Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series Ladies vs ships and barges
Today saw the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria (RYCV) host the second round of the 2015 Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series (PPWCS). Now in its third season, the series has been designed to not only encourage participation, but also provide real pathways for more women and girls to get into sailing. To do this, the PPWCS harnesses existing Lady Skipper and female crew races from Melbourne’s five major clubs into the one championship.
Conducted right up the top of Port Phillip in the area known as Hobsons Bay, there was always a chance of a good spectator crowd, even if the fleet size was smaller than the opening round. Cruise ships, car carriers, barges and tugs all were in operation in this busy segment of the watery expanse known in Melbourne simply as, The Bay.
All of these craft were not the only users of the Bay this morning, with a swim from Port Melbourne to Williamstown seeing the flat waters get a tad choppy as hundreds of swimmers freestyled their way to personal glory. RYCV’s Race Officer, David LeRoy, prudently fired the gun twice to announce the Answering Pennant over numeral one and buy an extra hour for the sake of space.
Of the day and the course for the Val Hodge Trophy, LeRoy said, ‘In the end we got them away exactly at 1200hrs on an axis of 340˚ and out to range of 1.5nm. For the third and final work we moved it right, to 355˚, but due to all the piers and everything, it was now 1.3nm. It was a great day’s sailing and everyone seemed to work in well with the all the traffic that was present in the same area at the same time. There was a car carrier going in to Webb Dock, a liner going alongside Station Pier, a tanker going to Coote Island, barges and tugs manoeuvring in the course area and then also our own club race going around fixed marks.’
We chose to delay the start because of the swim, so we’ll probably start next year’s Val Hodge Trophy at midday, so as to give us some more space, said LeRoy.
Sally Herbetson was sailing on the Noelex 25, Footloose, which was skippered by Tanya Stanford. Sally is also a member of the Women and Girls in Sailing Committee (WGIS), in addition to organising today’s race, so she’s well-credentialed to comment on the whole affair. ‘We had 20 boats last year for the Val Hodge Trophy, and then 15 this year. The problem is that we’re actually short of boats, for we do have more crew wanting to get out, but just cannot access enough craft. So please owners, if you’re not using your craft, can we?’
Val was one of our first Lady Skippers back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Her husband was our Club Captain and his race day duties meant he could not take their boat out to race, so Val did. She’s still sailing today. It’s both challenging and great fun to put something like this on and the support has been tremendous. Special note there goes to Claire Fazakerley, who did a lot of our communications and website material.’
Of the third season for PPWCS, Herbetson said, ‘Participation from other sectors within clubs like dinghies or cruising has grown and they are then saying that this racing thing is great stuff. Having the opportunity to get on board with other females seems to give them a real boost. You see a lot of women in roles they do not normally do and equally learn things like using winches, which dinghies do not have. There is a level of excitement and also many new sailors coming to the sport, as well. Here at RYCV we are really pleased that there are several all-female crews competing in both this and other series. Duckmobile along with Up ‘N Go come to mind quickly and there are a couple more who are 50% or more crewed by women.’
Personally, we were very happy with our third place today on Footloose. As we had just the three souls on board, we felt it was a great effort, especially as we are not that familiar with the boat, only having been on it a few times. All in all this series is a great opportunity to not only get women out on the water, but also to get new crew out there and introduce them to sailing, which events like this can do more so than others. The inter-club unity is a marvellous thing to witness and Rosie Colahan is to be applauded for making all this happen. Being on the committee has allowed us all to grow and learn, said Herbetson.
The bullets on offer today were not the wins recorded against your name…
Blustery, warm and dry Northerlies were the main feature of the day. Ostensibly, a cloudy blanket served to ensure the cook was even and the odd sun breaks just crisped up the outer skin, much like a good roast. Alas, those conditions also serve to provide nice little bullets of breeze and when you are sailing that close to Melbourne’s CBD, the wind also eddies around them and those bullets can go from the mid-teens to mid-twenties (knots) quicker than it has taken you to read this sentence.
