A ladies crew rediscovers its mojo, reconvening to participate in one of the most hotly-contested MRX nationals in years.
Years after it last sailed, a crew re-unites for the Nationals.
It can be hard keeping a sailing team together. Work commitments, babies, other sailing and that complicated thing called ‘life’ all get in the way. But late last year, a few of us ladies who used to sail together in the early 2000s, under Sally Garrett, decided it was time to ‘get the band together’ and get back out on the water.
We last did the women’s keelboat nationals in 2007, when it was sailed in the Platu 25, but also did a couple of series on the MRX back in the event’s heyday, when there were so many crews wanting to compete that the format required a boatswapping round-robin.
In the last few years, the number of women signing up for the event has dropped – but this year it all changed, with 11 crews on the start-line.
Discussion among women sailors revealed that, as well as the life factors mentioned above, one of the biggest barriers to entering the nationals was cost: both of entering the event and the charter fee to use the MRX fleet for training.
This season, in response to this issue, the MRX fleet management put together a special package, where female crews could charter a boat for the summer series in preparation for the nationals, and compete in the event itself, for $1,000 all up. Too good an opportunity to miss.
After a build-up disrupted by bad weather (why does it always blow so hard on Tuesday nights?), our skipper disappearing to the sub-antarctic, and the last-minute withdrawal of our mainsheet hand (more ‘life’), we showed up at the Line 7 Women’s Keelboat National Championships, run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on April 7 and 8, ready as we’d ever be.
Sally Garrett was on the helm, with Kate Ellingham on main, myself trimming, Alison Howitt tailing, Christine Weston on keyboards, Jenny Price on mast and a new addition, 20-year-old Emma Stenhouse, on the bow.
Fortunately, Auckland wasn’t having a cyclone event that weekend, and we had two days of near-perfect 15-18 knot conditions in which to complete 10 windward-leeward races.
For us, the highlight of the event was our lead-from-startto-finish win in Race 3, where we showed both ourselves and the other competitors our mettle. A close third in the final race wasn’t quite enough, however, for us to catch either the Tauranga crew led by Holly Farmer, or the on-form Sarah Reynolds (Kiff) of Constellation Crew, to get onto the podium. We had to be satisfied with fifth overall.
Duking it out at the top of the fleet, as has been the case for the past four years, were Karleen Dixon and Melinda Henshaw. This year it was Dixon’s turn to come out on top, with a nearly unbroken run of first and second placings (she discarded her only third).
The 2018 event showed what can be done with a bit of organisation and enthusiasm, and the financial incentive of the charter package. At the prizegiving MRX fleet manager Gary Sugden said even more teams are expected to compete next year, with a potential second team from Tauranga and invited teams from overseas a possibility.
It was great to be back playing with the band, and we’ll be out there next season, too. Watch this space. BNZ