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International Women’s Day at Gosford Sailing Club

Published Thu 11 Apr 2024

What a great celebration we enjoyed at Gosford Sailing Club as we acknowledged International Women’s Day with a superb dinner and guest entertainment followed by two talks organized by Minkang Kim-Sankey as part of our She Sails group within Gosford Sailing Club.

Our entertainment was by Isabella McNally who sails with the club, then Elyse Guevara spoke as she was navigator on Wings as it competed in the Transpac Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. She also competed in the 2021 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race sharing some great experiences from those events.

Then our second speaker was Heidi Weathers who skippered their family yacht, Elandria a ferro cement centre cockpit cruising yacht, across the Pacific with her husband and her young family as crew on the trip of a lifetime. A cruise with two young children on board experiencing highs and lows of sailing.

She Sails has added to our club in that it offers a pathway to develop skills aimed at supporting women within our club. It now is a strong section within our club and has led to the filling of many crewing positions by experienced women and enlargement of our fleet with the purchase and entering of more yachts, many with female owners and crew.

Isabella McNally provided entertainment for the event. Photo credit: Gosford Sailing Club.

Many have come through our highly acclaimed Adult Learn to Sail classes, which are linked to our Twilight Races each Wednesday. Some have graduated from the dingy classes as they widen their sailing experiences to yachts within our club.

I have asked some of the members to share with us their journey to sailing with an encouragement to all to canvass their local Sailing Club to see if you also can become involved or want to just give it a go in this great sport or just to understand the fundamentals of sailing.

Penny Dilworth

My first experience of sailing was when I was 15 on a family friend’s 6 metre yacht, a flat topped mini America’s Cup yacht. I absolutely loved it as it moved silently through the water with the occasional groan of a winch. I loved how the power of the wind was being used by the sails. I knew this was something I wanted to do.

In the ‘O’ (orientation week) at university, I discovered that they had a sailing club, based out of the Mosman Sailing Club. A 3 crew dingy 19 foot Australian Lightweight Sharpie. What was also good was that the Men’s and Women’s group had their own boats and scored a position in the racing crew straight away.

The 3 of us learnt on the job with lots of assistance from ‘the guys’ including Mark Bethwaite and other top Australian sailors. This lead to 6 years of sailing all over Australia in Australian Championships and Intervarsity meets including Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, all funded by the university. I was also honoured with a University Blue for sailing. I also completed my medical degree and met my husband Geoff who was also a university sailor.

Mosman Sailing Club was fairly primitive in those days and we had to use the Mosman Rowers Club facilities to change and shower. There was no beach to launch from but launched from the breakwall. Then you had to compete with the 18 footer on the harbour (who would never give way) and to the ferry with the gamblers on board following the race.

Sydney Harbour was a working port back then and you could lose a race caught in the lee of a freighter or ferry. I met many fabulous women sailors who also ended up in sailing related careers including Nicky Bethwaite, Nicky Wilmot, Vanessa Dudley and Karen Simmer (Grant Simmer’s sister). We won intervarsity with Karen in Melbourne.

Leaving University, Geoff and I campaigned our own Sharpie for 3 years. Then came a move to Cooma for 4 years and 2 children followed. We moved back to the Central  Coast and joined Gosford Sailing Club and have owned 3 different yachts over the years and are still sailing. 

Minkang Kim Sankey

Although I was born and raised in South Korea which is a peninsula ‘girt by sea’, I had no opportunity to learn to sail or enjoy watching sailboats, sailing is not part of Korean culture. So, when I first arrived in Australia, in 2010, to take up a lecturing appointment in Education at the University of Sydney, teaching and researching the science of learning and development, I was instantly impressed by the profusion of beautiful sailing boats on Sydney harbour. My husband, a fellow academic who had previously been a young officer in the British Merchant Navy, talked a lot about the sea and sailing and the boats we were seeing, and I often joked that, if we were return to live in Korea again, why not buy a yacht and sail back? Since we left Korea, one marina has been opened on the River Han that runs through Seoul, not far from where my family home, so things are beginning to change and it would be possible. But that would mean I had to learn to sail, and my University job kept me busy I never seriously thought that my dream of sailing might be realised.

Eleven years later, in March 2021, I had my first experience of sailing by participating at the Twilight Discover Sailing programme at Gosford Sailing Club. When my husband bought a small family yacht, we found that the Club was running a sail pass programme for people with no experience, so I purchased a pass and found myself sitting on one of Magic 25 boats. I had no knowledge of sailing or the strange terminology, so it felt a bit like in a foreign land with a new language. My spatial knowledge of the region was completely no use on the water, either, and I felt very lost trying to sail. Nevertheless, I wasn’t discouraged, rather I was emboldened and decided to take the Adult Learn to Sail courses in the Club. After all, my specialism is in the dynamics and complexity of the brain’s learning processes, so why not challenge myself to learn something totally new, which might teach me something new about learning.

In just 2 years from starting to learn to sail, I became the owner and skipper of a Beneteau 35s5 yacht I named ‘Sailience’ and I’ve successfully completed my first full sailing season with a team of regular and wonderful crew members. The dynamics of wind and tide and how they constantly influence the setting of rudder and sails, provides me with a strong sense of the wonder of natural dynamic, complex systems in action. And every sailing experience brings new learning as a consequence of my brain constantly making new predictions and receiving and adjusting to error feedback in real-time, precisely what I teach my students about how our brains learn.

