadillo leads while Ginan, Lord Jiminy and Ryujin battle for Heemskirk Perpetual Trophy and line honours Posted on 29 Dec 2023
Ryujin leads on line honours - 2023 M2H Yacht Race
Ryujin, the Sayer 12 skippered by Alex Toomey and racing fully crewed leads the race Ryujin, the Sayer 12 skippered by Alex Toomey and racing fully crewed in this year's race, is leading the race on line honours and is in fine shape on the second day of sailing in the 2023 Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race. Posted on 28 Dec 2023
North Sails Performance 2023 - FOOTERMySail SkipperMackay Boats 728x90 BOTTOM