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First ever all-female double-handed sailing team ready for Sydney to Hobart 2021

by Alice Tarnawski 6 Jun 11:19 BST
Alice and Bryony in training © Alice Tarnawski

The average team competing in the infamous Sydney to Hobart race has 10 crew members or more. But two Sydney women are ready to push the limits of what's possible by preparing to compete in the 2021 race as the first ever all-female crew of just two.

The exhilarating sport of two-handed sailing is on the rise with Alice Tarnawski (26) and Bryony Gregory (30) from Sydney's Northern Beaches leading the charge with the discipline's debut to the Sydney to Hobart race this year.

The two women from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club have dreamt of competing as the first female double-handed team in the famously tough Australian race for as long as they can remember.

Initially backed with nothing but a dream and the determination to succeed, these best friends reached out to experienced two-handed sailors to see what it would take to bring their campaign to life. The campaign is one of the first Australian programs aiming to develop youth sailors and their skillsets to compete against the world's best at an elite offshore level in double-handed sailing.

But a dream will only take them so far. The duo have now got their work cut out for them, ready to clock up many hundreds of hours of training on and off the water over the next year to prepare and all whilst working full-time jobs. But none of that phases Alice and Bryony who are here to compete - they want to win.

They'll be competing in the brand new, first-of-its kind, performance offshore 30-footer, the Farr X2 from Farr Yachts Australasia. The yacht, named "Nexba", is the first X2 off the production line, commissioned by Sydney sailor John Bacon to get these fantastic yachts on the water.

The new yacht will replace Bacon's previous Class 40 of the same name and is born from a strong partnership between Bret Perry of Farr Australia, John's previous two-handed partner David Sampson of VicSail and the ongoing support of homegrown Aussie start-up success story Nexba, who have become Australia's leading Naturally Sugar Free drinks brand in recent years. The brand looks to support 'naturally brave' individuals and projects and were so inspired by Bryony and Alice's story they just had to get involved.

The Nexba boat will be arriving on Australian shores mid-2021 ready for some rigorous training sessions, including competing in many of the major blue water offshore series on the east coast ahead of the race south in December.

From the outset both Bryony and Alice were eager to compete for not only a sense of achievement, but also a cause close to their hearts. The women are proud to be sailing, and raising funds, for Jean Hailes for Women's Health, a pioneering women's health charity intent on opening the conversation around chronic conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) that affect so many of the Australian female population. The foundation also supports valuable research and accessibility programs to bridge the gaps in healthcare services for women of all backgrounds and ages.

This energetic and driven duo are ones to watch this Sydney to Hobart, backed by over 20,000 miles of collective offshore experience, as well the many one-design, match racing and offshore trophies they have collected over their years on the water.

Talking of their goal between now and then, the duo commented, "We want to learn as much as we can to be the most prepared boat on the start-line come Boxing Day, not scared to send it hard, have fun and collect trophies".

Alice Tarnawski is a physiotherapist and Pilates instructor working at Bodyworks Physiotherapy on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Alice's passion for sailing began at age 11 and despite growing up in Grose Vale near Sydney's Blue Mountains, she travelled regularly to Pittwater on the weekends to sail with her family and to participate in the RPAYC's Youth Development Squad.

Since then, she has competed on both a national and international scale in Match Racing, offshore racing and One Design racing, with her most recent achievements including Corinthian World Champion at the 2019 Farr 40 World Championships held in Long Beach California. She regularly competes across Sydney's One Design scene in a variety of classes and has competed in numerous East Coast Bluewater races including the Pittwater to Coffs, Sydney to Goldcoast and Bluewater Pointscore Series.

In 2020 she stepped up to develop her navigation skills onboard Richard Hudson and David Beak's 'Pretty Woman' for the Bluewater point-score series.

Bryony Gregory grew up sailing in the UK, starting in the International Cadets at age 7 out of Frensham Pond Sailing Club and travelled around the country competing in national events. She came over to Australia over 9 years ago on a working holiday and with the dream to compete in the Sydney to Hobart. Since then, she has become an Australian Citizen, competed in three Sydney to Hobart's and many other Bluewater Point-score races along the East Coast.

Sailing is her passion which she's also managed to make into a career, she looks after and maintains racing yachts and gets them ready for events. She's clocked over 20,000 offshore miles from racing and deliveries.

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