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Vicki Willman

Other NameVictoria Sipajilo
Current City/HometownSydney
ClubMiddle Harbour Yacht Club
Boat Owner ofBoobs - 18ft skiff
Boats Sailed OnBarbarian

Vicki Willman

Victoria Willman (now Victoria Sipajilo) was one of our earliest serious female sailors. She sailed 18' skiffs as well as offshore yachts at MHYC. Not satisfied with being a "cook" on an offshore yacht, she decided to take an all female crew to Hobart in 1975, the first woman to do so. You can read about this trip under the yacht Barbarian.

18 Ft Skiffs

Victoria Willman on her skiff Boobs


Yachting Personality MHYC Log March 1976 - Vicky Willman

Yachting Personality - Vicky Willman

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, Sir Gordon Taylor, Scotty Allen and Sir Hudson Fysh do not go down in history as record breakers, but as pioneers, and as such, their records will never be broken.

Vicki Willman fits into the same category. She has never won a major sailing title, but she has most certainly pioneered the way for women sailors in offhore racing, and this record she will never lose.

Vicki started sailing at the age of ten in Moths, graduating to Cherubs, and from 1964 to 1968, sailed with H.S. Mason in a MHYC yacht "Cadence", and was a member of the crew when they won races to Montague Island, Bird Island, Cabbage Tree Island and Jervis Bay.

In 1969, Vicki went overseas and, apart from travelling through all the Med­iterranean countries, overland across to India and then onward through Poland and Russia, she spent some time in a Dutch ocean racer and competed in Cowes Week. the Plymouth to La Rochelle Race, La Rochelle to Bernadette, and then re­turned to Cowes and on to Breskens in Holland.

Returning to Australia via America in September 1972, Vicki sailed with an all-girl crew in an 18footer, originally called "Boobs" until they were able to obtain a sponsorship from Moygashel Irish Linen.

In the 1973-74 season, she skippered the 18 ft."Tammy 'S'" with a male crew of two.

In June 1974, Vicki crewed in "Alcheringa" in the first Sydney-Noumea race in which they finished third over the line and third on handicap.

For the 1974-75 season, she sailed in the well-known eight metre "Norske" owned by R.A. Dickson, a long time and well-known flag officer of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.

During the 1975 Cruising Yacht Club Winter series, Charles Middleton, an ex-commodore of the Middle Harbour Yacht Club, kindly made his yacht "Lena Breck" available to Vicki, and what was to become her very well-known all girl crew.

Shortly before the beginning of the 1975 - 76 season, Vicki was lucky enough to have the yacht "Rival" (which had won the 1951 Hobart Race), offered to her by the owner, Tom Seccombe of Coffs Harbour. Yachtsmen interested in ocean racing will remember the 1975 Montague Island Race when 45 yachts started. Of these only 13 succeeded in rounding the Island. To the everlasting credit of the all-girl crew, they survived the first night and were amongst those who rounded the Island. The end of the race was disappointing, in that, after the violent conditions of the start, they were eventually forced to use their motor to return the last few miles through complete lack of wind. Working girls do have to work!!!

In response to a magazine appeal for a yacht to be sailed to Hobart by the all-girl crew, John and Nancy Shaw of Ballina offered their yacht "Barbarian" and Nancy joined the crew for the race.  Everyone knows that they successfully completed the race and received an enormous ovation on their arrival at Hobart.

As we pointed out at the beginning of this article, the all-girl crew has not broken any records, but two points should be clearly made. Their performance in the early part of the Montague Race is no doubt their greatest achievement as this year's Hobart race was not a particularly difficult event - the other main point is that they did not enjoy the benefit of almost unlimited funds that were available to a number of their competitors, and they relied on the extreme generosity of two owners who graciously leant their boats to the girls to gain such valuable experience and create historic records in International Womens Year.

MHYC Log June 1976

TO ALL WOMEN MEMBERS OF MHYC                             


MIDDLE HARBOUR YACHT CLUB has kindly agreed to conduct this event on the 14th and 21st November, 1976.

The class of yacht to be used has yet to be decided but there will be one yacht from each of the six clubs who are being invited to compete in the four race series. At the moment, it appears they may be either Endeavour or Triton 24's.

