Hobson's Bay Yacht Club honours Women Sailors

by Rosie Colahan

HBYC's Sally Neilson winner of the Shirley Freeman Trophy
HBYC's Sally Neilson winner of the Shirley Freeman Trophy

Congratulations to  the many members of the Hobson's Bay Yacht Club (HBYC) community, for staging an outstanding celebration of over 100 years of Women in Sailing at their club on Sunday 17 December 2017 with their annual female helm races for the Shirley Freeman Trophy and the non-Spinnaker division Suffragettes Cup. Competitive racing in ideal sailing conditions and a scrumptious High Tea and Pimms on the lawn, set the scene for the unveiling of a new honour board 'crowning' the success of their female sailors since the early 1900s.  

Last Sunday's theme of 'look how far we have come' also provided a fitting opportunity for Yachting Victoria President Cherry Birch to officially launch the first race of the sixth Port Phillip Women's Championship Series (PPWCS), now a permanent and well supported fixture on the Victorian female keelboat sailing calendar. 

Victoria has led the way amongst all member states and territories of the then Yachting Australia (now Australian Sailing) with active strategies to increase female participation and leadership in sailing, establishing the first ever Women & Girls in Sailing committee in 2012. In September 2016, YV Board member Cherry Birch was elected as the first ever female president of a state board in Australia. Based on the Victorian successes, Victorian Regional Manager Gavin Wall reported Australian Sailing has recently established a working party to develop a national Women & Girls in Sailing program.

Similarly, 'Hobbos' has the longest history of inclusion of women in sailing for over a century. But this has not always been the norm at other clubs.  Years ago, having a female sailor as a crew member could result in disqualification of a boat racing. It was not until the enshrinement of the Equal Opportunity Act Victoria 1979 that women could no longer be denied membership at clubs. 

In true 'Hobbos' generous and inclusive style, WGIS was invited to launch the travelling PPWC Series for 2017-18 offficiated by President Cherry Birch.

Building on a long legacy, a veritable 'navy' of volunteers led by Maureen Dickins provided a first class event. Maureen reflects - "It was the week before Xmas but still they came and what a sold-out success it was! Huey smiled and brought some wind for the big boats and the course stretched out to R2 providing great photo opportunities for Georgie Mitchell's Drone Boys. Leo Eeckman kept our "working group" on track and up to date with all our decisions over the past six months even while preparing for her far flung family to arrive from overseas for Christmas. Kerrie Goodall was the most awesome Publicity Machine getting the word out everywhere in addition to continuing her sponsorship of our event with her company Red Star - not to mention enticing Paul Smith to cater for us. Lynda Brayton and Georgie Mitchell provided us with a powerpoint presentation that had the crowd talking about what went on back in the old days. Guiliana Fuscaldo and Katrina Hartmann put together a compelling grant application which will give HBYC a beautiful piece of artwork to acknowledge their women in sailing." Maureen also went on to thank race management, bar staff, volunteers and sponsors for their assistance. Her thank you message can be read here in full.  She concludes "And without a doubt there are many more "unsung heroes" who worked away in the background to make our event just happen!. What an amazing club we have with so many very talented people volunteering their time and skills to make Hobbos such an wonderful place ( it's not just the view!!! )"

From the WGIS Committee to the HBYC community, thank you for an outstanding day both on and off the water.  Thank you providing the opportunity to celebrate and consolidate the history of how far women's sailing has come in Victoria and for continuing the legacy with co-hosting the PPWCS 2017-18 launch.

To see the on water action for the day, look at the drone footage from MarkatMelb photography.



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