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Australian Women's Keelboat Regatta - Day 1: Tasmanian sailors turn up the heat

by Di Pearson / AWKR media 10 Jun 2023 02:21 PDT 9-12 June 2023
Spinnaker run with dramatic Melbourne city backdrop - Australian Women's Keelboat Regatta © Andrea Francolini / AWKR

Tasmanian sailors Jo Breen and Orla Gray turned up the heat on the opening day of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron's (RMYS) 31st Australian Women's Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) with three windward/leeward races sailed on Port Phillip today.

Both teams are representing the Derwent Sailing Squadron in Sandy Bay and while Breen, a notable sailor, has been here before and won division, this is a first time for Gray and her young crew.

Gray skippered the appropriately named S80, Hot Shot, to wins in Races 1 and 2, in the S80 division and in open Division 2. Race 3's results are pending the outcome of protests in all divisions.

"We came to Melbourne early and practiced on Thursday and Friday because none of us have ever sailed an S80 or at this regatta before. In fact, I had never seen an S80 before we came here. We mostly sail on a Farr 40 in Hobart," Gray said.

"We are stoked to have done so well. It was completely unexpected, especially because we've heard about the reputation of this regatta. I love the S80 because you can match race your opponents and you know where you are at in a one-design division," Gray said.

"Onshore is awesome too. You get off the boat, you have the BBQ back at the Club while you debrief and the camaraderie is great," added Gray who competed at the Tasmanian Women's keelboat regatta and were told the AWKR was the next step.

Gray knows they cannot rest on their laurels though. Their wins could change Hot Shot's handicap and she is only holding a one point lead over the Sophie Davidson skippered 24, Vice Versa from South Australia and is two and a half points ahead of the S80 Revolution (Sarah Clough).

In the S80 division, Hot Shot leads Revolution by three points and Jenny Simondson's Outlaw from Darwin.

Meanwhile, Breen skippered Spartan, a borrowed Beneteau 34.7, to two wins in Division 1.

"It was a fantastic day. Really tight racing with Tracy Richardson on the Adams 10 (2Extreme) and with Claire (Olding) on Vertigo (Olding's father's Summit 35 from Victoria which she races on and steers regularly)," Breen said.

"We're using Spartan which we also had last year, so happy it was loaned to us again and to have another crack. We've got a team of eight, of which six are the same as the crew who came here with me last year.

"The best thing for us is bringing us all together, including some people I race in Hobart. I know a few people here now, it's got great camaraderie, it's a great regatta," says Breen who is in the process of actively looking around to buy an offshore boat for the 2025 Melbourne Osaka Double Handed Race. She finished second in the last one in 2018.

Breen said of the potential competition for the trophies, "Tracy (2Xtreme) and Clare (Vertigo) are the main people for me to watch here. Tracy sailed really well last year and won from Clare on countback."

Of Race 2, where there are numerous protests that will affect the outcome of Race 3, Breen explained, "A mark was changed during the course. Although we were told about it, it confused some entrants as to which mark to round."

Among those who rounded the incorrect mark are some of the usual frontrunners, Richardson among them.

Competing yachts are representing Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, NSW and the Northern Territory.

Trophies are awarded to the various winners, including prizes for: Novice Helm; Most Improved Over the Series; Sportsmanship; Rohan Brownlee Leadership and Endeavour Award and Best Performed Owner/Skipper.

Full results available here.

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