20 and 30 footers can go from sailing along nicely to on their ear very quickly and it takes an astute helmer and main hand to keep the craft powering along nicely. So at 1154hrs the Answering Pennant came down and the extra hour had all the crews more than ready to go. Well, all but Duckmobile, whose late arrival on the track was compounded by issues with hoisting the mainsail, and then later on a recalcitrant headsail for that matter, saw them over three minutes late for the start. A solid performance once finally on the track did see them get some of it back, but there was a ways to go, after all…
At any rate, from around a minute out there was a nice, mostly straight line forming for the gun, even if it was very heavily boat end stacked. Dry White accelerated quickly, no doubt due to having more stick above the crowd than others, and was a real 10 seconds early. With nowhere to go below, she went and subsequently took Tigris with her. Both subsequently were called for Individual Recall and duly returned to try it all again. Equally, Ellipse did not even get a look in at the now super-compact line and was squeezed out with some thirty seconds to go. All of that went it was the little S80, Up ‘n Go, that took the fleet off towards the top mark. Apart from those forced to be late to start, there was La Alondra and Tigris who came in after the rush hour had gone…
Tigris was the first to go over on to Port tack and then the very speedy Frenzy, skippered by Steph Strong, followed suit. The latter, an 11m One Design, would continue to step forward, firstly taking the lead and then expanding it all the way to a strong Line Honours win over the course that was in between the Princes Pier and Williamstown shipping channels. The two dredging barges, and attendant tugs, right in the middle of the course, served as nautical bunkers that then split the fleet nearly perfectly. When it all came to pass, it was the ones on the right who had faired best. Frenzy was in command, but Ellipse was in chase mode, with Up ‘n Go still hanging on, as the bullets increased in both quantity and velocity. Overall, there was a left hand bias and the shifts, although not permanent, did help the boats on the right hand side.
No sooner had all of that occurred than, Christine, came out from the left to show that all was not lost on that side of the course. A flatter track and more consistent breeze were likely to be the reasons. Following in her larger Beneteau sister’s wake was Unami from Royal Brighton YC. Interestingly, both of these craft had their first reef in, as well. Ellipse on the right was still a serious contender, but that part of the course did contain many more bullets.
Dry White had been also coming back into the mix, but on this first work up to the top, she had a massive bear away and took a huge hit accordingly. The right had paid, so Frenzy got around the top mark ahead of an over-cooked Ellipse, then it was Christine with Dry White thereafter. The latter two opted not to deploy a spinnaker, with Dry White pointing almost directly at the bottom gate. Tigris had issues with the deployment of their asymmetric kite and Unami had a moment or two with their symmetric one about half way down the course. Jensminc chose to have their fun time in the middle of a gybe, but recovered well and quickly. Frenzy got to the bottom in first place, but a slow and late drop saw them go past the gate a little bit. Ellipse chose to drop early and retained their second place in the standings. Dry White did not manage to be totally true to her original intentions and wandered a little, whereas Christine then saw the benefit of the straight and narrow and made some ground back to be in fourth place. Tigris was playing her wide angles, but it was already evident that Le Cascadeur was having a grand old time, with great spinnaker work really helping them along.
A hefty percentage of the fleet had opted not to deploy spinnakers in the blustery conditions and this showed especially in the separations between not only leader and tail ender, but also in placings and groupings with small craft that had flown kites well and truly in amongst the 40 Somethings. The right hand side had remained favoured, so it was interesting when Tigris went around after Le Cascadeur and then immediately tacked over to head out left. Out on the right, it was Le Cascadeur and then Christine that were the first to come back on Starboard tack for a look. These two persevered and at one time, around half way back up, did look a little lonely there…
Looking for a change?
The recently rounded Duckmobile was keen to see if the left hand action was for real and came along to investigate. Notes were made that Dry White was charging up far out to the right and doing well. At the top, this would be proven so, as Frenzy went around first, then Ellipse, with Dry White now very much occupying third place. Tigris and Christine were the next group and then Le Cascadeur and Unami. Proving that it can be tough at the top, Frenzy struggled with a set, whereas Ellipse, flying it a lot shyer, set and went. This would be the run were firstly Dry White and then Christine both deployed their spinnakers.
A change of axis was set from the bottom mark with the course now swinging to the right 15˚ more and also being a little bit shorter. Based on the success shown by Dry White and Christine, Duckmobile also sent a bag from below up to the foredeck and had a run down under spinnaker. Meanwhile, firstly Frenzy, then Ellipse and Dry White thereafter firstly rounded the Eastern side of the bottom gate and headed out right to the new top mark, as the backmarkers, Y Knot, La Alondra and Drambuie were still on their trek to the old weather mark.
The sun was making more and more of an appearance at this time. It highlighted that Ellipse was flying a shy kite on Starboard, whereas the leader, Frenzy, was running very deep on Port gybe. Dry White was well and truly in third by now and as they went around, the little Bluebird, Drambuie, went past on the last of their journey in towards the beach at Port Melbourne. They finished that way, as Christine continued down to take the next spot, with an errant spinnaker hounding them.
