Duk­ing Ladies

A ladies crew re­dis­cov­ers its mojo, re­con­ven­ing to par­tic­i­pate in one of the most hotly-con­tested MRX na­tion­als in years.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY SARAH ELL

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

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