The Alley Cats: Australian Women in Hobie Sailing, International Women’s Day

Hobie 16 Women Sailors

To celebrate International Women’s Day what better way than to reproduce this article from some Australian Women Hobie sailors? The article was written by two teenage sisters (Haylie and Carmen Andrews) who went on to the podium at the 2022 Hobie 16 Women’s World Championships.

On this day we honour all women on International Women’s Day, though every day we honour the women both on and off the water that make the International Hobe Class Association such a great class.

December, 1979

Well here we are again with the sailing season underway, and it sure is good to see a lot of new faces in the Hobie Scene … has the looks of a good summer to come.

With the winds being either howling southerlies or westerlies, with a few black nor-easters thrown in since the season has started the women Hobie 14 sailors have been fighting a losing battle to get up with the leaders. Good fun I might add, but it’s hard when racing. So, this article is for those women who have chosen the crew position. From looking around we seem to have gained a lot this season, as well as lost some good ones (maybe to have them back in 9 months time!!!).

What I was hoping to do with this article was to get every women crew to write their bit and put it all together. I didn’t get myself organised quickly enough in this magazine, but I’ll leave it as an open invitation for the next one – think about it.

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An All Australian Podum – Michelle & Chelsea (2nd), Jess & Bella (1st), Josie & Pip (3rd) – 20th Hobie 16 World Championships – Jervis Bay, Australia

So, I am here to write a few opinions down on my experiences and listen to those of others on what it’s like to be up “forward”. It’s very hard actually to write generally on this subject as every skipper is different ideas, so every girl has different ideas, but it appears to me, just from keeping my ears open, that the girls seem to be prime targets for getting yelled at, which puts so many of them off crewing and something even sailing altogether.

What I have learnt is that is it best never to tell the skipper what to do – I mean it is definitely not the forward-hand’s place to run the boat, the skipper is there to do that, but I do believe that it is all teamwork and any suggestions that the crew has shouldn’t be knocked back. Sailing should never be that serious that you just don’t talk out on the water.

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Caterina & Diana (ITA 1st), Juliet & Bella (2nd), Haylie & Carmen (3rd) – 23rd Hobie 16 World Championships – Costa Brava, Spain

However, the guys do have to adjust their sailing to fit in with their women crews. The majority of the females aren’t as strong as your average male crew.

The girls I most feel sorry for are those who have been thrust into the crewing life by boyfriends, husbands, etc., with no knowledge of sailing whatsoever to go out and do all. They would probably become the perfect crew if they could put up with the initial stages, but it’s this initial stage that is the problem.

Anyway, hang in there girls – don’t forget the Hobie Women’s Championship to get your revenge. A date still hasn’t been fixed for this, but it is still on the cards..

I’ll be contacting as many girl crews as possible for the next issue of the magazine, so in the meantime, happy sailing.

Ali Corlett.

December, 1979 – taken from the ‘Hobie Hotshots’ Magazine, sponsored by the NSW Hobie Cat Association.

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Bonafide Hobie Legends

December, 2022

With the 50th Australian Hobie Cat National Championships fast approaching, it is a good time to reflect on how things have evolved over the last 50-odd years, particularly for the competitors of our beloved sport. Especially given the 50th Hobie Nationals will be playing host to the single largest division of women’s teams in Australian Hobie sailing history. 

Things have come a long way for women in the sport since Hobie legend and Hall of Fame sailor Ali Corlett, wrote about her and her peers’ experiences on the front of a Hobie 16. I, for one (and most certainly many others), am glad for these changes for my sister Carmen and I, growing up in a sailing community. 

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Bonnie & Meagan – 21st Hobie 16 World Championships – Dapeng, China

We were lucky to have been raised in a household where being young girls in a male dominated sport was never even factored into the equation, and the aim of the game was to always just get out there and have fun. However, it’s important to acknowledge where Hobie 16 sailing has come from in terms of empowering women in sport, and where we are at now.

While everyone’s experiences on the water are different, it seems to be a common trend that for the most part, the dynamic for many teams on the water has shifted away from totalitarian skippers. This has opened up the opportunity for skipper and crew to work together as equals, because quite frankly, we all want to do well. If a team dynamic works best with both members weighing in on the best course of action, then rudimentary roles about who is running the boat no longer apply. 

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Nina & Evelyn – 2020 NSW State Championships – Pittwater, NSW

In any case, nowadays a skipper who is partial to screaming at their crew will generally find themselves with nobody to sail with. To be clear, we can all understand a bit of a carry on, say, if you’ve mounted the A-mark, but yelling at one’s crew is a whole other kettle of fish, and isn’t something that anyone is really prepared to (and shouldn’t have to) tolerate. Sailing is supposed to be fun – I know I’ve had to remind a skipper (or two) of that fact, whilst threatening to swim to shore. 

A lot is being done in the space of encouraging female sailors to get out on the water, and there are girls coming out of the woodwork from all different states. Libby & Charlie are set to be making their debut at the 50th Hobie Nationals as the third all-female team coming out of RQYS, alongside myself & Carmen, and Julie with her young VSC local, Bridget. I know coach Paddy has been making sure the youth girls down in Jervis Bay are getting the support to become future hotshots, sure to be giving us all a run for our money in the next few years. 

Zoe & Jill – Jervis Bay, NSW

Encouraging each other goes a long way, and we’ve seen a lot of really great support between the ladies teams, ultimately making it a great environment to race in. Team Australia’s head-cheerleader, Bella Zanesco, not only takes no prisoners on the water, but is the first to cheer on her fellow women’s teams on the beach. 

In contrast to the description of how the ladies were faring in 1979, it’s no longer the case that the gals are being left at the back of the pack. We only have to look at Georgia Warren-Myers’ results as a helm on the Hobie 14. The notion that women can’t be competitive skippers amongst a male dominated fleet is truly ridiculous, and I’m sure the female skippers who have clawed their way up through the fleet are proud of where we’re at.

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Bella & Juliet – 23rd Hobie 16 World Championships – Costa Brava, Spain

While we will still get the odd comment on the boat ramp of “haven’t you got brothers or boyfriends you could be sailing with?” sailing in general has come a long way in terms of inclusiveness for women. It’s important that people be mindful of the fact that the sport requires a team effort; something that can often get left to the wayside when a male skipper is congratulated on a good day of sailing, whilst the crew stands there like a sack of spuds. Although a shoutout must be made to Andrew of Team Pelican who is always the first to point out the team effort that goes into any race and sing the praise of his crew when a race is well sailed.

Having sailed in both mixed and women’s teams, I’ve noticed this isn’t something to typically occur for an all girls team, where the lingo switches from “well done mate” to “well done girls.” What’s the difference?

When all is said and done, the sailing community has evolved significantly over the years – and thank goodness for that. And I suppose you could say, in the words of a certain someone, it’s only onwards and upwards for our female Hobie sailors. 

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yours truly..
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