Cath Beaufort (a descendant of the Admiral Beaufort) and the crew on Up ‘n Go, certainly are doing just that, as it turns out. Despite being a crew for just this season, they are already showing great promise and a first in the IRC measurement rule today will serve as significant inspiration to keep going. A fourth in the handicap system, which is the premier category for this series, also shows that they are heading in the appropriate direction.
es, we did make a few mistakes out there today, but we are still learning and very much so from our errors, so overall it was a great race. We were pleased with quite a few things and especially our start. Julie was on mainsail trim and it was just her second time, so she did really well. The rest of the crew comprised of our usual suspects – Paulina Hryniewiecka was our trimmer, Penny Cotter was at the mast and Ru Ying Cai was up on the bow.’
It is brilliant to see their dedication and enthusiasm. We work well together and that means it is a fun time out there, as well. Being part of a crew that is willing to learn and not afraid of the hard work it takes is very exciting. Apart from that it is a special sight to see so many women out there having a good time, learning, participating and encouraging yet more women to join in is an added benefit.
Last week Finland – this week France?
Finland’s Paulina Mattila, skippering Bruschetta VI, was the Round One winner. Today, France’s Leo Eeckman skippered, Le Cascadeur, to a tremendous, clean, smooth, and punching above their weight win, which is a great step up from their third in the previous round. The Parisienne came to Melbourne eight years or nine ago to study Engineering and Logistics at RMIT. Move forward to today, and Leo had her parents right there to watch her win. I loved Melbourne instantly and have never left. I now implement Supply Chain software. In terms of sailing, it all goes back to when I was a kid and my family went to the beach each Summer. There were 420’s and 470’s there for us to play around in. It was never about racing. In 2006 I showed up at Hobsons Bay YC looking to go sailing and here we are.
I have skippered in both the previous PPWCS, albeit on different boats, and also a lot of the two-handed races around the Bay. All in all, it amounts to about 15 times, but winning the PPWCS last year (AMS and PHS) was a real highlight. Winning is great fun and I do like it, so it does serve as my motivation for more. Many thanks to Ryan, Kate, Marianne and the crew for doing such a good job. We don’t do surnames, but I’ll start thinking about it. Given that Le Cascadeur has such a pedigree with this series, it won’t be too long before the need to talk with them again arises and those names will be discovered. ‘This type of racing is good fun and thank you to all the clubs for organising it’, said Eeckman by way of closing.
Ryan Blackstock, who along with being the owner of Le Cascadeur is the Commodore of Hobsons Bay Yacht Club, said, ‘Today’s fleet was smaller than last week, but certainly had quality with great sailors and awesome close racing, especially amongst the front runners.
So what’s the score?
As mentioned previously, the PPWCS has now added the Kingston Trophies PPWCS Perpetual Team Trophy to the array of prizes. This is the award designed to build intra-club camaraderie by maximising the number of boats and female sailors from each club actually getting out on the water. The complex nature of the calculations means it is bordering on being part of the fabled Skunk Works at Lockheed.
By way of simplifying it all, the chair of the WGIS Committee, Rosie Colahan, has given us an insiders view by saying, ‘After a spectacular first round, the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron shot to the lead, but less attendance this week saw them slip back towards the others. Not too far off the pace and tied for second place at the moment are Hobsons Bay YC and the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. Next is Sandringham YC and in last place, with just the one entry so far, is Royal Brighton YC.’
Someone who certainly knows the score is David Ellis, the Club Captain at the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. Ellis showed tremendous generosity once again by providing today’s media launch, Valerie, which was built by his Father six years ago. The event organiser, Yachting Victoria, would also like to thank the proud sponsors of the PPWCS; Club Marine, Kingston Trophies, AUS Sailmakers and Custom Yacht Covers. Of course, Club Marine is Australia’s largest provider of recreational boat insurance.
Now it is a hefty scoreboard as such… Ian Mann of Kingston Trophies donated the perpetual Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series Trophy in 2013 for the inaugural event and is the person behind the new Teams Trophy as well. Sam and Liz Haines of AUS Sailmakers provide an Encouragement Award for each race. Finally, Sue Bumstead from Custom Yacht Covers provides the Encouragement Award prizes based on the whole PPCWS. Ultimately, that means some boats and skippers will do well with the loot.
The next round of the PPWCS is SYC’s Women in Sailing Challenge on March 29. Details and full information about the entire series can be found at http://www.womenandgirlsinsailing.com.au