South and crew change the face of sailing

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It has taken 75 years but an all-female crew, skippered by SUSF Elite Athlete Program (EAP) scholarship holder Alex South, has finally blown their way into the high-speed world of 18-foot skiff racing on Sydney Harbour.

The first all-female crew in the history of the famous JJ Giltinan world 18-foot skiff championships has raced the annual championships.

While individual women have raced the regatta in the past, teenager Alex South (studying a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney) and her team of Saskia Tidey and Lizzie Rowntree are the first all-female crew and South the first ever daughter of a former JJ Giltinan winner to race.

“I grew up on stories of skiff racing. It was always something I was going to do,” said South, whose father Adam was a crewman on the famous Chesty Bond skiff when it won the world title in 1987 and 1988.

“And there are not that many female sailors around and I wanted to show we can do everything too.”

But working against South and her new crew during the skiff season has been their light weight, about 70kg less than their burlier male rivals.

“It’s not really a strength issue we have. It’s a weight one,” said South, who campaigned unsuccessfully for the London Olympics in a single-handed class and still harbours a dream of winning an Olympic gold.

“When it blows we just can’t hold the boat up.”

As her first season draws to a close, South has already indicated she will continue racing skiffs and could return with a mixed crew for next season.

This article has been been adapted from an article publish in The Daily Telegraph on February 26, 2013.