This Girl Can at BLiSS Regatta 2018

by Rosie Colahan

Melbourne Osaka Cup -  Joanna Breen (Tas), Sue Bumstead (Vic), Annette Hesselmans (NSW)
Melbourne Osaka Cup - Joanna Breen (Tas), Sue Bumstead (Vic), Annette Hesselmans (NSW)

The final countdown to the tenth BLiSS regatta this weekend 28-29 April  brings predictions of light winds, a stark contrast to the weather experienced in the lead up training sessions. With two out of three on-water training sessions cancelled due to gale force winds over the last month, experienced presenters Gavin Dagley and Adrian Finglas have swiftly tacked the training into positive strategy and capitalised on valuable theory time ashore.

Host Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC) is to be congratulated for getting behind their female sailors in the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day theme and “Leave No Woman Behind’. The club has put their new fleet of ten RS Quest dinghies out there to provide female only training sessions which have been invaluable for those who have seized the opportunity to practise tactics and manoeuvres in close quarters and build skills and confidence under the eye of high level coaches.

The regatta weekend will provide a suitable testing ground with three back-to-back short course races on Saturday and a single longer passage race on Sunday, the latter providing the fifth and final race of the Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series as well as RBYC's traditional Associates Cup Trophy for its own competing members.

Less experienced or newbie female sailors are also invited to get on board and experience the camaraderie and skills amongst the female sailors. In fact in Victoria currently, there has never been a better time to get onboard. VicHealth is currently rolling out the ‘This Girl Can’ project, based on the successful Sport England UK model. VicHealth CEO Ms Jerril Richter said at the launch in July 2017 – “Over the last few years there has been a shift in momentum, with more and more opportunities opening up for women and girls to take part in sport and physical activity. We want to see this campaign inspire women to smash old-fashioned stereotypes about what women can and can’t do in sport, in the gym and in their neighbourhoods.”

We do not need to look far at this time to see some local Aussie female sailors doing just that, smashing it out there in the Pacific Ocean crunching the 5,500 nm from Melbourne to Osaka. Young Tasmanian Joanne Breen, Vice Commodore of Tamar Yacht Club, is onboard her classic S&S34 Morning Star with co-skipper Peter Brooks.  As the slowest boat in the fleet, they lead off on 15 March with the first of the staggered starts and have held off all challenges from the rest of the nineteen boat fleet until Sunday 22 April. The quickest boat in the fleet, the 62ft Chinese Whispers overtook them on their approach to Osaka Bay to take out Line Honours and set a new race record of 21 days 4hrs 21min 13sec.

Annette Hesselmans and husband Gerard from NSW have been amongst the midfield ‘peloton’ squiggling their Radford 40 Red Jacket around the adverse currents, Cyclone Iris, monsoonal rain and now are only a week away from arriving.

Victorian Sue Bumstead who is co-skipper on RBYC member Grant Dunoon's Moody 54 Blue Water Tracks have had some serious challenges thrown at them with pitstops in Sydney to repair a cracked forehead bulkhead due to an errant bowthruster and then a second diversion to Southport Qld for a damaged autopilot gearbox. At this time, they have cleared the Solomon Sea gate and will soon cross the Equator into the northern hemisphere. Sue cut her teeth in her early regatta days on Port Phillip at the BLiSS regattas and went on to take out the Best Performed Novice Skipper Award for the annual Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) in 2015 with her team of twelve women on Beneteau 40 Dry White.

These Girls Can! Let’s make it ‘All Girls Can’.

In the words of Mark Twain – ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover’.

It is still not too late to enter the BLiSS Regatta, so register now if you are looking to crew or are a female skipper looking to crew. Come back and celebrate on Sunday at the post race luncheon and presentation. Bookings essential.

Good luck to all participating crews for a great weekend’s racing.


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