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Gladwell's Line: A big fortnight for Women .. Sydney Hobart Furore

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 18 Jan 2019 17:46 PST 19 January 2019
Helena Sanderson (14yrs) and Jack Honey (17yrs) (NZL) - Youth Mixed - Race 6 - Day 3 - 2019 Int Tornado Class World Championships presented by Candida. January 7, 2019 © Richard Gladwell

The Tornado Worlds finished last week. It was a Regatta for the Ages and Attitude

All ages - from Youth to Senior. The youngest helm was 14yrs old - the oldest 68 years young.

For Kiwis, the notable result was the performance of 68yr old double Olympic medalist Rex Sellers and son Brett - they placed 4th - just a single point off third. They staged a great recovery from two alphabet scores on Day 2, winning two races including the last.

It was a fantastic example of "never say die". Aboard a coach/photo boat at the pin end of the start line on the final race, Rex Sellers fired out as the most leeward boat with his game-face on, and there was never a doubt who was going win that race. What happened behind the two Sellers was going to determine the final place on the podium.

That place was taken by Estela Jentsch - daughter of Int Tornado class President, Jurgen Jentsch, who was also competing in the Takapuna-hosted Worlds with his wife Sarah as crew.

At 17 years old Estela was competing in her third World Championship. With crew Daniel Brown (21yrs) they finished in third overall, as they did in the 2018 Worlds, and were again top Mixed crew.

Nine of the 23 entries in the Takapuna Worlds were Mixed crews. Ten years ago at the same venue Carolijn Brouwer (NED) took on the men at the Tornado Worlds, but more of her current success later.

The first Mixed crew in the Tornado to win the World title was Roland and Nahid Gabler (GER) back in 2010 before [then] ISAF had "discovered" the Mixed Multihull event.

Four of the nine Mixed crews at Takapuna were female helms and were all very impressive.

Remember the Tornado is a bigger boat than the Nacra 17 - being 20ft long - compared to 17ft 2"; beamier at 9ft 11" to 8ft 6"; and with 72sq ft more sail area. Designed by Rodney March in 1967 (and selected by the then IYRU after a trial series) the Tornado is a heavier, more brutal boat than World Sailing's Olympic Mixed Multihull darling - the foiling Nacra 17.

Aside from Estela Jentsch, 14-year-old Helena Sanderson along with Jack Honey (17) was a standout. This mixed youth crew from the Bay of Islands sailed an over-weight 20-year-old boat, with a combined crew weight of just 110kg. There are Olympic Finn class sailors heavier than that!

The remarkable aspect of their sailing was not so much their places (they finished second in the Youth division), but their boat handling was excellent. You could see when they did get under pressure that Helena Sanderson kept her cool and sailed very courageously.

We've made the point before, but only one of the sailing crew of the Emirates Team NZ America's Cup winning crew started their sailing in Auckland. Most came from the provinces, and excellent development programs run to identify and finesse young sailors.

These young sailors come out of the regions with a quality that can never be coached - "Attitude".

We saw that phenomenon again off Takapuna in the Tornado Worlds.

Stop and think for a moment about how much real sailing experience can a 14-year-old female can acquire in the short years they have trod a progression path?

Most 14-year-old girls are looking to another year in the Optimists, not helming a 20ft ex-Olympic catamaran from the trapeze. Good trapezing technique and confidence on the wire takes years to build up. Helena is a natural.

Similarly for Estela Jentsch - at 17yrs old and on her third Worlds, she too started sailing a Tornado from the wire at a similar age to Helena. She won the Mixed division in the 2016 Tornado Worlds, sailing as crew for the 2019 World Champion, Brett Burvill.

And that is not to forget the fine efforts of Elly Warren (NZL), also helming, who finished 13th overall and fourth in the Mixed team series.

As Sharon Ferris-Choat told a media group in Hamilton Island Race Week when asked how to progress women's sailing: "We can't be sitting on the side of the boat and making up the numbers. We need to get women into critical roles."

To our eyes, a rather diminutive 14-year old helming from the backend of a 20ft catamaran is a critical role. It is no surprise that Helena also hails from the Bay of Islands as does Sharon Ferris-Choat. Attitude seems to be in the water in the North.

