There we were, 23 women in red, mostly novice sailors, average age 40-plus, erupting in cheers in a crowded auditorium in Gladstone as we were announced winners of the Cruising Division of the 59th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race, one of Australia’s major sailing events, second only to the infamous Sydney to Hobart.
It was Easter Sunday, 2007, and we were victorious in oh so many ways, having just crewed and helmed South Passage, a 30-metre gaff-rigged schooner, for 36 hours over 300 nautical miles, through rough seas, tough winds and heavy rain, at times reaching record speeds.

Our collective and individual journeys of a lifetime had begun nearly two years prior, when the idea was given wings during the planning of my new magazine publishing business, Honestly Woman.
My business mentor then, a sailor at heart, came up with a low-budget, brilliant way to spread the word about this new magazine for gutsy women and help others at the same time: a boat with a crew of gutsy women sailing in a man’s world – a major yacht race – and raising money for charity.

When presented with the idea my immediate reaction was, ’No! I have no idea how to do that!’ I then saw the idea of joining the yacht race as a parallel with life and business: I had to grab hold of the opportunity by the scruff of the neck and find out HOW, instead of standing paralysed by fear.

With that change of attitude, the heavens seemed to open. I met Diane Halden, a woman with skills and contacts. As co-founders, we gathered a group of women and formed a not-for-profit group called ‘WomenRace4…” and raced for Redkite, a charity that assists families of children with cancer. We worked out the ‘how’ as we went, found sponsors, and over the next 12 months our progress was covered in the media and in pages of Honestly Woman magazine, of course.


Glorious serendipity brought us the beautiful replica schooner South Passage, which enabled us to take a total of 23 women on the adventure of our lives, alongside the qualified race crew of seven. Sails filled, speedily lurching through the choppy water in the inky blue-blackness of the night, nothing else in sight, occasional moonlight glistening off the waves, silence on board, people sleeping below, the sound of the ocean pervading: unforgettable.
And we won that trophy!

Author – Bev Ryan, career change coach & founder of Honestly Woman: extracted from ‘Now we’re talking: inspiring stories for mature women’ 

* WomenRace4…Redkite continues to race in the Brisbane to Gladstone each year