Apart from becoming a new skipper, I was also asked to Chair the Australian SheSails initiative at the Club. I didn’t seek to be in a leadership position, but I started to notice aspects of the She Sails programme that can be enhanced by applying the leadership skills used in academia. So, I have designated International Women’s Day, which is the first Thursday of March, as the Gosford Sailing Club SheSails dinner event, with interesting women sailors as-guest speakers. In May, every year, we now host the annual SheSails inter club regatta, on board the Magic 25 Keelboats. And I continue to think how SheSails can provide an exciting nexus with an ocean of new meanings for local women and children and, indeed, for all members of this wonderful Club, through the challenges and joys of sailing.

Minkang Kim Sankey. Photo credit: Gosford Sailing Club.

Beverly Small

Holidaying in Greece was Iain and my first experience of sailing on a twilight dinner cruise. We enjoyed it and decided to purchase a yacht on our return to Australia and enrolled in Learn To Sail classes at Gosford Sailing Club. Our Jeanneau 349 ‘Twight’ was our selection and we started by sailing on other yachts and have experienced sailors from the club join us on Twilight.

I took on the role of helming and Iain worked the pit. The support of GSC has been pivotal to our sailing success due to not only the information and experience but the camaraderie that the club provides us. We have made many friends through sailing.

Twilight took us cruising to Lake Macquarie but we mainly loved the racing and so Twilight made way for Beluga, a Jeanneau Sunfast  3300. We purchased her from Brisbane and had her delivered during COVID and stepping on board at Gosford Sailing Club we discovered we had started our learning all over again. Tiller steering rather than wheel and lots new strings to pull. We are learning and have progressed through Division 2 to Division 1 with our first Offshore race to Sydney and return.

We are expanding our experiences further this year with a bareboat charter in Greece and in another 2 years plan to purchase a larger live aboard yacht in the Mediterranean and see where the wind takes us.

Sailing has opened our eyes to a whole new world and we love it!

Karen Cantrell

I first came to GSC in 2017 and did the adult Learn To Sail course. Peter Walsh was so welcoming and I had an awesome experience, but found the concept of turning up and trying to get a ride on a yacht quite daunting and I fell away. Post COVID I couldn’t shake the desire to return to sailing and looked up GSC’s website and found that I had just missed a SheSails regatta. I was dumbfounded. What is this thing SheSails?

I was so excited that I was back in the club the next week and met lovely people but most notable was Elisa (Swagman) and Abby. I quickly found myself back in the club, attending Saturday Magic Sailing, then the SheSails regatta training course and I was hooked.

I have had the pleasure of joining lots of amazing skippers and crews and have even gone offshore to Newcastle and joined Bob Swan (Elusive Spirit) in the Newcastle to Port Stephens race and alco sailed in Pittwater for the 3 Islands Race.

It’s been an absolute treat. One day I will have my own yacht and I hope to skipper in Twilight and Sunday races in the future.

Nicole Bond

When visiting the Central Coast in late 2020 I couldn’t help but notice the magical Brisbane Water and all the yachts out sailing. It looked so beautiful and tranquil me. I needed to get out on the water, so I looked up Gosford Sailing Club and started with the Magics on twilight nights in 2021. Come mid 2021 and we were living on the coast and my passion for sailing grew stronger. I quickly purchased a laser to practice on, which I loved.

This lead to my husband and I signing up to the Adult Sailing Course in January 2022. I then went on to complete the SheSails regatta training and represented GSC on home waters in May 2022. I loved the regatta so much that I drove to Sydney for 3 days to train and compete in the SheSails regatta at the Sydney Yacht Squadron. This was a fabulous experience and I highly recommend it.

Come January 2023 and we purchased our own yacht (Naughti Gal) and the rest is history. My husband and I enjoy sailing with friends and family on Brisbane Water and compete in the twilight and Sunday races with the club. I have also teamed up with Animal Farm and competed in Pittwater races as well.

I love how the club is so friendly and welcoming, along with their generosity.  There is always some one willing to help and impart knowledge and I never stop learning.

Abby Langley

Why not start an apprentice trainee over the age of 50? I moved to Koolewong in 2020 and completed the Learn To Sail program at Gosford Sailing Club. I then completed the skippering course and the SheSails program as well. With 35 years of pattern making and sewing experience in the fashion industry I approached Shane Guanaria at Doyles Sailmakers for a job as apart time trainee sailmaker and am loving the experience and challenge that this position gives me.

Sailing on Brisbane Water allows me to watch sails in action and develops further my knowledge to apply to sail making. Crewing on different yachts is giving me the experiences sailing offers and I take each and every opportunity that sailing provides.

Gosford Sailing Club

Gosford Sailing Club continues to offer all comers an opportunity to experience the joy of sailing through many different pathways. Support is there for all sailors along with the opportunity to sail inshore, offshore and against other clubs in different conditions and venues whether racing or cruising. All welcome so come and take up the challenge.

Seek out your local sailing club and see what they have to offer your adventurous self.

Robert Swan
Gosford Sailing Club

Heidi Weathers spoke at the event about skippering her families yacht. Photo credit: Gosford Sailing Club.

Elyse Guevara spoke at the event about her sailing experience. Photo credit: Gosford Sailing Club.