RSYS victory at Women’s Regatta, Melbourne

Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron hosted the 30th Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) from 11-13 June 2022. The regatta is Australia’s premier and longest running all-female women’s keelboat regatta; it had not been held for the last two years due to Covid restrictions. This year’s event attracted 155 sailors from a wide variety of sailing backgrounds, from the highly experienced to novice level.

Two teams represented Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, sailing in J/70s. Rear Commodore Karyn Gojnich skippered Madness, and Sara Ladd helmed The Jackal.  In their division, Karyn came first and Sara a close second.

LtoR: Jane McCulloch, Kylie Lloyd, Lindy Hardcastle, Alexia Biggs, Karyn Gojnich, Vicki Kornman, Michelle McGrath, Alex Murray, Amanda Hicks, Sara Ladd

Twenty four crews hailing from Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory, NSW, Tasmania and Queensland contested the event, raced across two divisions. The event is unique in that many of the boats raced are provided by generous boat owners from Victorian clubs, including RMYS and Sandringham Yacht Club. Also supporting the event were the ‘Boat Boys’, who helped to get boats off and on the marina along St Kilda Pier each day and were on hand to help with any repairs.

Wild and frigid conditions in Port Phillip Bay

Competitors were rigorously tested over three days with two extremes of Melbourne weather: very windy with intermittent rain and clear sky but calm -both were freezing! On Day 1, the wind gusted between 14 and 25 knots from the south west. Principal Race Officer Louise Hutton decided on three windward/leeward races instead of two, in anticipation of Sunday’s wild forecast. Racing took its toll however. Two crew were washed overboard – and successfully retrieved – and there were a number of retirements due to boat issues.

RSYS Madness leading Division 2 around the top mark.

On Sunday, the breeze stayed below 20 knots, however the Port Phillip Bay chop was challenging. The first race of the day was again a windward/leeward, and the second was the ‘long race’ of 12 nautical miles. Whilst it was a tough slog upwind, it did make for two exhilarating downwind legs under spinnaker.

RSYS The Jackal in the long race.

PRO Lou Hutton held Race 6, the final of the series, in extremely light airs on Monday. Division 1 got away, but then the breeze shifted 30 degrees and she was forced to abandon Div 2. A short time later, racing was under way in light patchy air, and all finished their race.

The AWKR is scored under EHC (Event Handicap). Div 2 was tight, with a trio of J/70s filling out the top three places going into the final day of racing.  Karyn Gojnich led the way by three points with Madness. Local RMYS yachtswoman, Monica Jones, was in second, and Sarah Ladd, a further two points away in third. Karyn prevailed, even though her fifth place in the final race was used as the drop and Sara climbed to second overall, after winning the final race.

Tracy Richardson and crew of the Adams 10 2Xtreme  from MHYC were the winners of Division 1 , followed by Clare Olding of the Summit 35 Vertigo, from Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.

The S80 division was won by  Up ‘n Go, skippered by Cath Beaufort with Tanya Kelly of Merak in second.

The AWKR is not just about the racing, many special awards were presented, including ‘Novice Helm for a first time skipper at the AWKR’ to our very own Sara Ladd ofThe Jackal.

Karyn Gojnich commented afterwards, ‘My goal for the weekend was to show some of our RSYS Ladies of the Sea (LOTS) graduates what regatta racing is all about. I also wanted them to  experience the amazing organisation of the AWKR Regatta and bring back ideas for our own RSYS Ladies of the Sea Coaching Regatta which will run again at the Squadron over the October long weekend. Sara Ladd and I co-own a J/70 and on this occasion we decided to helm a boat each with 10 sailors representing RSYS, of varying levels of experience .’

The Jackal on a relatively calm downwind leg

Vicki Kornman who sailed on The Jackal is more accustomed to Laser sailing. ‘The J/70 is so much fun to sail – it reminded me a lot of my dinghy racing (fortunately without the capsizing). Our five person crew learnt a lot and quickly. Capping it all off was the camaraderie of the AWKR competitors and RSYS crews, which made for a great all round event.’ Crewmate Alexia Biggs concurred, ‘There was so much friendliness, support, interest and fun among all the women throughout the weekend.’

Madness goes for a surf

View full results here

Photos by Andrea Francolini
More photos on AWKR Facebook here
Interviews conducted by Di Pearson