Beyond the Bay gives Nicole "Latitude

Meet a newbie keelboat sailor who has become hooked on sailing and is now hurdling over every sailing challenge thrown at her and having a ball. Here Nicole reflects on her pathway in sailing as she prepares for the forthcoming ORCV Beyond the Bay (BTB) Latitude Series event to be run on 21-22 Nov 2014.

Sailing - I tried it about thirty years ago on the lake in Canberra in a Laser and all I remember was ‘she’s gybing!’ having fits of laughter and swimming a lot. Evidently the wind is hard to read on the lake. Now I realise, you may, but preferably may not be - Chinese while you Gybe. I have come a long way.

I never really got into sailing on Lake Burley Griffin, probably because I did not like the taste of the water, so I bought a bike and rode around it instead. Sensible. Then I travelled around Europe for a few years, moved to Melbourne and did not think about sailing for a long time.

In 2005 I joined the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS) as a social member and socialised my way around the club, enjoyed the Friday night sunset cruises but never sailed regularly enough to be useful to anyone. Then I started studying again whilst working, so I gave sailing away again.

I cruised on and off for a few years sailing the Whitsundays on a rental from Sundance, Auckland to Bay of Islands on a tall ship, and from Woy Woy to Pittwater on a catamaran many times. We burnt the boat in the Whitsundays and sunk the cat at Palm Beach! Good times.

In October 2012 I went to a women’s networking lunch at Sandringham Yacht Club (SYC) and discovered a flyer for Women’s Only Sailing - two for one. So I rallied up three of my girlfriends and we hit the water with the lovely gents who train at SYC. Two of the girls said ‘thanks but no thanks’ while Sarah and I got hooked.

Sarah and I then went on to complete the Start Crewing weekend course in Jan 2013 and the Start Helming course in April 2013 – a ‘Baptism of Fire’. Not sure you should be allowed to Start Helming after one weekend of crewing but thankfully neither Sarah nor I have been interested in helming since.

At the end of the twilight series 2013, Sarah and I were fortunate enough to get on board Dry White with a boat full of lovely people. We became enamoured by the sunset, pizza, beer and hot chips afterwards. We decided that night to get on board for the ORCV Winter Series. So we bought our matching pair of wet weather pants, sat at the back of the boat for a lot of winter and made it safely to Geelong.

Then over a few jugs of beer and countless bottles of red wine we convinced very accomplished ocean racer Dee College to helm for the inaugural ORCV Women Skippers & Navigators Race from Geelong back to Melbourne the following day with Sarah and I as female crew and ‘hitchhikers’ Mark and Andy teaching Sarah and I the ropes. That was the first time either of us felt like things started to click - a tiny step for women kind - but for us that day was memorable. I also learnt you should sleep on the boat provided you are not too tipsy to crawl over all the other boats rafted up beside you - a great incentive to do better in the incoming race to ensure a berth against the wharf.

Since then Sarah and I have turned up to every twilight race, the ORCV summer series, the Port Phillip Women’s Championship Series (PPWCS) and I also competed in the 2014 Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR). Sarah had other plans for the long weekend.

The ladies’ Dry White team did well in PPWCS placing 3rd in IRC and repeated the performance in AWKR - a testament to mentor Rosie Colahan and skipper Sue Bumstead who also won the Novice Skipper Award for AWKR. We won wine, massages, a couple of trophies and I won the raffle sky dive over St Kilda Beach! Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS) put on a fantastic regatta and it could not have been more fun or friendly. It was definitely the best Queen’s Birthday weekend I have ever had and totally worth giving up sleeping in for three days in a row. I cannot wait for next year for the 25th anniversary party.

D 
 Aboard Dry White

With the start of the ORCV Winter Series in July 2014, the flare shoot was a celebration for Sarah and I of our first year anniversary crewing on Dry White. We have not looked back since.

Next challenge, I signed up to the ORCV Beyond the Bay course, just to find out how uncomfortable, yet rewarding, sailing can be. And I also signed on for the Safety & Sea Survival course (SSSC),a very hands-on learning experience I highly recommend to everyone, even if they have no intention of going outside the bay. It was a great challenge to jump into the pool in full wet weather gear and experience getting in and out of a life raft. I personally found the weather component fascinating and I will definitely be signing up for the next weather course.

August was spent crewing in Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island race weeks so I could see how social and enjoyable racing can be. Airlie Beach unfortunately had atrocious weather conditions so I did not get to appreciate as much rum and dry on the grounds of the Sailing Club as I anticipated. But the following week, Hamilton Island had perfect weather and sailing conditions and was the most fun holiday I have ever had. Everyone was in such good spirits, the sun was shining, the daily Audi Tug of War in front of the bar, the street eats kept everyone fed who had not booked a restaurant table, the media coverage and daily updates were fabulous. It was the most professionally run event I have ever participated in and I cannot wait to go again.

I made it back to Melbourne in time for the last race of the ORCV Winter Series and jumped on board Dry White for the passage race Melbourne to Geelong, placing third in all categories and third in IRC for the 2014Winter Series. Unfortunately, Sunday’s race home- the ORCV Women Skippers & Navigators Race - was abandoned due to a glass out and we all ended up motoring home.

I have now completed the BTB theory program a really relaxed and friendly environment to learn and meet new people whilst covering a huge range and depth of information about boat preparation, radio skills, emergency drills, food preparation, what to wear, what to expect on night watch, how to deal with sea sickness, weather forecasts and cloud formations and of course how to navigate. This program is backed up with the provision of experienced seafaring mentors to assist skippers and crews for preparing their boats to participate in the on water components of the program.

 

Both the BTB and the SSSC courses were fantastic and it is great to have so many inspirational sailors willing to share their experience and knowledge with us. Everyone at ORCV work tirelessly to impart their wisdom and get people involved in ocean racing and cruising, I really cannot speak highly enough about their generosity and dedication to the cause.
The more I learn about sailing the more I realise how much there is to know. I am very happy to have met and made some fantastic new friends and contacts over the last year and have access to a wealth of knowledge and experience through ORCV.

And the next big challenge, the ORCV Latitude Series coming up on the weekend of 21-22 Nov will be my first foray beyond the bay into Bass Strait. I’m looking forward to spending the entire weekend sailing and sleeping on the boat with a new group of people and will also get to experience Queenscliff and Blairgowrie yacht clubs. I assume from people’s experience I might end up sea sick. That’s okay, I will take the medications I’ve been advised to take and see how I feel out there. I’m more curious than nervous about that and it will be good to know whether I can handle the seas beyond the bay. I won’t be racing to Hobart this year, but I will be down at the docks when the boats come in and I plan on sailing in The King of the Derwent.

Going out the heads might give me the interest to do the shorter ORCV races next year. I won’t know until I get out there, but that’s the plan.

I have been thoroughly infused with everyone’s enthusiasm for the sport. I love being out on the water always learning. I have met fantastic people and I intend to get better and better and bring many more fabulous people into the sailing fold. It is just too good not to share!

For further information about ORCV programs –
Beyond the Bay
Safety and Sea Survival Course

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