Wings crew members Janease Graham, Elyse Guevara, Janelle Orth and Katy McDonald - 2019 Bird Island Race
Wings crew members Janease Graham, Elyse Guevara, Janelle Orth and Katy McDonald - 2019 Bird Island Race

For the crew of SV Wings the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is significant in many ways.

First of all, the team includes four fantastic female sailors. In a team of 12 this means 33% of the crew are female, much higher than the estimated female participation of less than 10% across the fleet.*

Secondly, the crew on Wings are also using the race to raise much needed funds for The Kids’ Cancer Project, with a goal of raising $75,000. They have already raised almost $20,000 towards their goal and hoping to get the rest locked away before they set sail on the 26th.

Click here to add your support to Wings’ fundraising efforts on their everyday hero fundraising page.

Lastly, six of the team members, including all of the women, are competing in the iconic event for the first time. Although they all have plenty of experience, this is a major milestone in the life of any racing sailor.

For anyone with aspirations of one day sailing in this iconic race, learning how others have done it before you not works to inspire but can also provide a possible path to achieving your own ambitions.

Here are the sailing stories of the four women competing on Wings – how they first started sailing and what brought them together to compete in their first Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Elyse Guevara

“I got the sailing bug from Dad – listening to his sailing adventures – but it was my mum who first got me sailing lessons for my birthday nearly 9 years ago.

“I’ve sailed continuously since then and met my partner through sailing. I started at the CYCA, getting into dinghies at GSC and Keelboats at RSYS. I am now a member at all three clubs.

“Through these clubs I met some great sailors who have mentored me and helped me pursue my skippering aspirations.

“I met Ian through MySail, contacting him after I read his program on the site, realising it fell in line with my own aspirations.

“I was invited to try out and later invited to do the Blue Water Point Score. I’m really enjoying the challenge of a new boat and team and I’m learning a lot from this experience.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of Sydney to Hobart with Wings.”

Katy MacDonald 

“I’m lucky enough to have a strong family history of sailing; my uncle has sailed around the world delivering yachts and was most recently a superyacht captain based in Fort “Lauderdale. My grandfather was a shipwright surveyor, naval architect and a member of the Maritime Services Board.

“I learnt to sail locally at Cronulla Sailing Club when I was 7 and worked my way through the different dinghy classes of Manly Juniors, Flying11s, Lasers, NS14s, MGs and 29ers. I was part of CYCA’s Youth Sailing Academy in the Elliot 6’s and 7’s, training in the Development, Women’s and Advanced Squads.

“I have been working as a commercial skipper and sailing instructor over the past 5 years, achieving my RYA Yachtmaster Instructor and AMSA Coxswain. Most of my offshore miles had been achieved up and down the east coast from Jervis Bay to Hamilton Island. I met Ian and Wings during this year’s Hamilton Island Race Week after our initial messages through MySail to help Wings on the return delivery from Mooloolaba.

“I set myself a number of goals for 2019, and I hoped to finish the year with the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. For years I had watched the boats race and chased them out of the heads. I was lucky enough to help deliver a Farr55 from Hobart to Sydney at the beginning of the year and got a taste of the Bass Strait. I wanted to get back into racing, and when the opportunity to race with Wings was on the cards, I jumped at it!”

Janease Graham

“I was introduced to dinghy sailing in a primary school sailing program run by volunteers at my local sailing club in Somers VIC. Sailing mirrors, pacers, then 420s and lasers became a huge part of my life and the focus of Christmas time was always sailing national championships and watching the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

“After a career change and a move to NSW I was introduced to regatta and offshore yacht racing by Jan Howard, Mary Holley and the members of Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) in their hugely successful SheSails program. Aspects of the yacht racing culture had been quite intimidating to me previously but the culture at NCYC members provides an atmosphere of inclusion, inspiration and opportunity.

“I have become hooked on offshore sailing and have aimed to educate myself in as many aspects of navigation, crew work, seamanship and marine safety as possible so that I can be an active and valuable member of offshore racing and delivery teams. Yacht deliveries have been an amazing opportunity to put theoretical skills into practice and learn from experienced sailors. They also offer the opportunity to hone navigation, helming, passage planning and boat management skills.

