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Balancing genders in offshore classic

Published on December 17th, 2020

Stacey Jackson has a grand vision for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – that being, the day when there is parity in numbers between male and female sailors entered in the 628nm offshore classic. The upcoming 2020 race on December 26 celebrates 75 years of participation by women with more than 160 women in the 76 crews.

Jackson is one of Australia’s most credentialed and respected ocean racers. In 2018, she skippered an-all female professional crew to second overall aboard the Reichel/Pugh designed 66ft Wild Oats X – Ocean Respect Racing and was beaten for the Tattersall Cup by little more than an hour.

Jackson, who has also crewed in the around the world race, is an advocate of women in sailing and mentor through the international women’s Magenta Project. She longs for when, “this gap with the number of male competitors and female competitors is brought together, and [when] it’s even, or on one day, women [are] a larger number in the race than men.

“What I wanted to do with that [2018 Wild Oats X – Ocean Respect Racing] team was to highlight that there are a lot of very good women who sail … that there is no skill difference between being a male and female in sailing. Although, we missed out [winning] by the skin of our teeth, we still proved our point by finishing a very close second overall.”

Ideal for Jackson is that one day crews are not referred to by their gender, but as sailors.

“I do like to see us as not male or female,” Jackson said. “I just see us all as sailors, and everyone as a sailor brings a different skill set or experience on board.”

Jackson is heartened by the rising participation of women in the Sydney Hobart since their 1946 debut – the second edition of the race. Since then, more than 1,000 women have sailed in it. The first were two women in the small 1946 fleet of 19 crews. They were Tasmanian Jane ‘Jenny’ Tate on Active that placed eighth overall and was owned by her husband Horrie, and Dagmar O’Brien on her husband Brian’s Connella that retired.

Connella’s retirement meant Tate was first female to finish. In her honour and women’s participation, the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy was donated by her daughter, Kath Worbey, and goes to the first female skipper to finish. In 1994, that was Teresa Borrell, skipper of Brightstone from New Zealand.

Jackson won the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy in 2018 when she skippered Wild Oats X – Ocean Respect Racing. She regards that win as “a massive highlight in my career. To be involved in that little bit of history is an honour. Going forward, I don’t know how we make the numbers exactly the same between men and women in sport, but that’s the goal.”

As Jackson spoke, sitting to her right were three other women who will be this year’s race – Olympic silver medalist Nina Curtis, 31, who has sailed in two Sydney Hobarts, and Juliet, 21, and Clare, 24, Constanzo who will tap into their sibling rivalry, racing on different boats.

Jackson’s first Sydney Hobart was in 2001 at age 18, but the boat she crewed on retired due to damage from a water spout. In 2002 she “got to experience the whole process” from the spectacle of the race start on Sydney Harbour to sailing up the River Derwent to the finish and then mooring at Constitution Dock in Hobart.

What’s her advice to the rookie Constanzo sisters? “Embrace every moment,” and “remember that it is something you’re doing that is really amazing.”

Seventy five years of women’s participation will also be recognized in the Boxing Day race start procedure. To fire the five and 10 minute Warning Signals will be two race-seasoned women – Gail Harland (22 Hobarts) for the five minute signal, and Sue Crafer (15) for the 10 minute signal.

BONUS: Veteran meteorologist Chris Bedford and 2x America’s Cup winning navigator Peter Isler have teamed up to host a free webinar that takes a professional look into the weather situation setting up for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. This fun and informative course (December 22, 4PM EST) will be a combination weather briefing and tactical analysis. It is aimed at anyone interested in learning about marine weather and preparation for a passage or race. For details, click here.

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Above photo: (from left) Clare Costanzo, Juliet Costanzo, Nina Curtis, and Stacey Jackson on board Drumfire, which Jackson will sail in the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The 628nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be the 76th edition when it gets underway on December 26, 2020. From Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.

Source: Rupert Guinness, Rolex Sydney Hobart

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