THE question was posed last year – Can two women with age, experience and a small boat compete successfully in the 2022 Sydney to Hobart Race, alongside some of the biggest names and biggest boats?
Kathy Veel and Bridget Canham are both members of the Penrith-based racing crew on ‘It Happens’. The pair have spent months preparing their much smaller yacht ‘Currawong 7374’ to meet and comply with the rigorous safety demands which are compulsory for all yachts and competitors in Australia’s most famous yacht race, and continued using the remaining time until race day double-checking and triple-checking, if only to keep the nerves at bay.
It’s now history the pair have become the first-ever two-handed female crew to conquer Australia’s premiere sailing challenge.
It was described as ‘the perfect ending to the 77th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race’, as the 30-foot Currawong arrived to a rapturous reception around the Constitution Dock waterfront, only minutes before the New Year’s Eve fireworks display lit up the sky’.
Kathy and Bridget’s achievement as the first all-female two-handed crew to complete a Sydney – Hobart Race is now etched in history and the moment was certainly not lost on the highly-appreciative crowd.
It had not all been smooth sailing for the two veterans, who opted to pull into Eden when hazardous weather conditions threatened the safety of the tail-enders during the race, which is permitted in such circumstances.
Within 24 hours, Kathy and Bridget were back at sea to complete their history-making journey in Australia’s most popular sailing race.
Legendary multiple S2H yachtsman and a commentator on this year’s race, Peter Shipway, a veteran of 31 x S2H races (with two outright victories and five line honours wins) said “It’s an incredible effort by Kathy and Bridget just to get to Hobart. They should be very proud.”
Interviewed by the waiting media pack immediately upon finishing, Bridget and Kathy were jubilant to have completed the race.
“The experience was overwhelming,” said Bridget. “We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare but we learnt a lot during the race. We had such fun and the boat behaved so well. We worked our butts off to get here (Hobart) and it paid off.”
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” said Kathy. “Two-handed sailing is very challenging but I’m so in love with the boat. It’s been some of the best sailing I’ve ever enjoyed in my whole life.”
Currawong’s successful finish in the final minutes of 2022 was a perfect introduction to the 2023 New Year fireworks display, which subsequently lit up Constitution Dock and its surrounds.