“I was thrilled to have the opportunity this year to skipper a NCYC race team at the Townsville Gals regatta and to skipper the Sydney 40 we raced on her delivery passage from Townsville to Newcastle. I met Ian Edwards and the crew of Wings on a Hobart to Pittwater delivery last year and loved the Wings team philosophy. I now regularly travel to Pittwater to race with the Wings team for their offshore racing program. Between offshore races on Wings I love to sail local short course and inshore keelboat races at NCYC and to crew on a Hobie 18 at Port Hunter 16 ft Sailing Skiff Club.

“It has been a pleasure to race with the Wings team through the blue water series events this year and I am ridiculously excited to be sailing in my first Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race with a team of amazing sailors.”

Janelle Orth

“As a young girl I lived in Vaucluse and I always loved being in or on the water. On Boxing Day, I use to watch the Hobart yachts heading down the coast from the cliffs at The Gap, and said to my sisters, “I’m going to be doing that race one day.”

“My best friend’s grandfather owned a yacht on Pittwater and I sailed on it during the school holidays, then after school I moved to the Northern Beaches and worked for a man who closed his business every Thursday afternoon and took all his staff twilight sailing on Pittwater. I got my first taste of offshore sailing when I delivered Bill Buckle’s boat, ‘Buckle up’ from Coffs Harbour to Pittwater after it won the Coffs race.

“When I returned to sailing, I joined the CYCA. I sailed with Kevin & Jayne Whelan on Reve and completed my training at Eastsail, Competent Crew, First Aid, Safety at Sea and Marine Radio courses and took up every sailing opportunity that was offered, Including the Sydney to Southport race on Marguerite, Magnetic Island on Highly Sprung and all other Blue Water Point Score & Offshore series races with Wings. (RMYC, RPAYC and CYCA races)

“I was looking for a crew position to sail to Hobart when I met Lisa Denvir on the Safety at Sea course. Lisa recommended Wings and put me in contact with Ian Edwards, boat owner. I started sailing with Wings in May this year and confirmed a gold ticket spot for Hobart with Wings after I help deliver Wings from Magnetic Island to Pittwater.

“Last year I sailed with yachtsman Tony Kirby on his Ker 46, ‘Patrice’. For over 10 years TK has been raising money for The Kids Cancer Project doing the Sydney to Hobart. However, TK recently sold Patrice and as I had stage 2 cancer of the bladder back in 2001, but made a full recovery, the Wings team took on The Kids Cancer Project, and as it’s the 75th Sydney to Hobart are aiming to raise $75,000.

“I love offshore sailing/racing as I get claustrophobic from time to time sailing in Sydney Harbour and Pittwater.

“Ian Edwards, owner of Wings has been so supportive of us ladies and we really appreciate this opportunity to fulfil our dream of completing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race with our amazing Wings crew.”

The MySail team would like to wish the entire crew of Wings good luck for the race and for their fundraising efforts! Don’t forget to click here if you’d like to add a donation.

Sydney Hobart Corporate Luncheon, from left - Scott Hillier (Channel 7, Creek to Coast), Sammy Cheney, Elyse Guevara, Janease Graham, Katy McDonald, Janelle Orth, Kathryn Lee & Owen Finegan (The Kids Cancer Project)
Sydney Hobart Corporate Luncheon, from left – Scott Hillier (Channel 7, Creek to Coast), Sammy Cheney, Elyse Guevara, Janease Graham, Katy McDonald, Janelle Orth, Kathryn Lee & Owen Finegan (The Kids Cancer Project)

About SV Wings

Wings is a Dehler 46 that was launched in November 2017 and owned by Lindy and Ian Edwards. They have enjoyed significant success over the past couple of years, including a 2nd place PHS finish in the 2018 Pontant Sydney Noumea Yacht Race and 6th in the Corinthian division in last year’s Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

About The Kids’ Cancer Project

The Kids’ Cancer Project is an independent national charity established in 1993 and dedicated to funding scientific research to find better treatments and ultimately a cure for what endures to this day as the number one killer of Australian children by disease.

*The Sydney Hobart female participation rate is our estimate based on available information.