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. This year’s race 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 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.”
Speaking on Thursday at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Jackson added: “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 medallist 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.