Durvlar Duggan and Alice Buchanan have been sailing together for the past three years.
Buchanan grew up in the sport but Duggan is a more recent recruit.
“I used to actually be a dancer, an Irish dancer, and two and a half years ago our school was like, ‘hey do you want to try some sailing?’ So we hopped into a Pacer at school sailing and now we’re here,” said Duggan.
She’s noticed a rise in the number of girls competing.
“Last year at nationals in Queensland we didn’t have many girls; this year there’s been quite a big group of girl crews here,” she said.
“It’s a really tough competition and everyone’s just bumped up their game, especially the girls.”
The 17-year-old pair won the National Women’s Championship in Hobart.
“It was pretty surreal actually, we weren’t really expecting much from that regatta just coming into it trying to learn as much as we can,” said Duggan.
“Coming out with a win in the girls category was really cool, the competition was really tough this year as well.”
Now they are pitching their sailing skills against male crews in a 29er in the Youth Championships.
“We’ll just see what happens after this regatta because there’s Youth Worlds, which is in the middle of this year in July in Poland, so if we qualify that would be another great regatta to do,” Buchanan said.
Former Olympic sailor-turned-coach, Carrie Smith, is cheering the young female competitors on.
“It’s something I’m pretty passionate to see,” she said.
“Our federation Australian Sailing are doing a really wonderful job to encourage girls from the very bottom grassroots level all the way through to our youth and Olympic and hopefully that can give them the opportunity to do things like the America’s Cup.
“It’s not every day that girls get asked to be a part of those sorts of teams so we’re slowly working towards that sort of equality in our sport.”
She said the all-female crew on Wild Oats X in the 2018 Sydney to Hobart yacht race acted as a beacon for women.
“That was amazing and there was some very, very talented ladies on that boat,” she said.
“It would have been a huge honour for them and we’re all very proud. Watching [federal MP] Julie Bishop jumping off the back [of the boat] is a really awesome moment for girls in our sport.”
She said while there are separate divisions for girls, there are also open races.
“We’re also encouraging the girls to go out and beat the boys and really push hard in that open fleet, so definitely seeing more girls around the place,” she said.
“We’re very lucky that our junior classes are sort of feeding us with potential champions for the future.”
Australian Sailing regional manager, Glen Stanaway, estimates close to 1,000 sailors are taking part in the National and Youth Championships across a range of different boat classes.
“About 50 per cent of women involved in this event [are] young women, [they are] very, very competitive,” he said.
He said the championships have attracted competitors from around the country and overseas.
“Some of the sailors that have come through this event in the past have gone on to win the America’s Cup,” he said.
“So we’ve got Olympians coming out of it, but we’ve got multigenerational families coming out of it as well where they become committed to the sport and the lifestyle that sailing offers.”
Mr Stanaway believes Durvlar Duggan and Alice Buchanan have a promising future in the sport.
“Their attitude, their whole approach to sport, it’s cheerful, it’s competitive, it’s respectful to each other’ what happens on the water stays on the water, they’ve got friendships for life even though it’s a really tough battle out there in the competition.”