Irene and her brothers Fred and Harry sailing Zephyr. Despite her highly impractical attire, Irene survived two capsizes in one season. Image William James Hall, ANMM Collection 00002619 Gift from Bruce Stannard.
‘This venturesome young lady’
On Christmas Eve 1898, Irene Pritchard became the first woman to race a sailing boat on Sydney Harbour. Skippering the tiny 8-footer (2.4 metre) Zephyr, she took to the front early and won her first race with two minutes to spare.
The Sunday Times reported the day of the race was ‘scarcely an ideal one for a trip on the water, the wind blowing strong and cold from the southward, while it rained pretty continuously throughout the afternoon.’ It said the 8-footers race ‘formed an exciting part of yesterday’s programme owing to the fact that one of the small racers was in charge of a lady, Miss Irene Pritchard. That victory fell to this venturesome young lady, is perhaps not so much to be wondered at as that she would risk a wetting and the possibility of a capsize on such a day as yesterday proved.’ 1
The next month Irene became the first woman to sail a winner in a Sydney regatta – the Anniversary (now Australia Day) Regatta. She only sailed for one season, but in that time her fame spread as far as Britain.
Wild Oats XI in full flight. Image: Rolex – Carlo Borlenghi.
The supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI is here at the museum for a short visit. Wild Oats and its crew have become an Australian sporting brand, recognised by the public as Australia’s premier racing yacht and team through their dominance of the iconic Sydney to Hobart yacht race, since Wild Oats XI was launched in 2005. This is Australia’s team, in the eye of the public Wild OatsXI is defending the country’s pride in the nation’s major ocean race – and its public adoration is thoroughly deserved.
When Australian yachting made history fifty years ago early in August 1967 by winning the Admiral’s Cup event sailed in UK waters, then recognized as the unofficial world championship for ocean racing, it was one of those dominant sporting wins that stands out as a blueprint of how to achieve success.
Australia had a plan – and one of the first steps was building on the past. It was only the second time an Australian team had entered the event, which, up to then, had been dominated by yachts from the UK and USA. However, as described in the first part of this story, Australia had shocked everyone in 1965 by coming second, and their yacht Caprice of Huon had won two of the four races. The post-race write-ups noted how well Australia had sailed as a team, and how well led the crews were.
Fifty years ago, in August 1967, Australian yachting made history on the world stage, winning the Admiral’s Cup event sailed in UK waters, then recognized as the unofficial world championship for ocean racing.
It was only the second time an Australian team had entered the event, which, up to then, had been dominated by yachts from the UK and USA. The result was astonishing at the time – similar to Australia beating Brazil in a final of the World Cup.
This is part one of a two part story of that remarkable victory.
Endeavour replica pictured in 2005, the year HM Bark Endeavour Foundation transferred ownership of the vessel to the Australian National Maritime Museum.
This is not an obituary or eulogy but rather a note of recognition and acknowledgement of the man whose yachting and other nautical activities considerably influenced the maritime history of Australia. The Australian National Maritime Museum is connected to this history through objects in the National Maritime Collection and our management of the Endeavour replica. Continue reading →
This week marks 30 years since an aspirational nation woke up to news that Australia had licked the Americans in a blue-blood yachting event, finally wresting the coveted America’s Cup from the nation which had held it for 132 years and fought off all challengers including long-standing Trans-Atlantic rivals England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada to its northern border and across the Pacific to Australia.
AustraliaII and Liberty racing in 1983. Photographer: Sally Samins. Reproduced courtesy the photographer. ANMM Collection Gift from Sally Samins
With the series tied at three races each, many Australians had stayed up all night to watch the cliff-hanger on television. The last race saw skipper John Bertrand lead his crew in Australia II in a tacking duel, crossing the line 41seconds ahead of veteran skipper Dennis Conner in Liberty. Continue reading →