Member Spotlight – Helen Springer

On 31 August 2020, Helen Springer became the CYCA’s inaugural Pathway Member.

After moving to Australia from the UK, Helen discovered her passion for sailing and hasn’t looked back. She aims to compete in her second Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race later this year.

Helen featured as the Member Spotlight in the Winter 2021 edition of Offshore.

OFFSHORE: Why did you join the CYCA?

HELEN: I’m really passionate about sailing and I sail at quite a few clubs. But when I heard about the Pathway Membership, I thought it would be a good time to join the CYCA.

OFFSHORE: How have you been involved with the Club so far?

HELEN: Before becoming a Pathway Member, I was very involved with the CYCA on the sailing side. I started a few years ago when I came to Australia by jumping on boats for twilight racing, trying to copy what other people were doing.

I then worked out that boats also raced out of the heads, so I turned up one Saturday morning for a race to Newcastle and was totally thrilled to find a boat and to be out on the ocean, grinding the main.

When we got to Newcastle, I was a bit blindsided to realise that the trip finished there and that the train trip back from Newcastle wasn’t an awful lot faster than sailing there!

I’ve sailed on quite a lot of boats since then and normally say yes to an offer of a sail, on the grounds that you can always learn something.

More recently, I’ve been doing weekend racing with super skipper Ian Guanaria on One More No More and Wednesday afternoon often sees me out racing with The Red Hand, which is a powerful McConaghy 60 with no guard rails.

It’s great fun to sail as it’s often really heeled over, with the crew all finding different ways to cling on to the high side.

OFFSHORE: What are the benefits of being a Pathway Member?

HELEN: The Pathway Membership has opened up the more social side of the Club for me. I’m looking forward to getting a team together for quiz nights. It also gives me access to all of the activities in the lead up to the Sydney Hobart, which I’ll be doing on Admiral (a Sydney 38 on which most of us did our first Sydney Hobart in 2019).

I just love the buzz when it comes around again and the race village opens up!

The best thing about being a CYCA Member is dashing through reception, tapping to sign in and getting discounted drinks at the bar!

I’m looking forward to going to informative Members nights on sailing related stuff, so I can expand my knowledge. I’m really interested in weather and navigation.

OFFSHORE: What are your sailing goals?

HELEN: When I started sailing, I had a few goals, some of which were pretty unrealistic at the time. I wanted to go and do a regatta and somehow bluffed my way as a novice on to Sail Port Stephens. I sailed with the lovely French guys on Hector and then got on to a neighbouring boat for the rest of the race week, which was a bird-splattered, diesel-drenched wreck from Dangar Island with a disproportionately
huge spinnaker.

We had a ball and they’ve now upgraded to a Farr 30. Another big early goal was to do the Sydney Hobart and I started my campaign by offering my services as a volunteer.

I found myself dressed up smartly in my Rolex polo shirt doing a meet and greet at the race village for a VIP lunch. Being new to sailing, I didn’t know who anyone was, but my job was to say hi and try to sell raffle tickets with various donated prizes.

A tall, dark-haired man approached me, so I put on a big smile and asked sweetly whether he would be interested in winning a sailing lesson on the harbour for himself and 15 guests. He stopped, shot me a puzzled look and strode off.

I later found out that it was Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards, who has won line honours in the race nine times. He probably doesn’t need any lessons!

I did the 2019 Sydney Hobart with Admiral, which was everything I could have wished for and more. We had a great team, it was a great challenge and we enjoyed a glorious match race up the Derwent River as the sun came up.

I’ve got new sailing goals now; to put in a good performance in the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race on Admiral; to carry on improving on the J70 Why Not, which I sail on over at Drummoyne; to win our division of the Winter Series on Foreign Affaire; and to do Airlie Beach race week, which I did in 2019 on Black Sheep in the trailable yachts division.

I got in to road cycling/racing during lockdown and it’s really improved my sailing as I’ve become fitter and stronger, so I’m working hard on that too.

OFFSHORE: What’s your fondest sailing memory?

HELEN: I’ve got a bank of great sailing memories from these last three years and one that makes me smile is the invite I got to sail on a new TP52 so that they could qualify for the Hobart.

I found myself helming during the night. The wind and waves got bigger and bigger and went past 25 knots, so I was having a lot of fun as if I was playing a virtual reality game.

I worked out that if I steered over the top of the waves, gently steered down the face and didn’t wake anyone up, everyone would be happy and the helm would be mine until dawn. That’s how it stayed.

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