Mikasa Women’s Challenge 2007

Competing in the Ladies Day Race this year seemed to raise a few questions from other competitors. Hopefully this is a little insight into our day onboard Estate Master.

MYC Ladies Day is a great way to celebrate your birthday, I have found over the last four years. Always wanting to challenge myself I once again decided not to do the race on my own boat Animus so spoke to Lisa Hill about joining forces again. This would be a new challenge as Lisa and Martin had just purchased the new Farr 40 Estate Master. The reason for competing in these races is to challenge not just myself but also other women sailors. It is an opportunity to sail a boat I would not get the chance to sail otherwise. The opportunity to prove that we can do any position and take the boat out without the guys is important. One day hopefully we will see the results of these races with more women racing competitively as they get the opportunity to learn at these events. And maybe, just maybe I will tell stories of the days when Guys use to avoid me on the race course or at mark rounding’s as soon as they see who is steering and how many females are onboard Animus. Admittedly this is starting to happen less and less so maybe it is just around the corner.

With one week to go we were looking pretty good with a few of our regular Ladies Day crew coming together. Unfortunately this was not to be so the stress set in of finding 12 crew. I was lucky to have the support of several of my Animus crew. They include:  Marlene Barry has sailed with me on and off for around a year. Initially in Pit but just recently taking on more responsibility and learning trim. With a long way to go she knew she would have a big challenge ahead of her onboard Estate Master with lots to learn. Tais Froggatt I had met two weeks earlier. So enthusiastic it was contagious as she quickly stepped into Pit doing everything we told her. New to the sport she had a lot to learn in such little time. Lorna Jackson who has done a 24hour race onboard Animus jumped at the chance to join us in trim. Having spent most of her time on bow it was time to challenge herself and fast. Even though we knew each other she had done more miles offshore with my father than with me.  Sam Phillis who recently moved to Sydney and started sailing on Animus about a month ago had done some cruising but has been thrown in the deep end onboard Animus. As it was my Birthday we were also aiming to have some fun. So stepping into Mainsheet was my two handed partner in crime Kate Cooper. A skiff sailor who has been sailing Animus when she can. Her strength was exactly what we needed and I knew she would handle the situation as well as sitting next to me. Kate is aware of exactly how much pressure I put on myself having been a part of the Women’s team I took to Melbourne last year. As Sam and I talked through the possible crew on many occasions we decided to ask Anja who she worked with. Anja Thomson had sailed Farr 40’s before and currently sails Etchells. Her addition to the crew would prove crucial in the lead up to the race as we lost several of our main crew members from past Ladies Days. Three weeks before the race I attended a friends Birthday Party where I met Kate Downing. Kate had sailed Farr 40’s and would become our new Bowchick.

With the crew getting closer to being finalized Anja and I spoke about who would be best to stand behind me and direct the entire show so I could concentrate as much as possible on steering. There was only one choice and it was Nicky Souter. As much as we all knew that Nicky would do a brilliant job it was also a chance for us to catch up. Having sailed against each other as kids, but never together it was fun to have someone onboard who remembered my 18th Birthday Party. Even with several crew pulling out for good reasons we almost had our team when Anja jumped to the rescue asking two of her friends the week of the race including her Etchell skipper Louisa and Rikke who was new to sailing but extremely keen to join us. The crew list is now final from Bow with a couple of days to spare: Kate D, Anja, Lisa, Tais, Sam, Rikke, Lorna, Louisa, Marlene, Kate C then Nicky and I on the stern.

The Day of the Race: With a meeting time of 10am we handed around the crew shirts, hats and rigged the boat. Our support team decided the weather was not suitable so Animus was left on the mooring as the main supporters being my Father, Martin Hill and Marty Barry decided to take out the MHYC Starters boat to keep an eye on the MHYC boats. Thanks to MHYC who allowed this to happen as we had several camera’s taking photos of the day.

Leaving the Marina with the support team watching closely we headed out for a short practice. The motor out was the perfect time to sit in a circle and introduce ourselves, with the girls straight to the point and saying just their names. It was suppose to be an easy practice but things don’t always go to plan. As we got the main about two feet from the top of the mast we realized we had a problem. It was not going up the rest of the way as it should so we tried to pull it down with out much luck. We had only one option, someone had to go up the rig. Kate Downing was straight downstairs to put on her harness as we organized who would be doing what to get her up there. Kate had to spend a decent length of time up there to try and solve the problem and once this was fixed we set about going out to North Head to give ourselves room to do a lot of Gybes downwind. With crew switching positions to work out the most effective way to sail together. It was now time to head to the start. The food and water was passed around whilst we listened to some music and got to know each other

We soon found out that Triple M were having a countdown on the radio ‘Songs the Bridge would have on its Ipod”! Needless to say we listened to this all day and found that “We built this City” seemed to still be in some heads on Monday morning. Does it get better than this on your Birthday? Before the start Martin Hill and Morgan White who assists the Hills in looking after Estate Master came over in the run-about to make sure we were ready. Nicky decided to call a tack at this point so as I started to turn the boat I decided to have some fun and get as close as possible to Martin. He does not get to see his boat from that angle often and it was worth it as I got a big reaction from Martin, Morgan and Nicky as we had not even started the race and we were having close calls.

The race itself went according to plan. We all would have liked a more breeze; it did mean that we were able to listen to the radio whilst racing which added to the fun atmosphere onboard the boat. As much as this crew included a lot of rookies they tried their hardest at their new positions and this is what I ask of them. Next time they know how much they have to learn before they are put in the same position as we continue to improve the standard we race at. These races are about giving other women the opportunities to learn new skills whilst having fun and I could not do this without the unwavering support of Martin and Lisa Hill. For the last three years they have let me steer their yachts with an all-female crew. A big ask considering the tight racing program they have and how much work goes into maintaining the Estate Master yachts in the top form they are in. It is especially amazing considering up until one recent Thursday Night Martin and I had never sailed together. I could not do it without them so thank you Martin and Lisa for believing in what we do.

After the finish the crew started packing up the boat straight away, as committed as they had been all day. It was not till Martin came along with some Champagne to help kick-start the Birthday Celebrations that they stopped to relax. Once the drinks were onboard and the Headsail was dropped the crew got together to sing Happy Birthday. Without stopping at MHYC we all got into cars to head straight to Manly for the Presentation and to catch up with friends on other boats. Yet again it had been a fantastic event. So thankyou to the organizers as I know how much effort it takes. To the sponsors thankyou so much for supporting Women’s sailing. In the last ten years it has been amazing to see the number of competitors grow. Competing in this event as a Teenager in Flying Elevens then having the opportunity to compete in the last four years on an Adams 10, Sydney 38 and Farr 40 has had a huge impact onboard Animus. It is no longer a surprise to find that we have more Females then Males onboard on most occasions. Hopefully we will see you at the NextLadies day on Sydney Harbour.

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