As this is something completely new, we would like to have the maximum possible support from women members of the Club. Team racing is the keenest form of yachting competition and requires quick thinking, fast reflexes, a knowledge of the rules and a good knowledge of the type of yacht that you are sailing.

The M.H.Y.C. Winter series will give a very good opportunity to people to train for the November challenge.

Would any members of the M.H.Y.C. either women or men who wish to compete or support this event either personally or by loaning a yacht, please contact me or leave a message at the Club - 969 1244.

Vikki Willman

MHYC Log October 1976

The Womens Interclub Match Racing Series 1976, is to be conducted by M.H.Y.C. on Sunday, 14th and Sunday 21st November.

This series has attracted womens teams from R.S.Y.S., R.P.A.Y.C., C.Y.C. R.P.E.Y.C., Botany Bay Yacht Club and M.H.Y.C.

As a lead up to this series, a very interesting seminar on match racing tactics and rules was conducted at the Clubhouse on Tuesday 28th Sept­ember by Jim Hardy and Tony Mooney. We wish to extend our appreciation to these gentlemen for their time and interest, which, without any doubt was very much appreciated by the seventeen women sailors who were present.

MHYC Log December 1976

MHYC Log December 1976

The Womens Inter-Club Match Racing Series was an outstanding success, attracting a large spectator fleet, newspapers, magazines and television stations.

The series being the first of its kind was not without its teething problems some of which seemed at the time, unsurmountable. However everything seemed to sort itself out and I feel now that its future is assured.

The series was won by Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club. Their team, captained by Judy Spicer and a very capable crew of 'loverlies', won every heat they started in. The other clubs represented were - Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron -Pat Warn; Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club - Robyn Grosvenor; Botany Bay Yacht Club - Thompson; Cruising Yacht Club of Australia - Leslie Brydon and Middle Harbour Yacht Club was capably represented by Vicki Willman.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to Harvey Milne, Grahame Robertson, James Dibble, Geoff McBean and John Garner and Kerry Partridge who made their yachts available for the series, and a special thanks to Cavalier Yachts Pty. Ltd. who co-ordinated the loan of the boats.




From Lesley Brydon memoirs

Flushed with success from the Hobart race, Vicki Willman decided to organise the first-ever women's match-racing regatta on Sydney Harbour. 

She persuaded Cavalier Yachts to sponsor the series with five entries from various clubs in Sydney. The Hobart crew bought a perpetual trophy, which we called the Barbarian Trophy, to be competed for each year by teams of women sailors. It was a thousand-dollar gold-plated trophy which we could afford with the money left over from Hobart. 

Fortunately, insurance had covered all of our damages, so we did not have to use all of the sponsorship money.

Note: She was not sure who sponsored them for Hobart.


MHYC Log September 1977

In December this year, there will be inter-match races for the Barbarian Trophy, with the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, Botany Bay Yacht Club, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Middle Harbour Yacht Club. This will be contested in an Endeavour.

Julie Hodder comment: I do not have the results, but I am told that this year Vicki Willman won, beating Judy Spicer
I believe it was also held in 1978 by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron from March 23-27 (MHYC Log March 1978). May 1978 reports 'The Tasmanian team, lead by the ever-consistent Barbara McDougal of the Derwent River Squadron, sailing Kermit, scored convincingly from NSW (Anne Finlay of MHYC) sailing "Freckles" and SA (Helene Messner of the Port Adelaide Yacht Club) sailing "Seabird"
After that regatta, it the female championships seemed to have gone interstate. Many of the female sailors at the time also competed in World Women's Championships.

CYCA Women in sailing

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Director, Janey Treleaven hosted an informal Q&A with Victoria Sipajilo, Wendy Tuck and Emma May delving into unchartered waters of what it is like sailing offshore for women.

The Q&A was held in the Sydney Race Village with audience members treated to numerous of tales about sailing offshore.

Victoria Sipajilo (nee Willman) was the skipper of the first all-female crew to sail the Sydney Hobart on Barbarian.

Sipajilo reminisced about gathering an all-female crew and spoke about how the sailing has evolved for the better to be exclusive of all demographics.

"I wanted to do a Sydney Hobart and was told that I would have to be a cook," Sipajilo said. "And I am not a very good cook so I thought 'buggar that' and decided to skipper my own boat."

CYCA Women in Sailing - Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

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