Don't miss Suzanne McFadden's excellent story,[ click here ], on three female generations of the Ferris family competing at the upcoming Bay of Islands Sailing Week.

Rolex Sydney Hobart furore

On the water, the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart developed into a Battle Royal between the five supermaxis, which dropped to four after the withdrawal of Scallywag with a broken bowsprit.

The remaining four lead swapped all the way to the finish in Hobart. Eventually, the old champion Wild Oats XI - who seems to be unbeatable over the last stretches of the course from Tasman Island - got away again and won line honours for the ninth time.

The controversy started after some remarks to the media by the skipper and owner of the second placed Black Jack claiming that Wild Oats XI had her AIS (automatic identification system) turned off, and thus she was able to give the fleet the slip on the final night.

Although Black Jack did not proceed with a protest, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race Committee, for reasons best known to itself, decided to act and protested WOXI some 12 hours after the finish. The Race Committee's complaint was dismissed after being ruled by the Int Jury to be invalid in a preliminary stage of the Hearing. That failure meant that the details of the claim were not revealed in a full Hearing.

WOXI skipper Mark Richards hotly rebuked the Race Committee's and Black Jack's claims. We feature an interview with him in this edition.

As we write the matter is still unresolved. An explanation needs to be made as to how Wild Oats XI's AIS could have been affected/fried by microwave transmission equipment operated by the Channel 7 camera crew. Without that explanation who will have media people on board before the start of the 2019 edition of the annual offshore classic?

It should be noted that AIS is a system to alert other vessels of other craft in the area. It is a safety feature, not a surveillance tool.

Outside the protest room, the comments alleging cheating by WOXI cut very deep, and are continuing almost three weeks after the finish of the race.

With the Race Committee remaining tight-lipped, the spotlight remains fixed on the crew and owners of Wild Oats XI - accompanied by jeers and innuendo from the usually nameless chatterati that they have cheated or won a race by breaking the rules.

This is a grossly unfair situation to WOXI, her crew, owners and supporters.

Make no mistake the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart race should have been a big celebration for the Oatley and Wild Oats family - with a Line Honours win in Wild Oats XI, and second in the Overall standings with a Womens crew sailing Wild Oats X.

Instead they came away having been booted where it hurts, with nary a public apology or explanation from the competitors involved, the Race Committee or the Club.

You guys are better than that.

Womens Sailing's biggest win

The AIS side-show detracted from what was one of the major stories of the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart - the 66ft (19.7mtr) Wild Oats X, sailed by a top women's crew, finishing second overall behind the locally-owned 22mtr Alive.

Wild Oats X's crew sailed under the banner of Ocean Respect Racing - Stacey Jackson, Libby Greenhalgh, Bianca Cook, Carolijn Brouwer, Denise Caffari, Faraday Rosenberg, Jade Cole, Katie Pellew, Katie Pettibon, Keryn McMaster, Sarah Crawford, Sophie Ciszek, and Vanessa Dudley. About half of the crew, including the navigator Libby Greenhalgh, were on their first or second Sydney Hobart.

Aboard the more experienced Alive about a third of the crew were on their first or second Hobart race. That included navigator Wouter Verbraak (NED), who deserved plaudits for winning a Rolex Sydney Hobart on his first attempt as navigator.

So congratulations to the womens of the Wild Oats X crew. It is not easy to jump aboard what was essentially a charter boat and then race against crews who have done the race many times in a boat with which they sail together many times in a year. Hopefully, this group of top sailors will repeat the exercise (and result) in the other major races of the sailing world and show that women don't need the application of crew-quotas to be able to make their mark on the sport and its trophy cabinets.

Sadly the half-baked allegations surrounding an electronic safety device were given too much credence by the Race Committee.

The outcome damaged the event and over-shadowed an excellent result for women's sailing - taking all factors into account it was maybe the most significant ever.

With the Olympic Sailing Regatta being turned inside out in the name of Gender Equality, it has been great to see so many Women competing in open competition and more than succeeding against very experienced male crews. The Magenta Project is working.

But sadly the panjandrums of World Sailing and their acolytes will barely notice.

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