Susan Ingham

Writer, researcher & advocate.

This site is to support and promote the book, ‘Hold Your Course’, the story of how women entered the male world of sailing and where they are today.

About the Book

Hold Your Course is an exploration of the way women entered the masculine world of mastering wind and water. The book grew from an essay of the same name about the participation of women in the Lane Cove Sailing Clubs, which won the Lane Cove History Prize in 2020.

Over the past twenty years, women have taken part in a number of sports that had been the prerogative of men until then: football, cricket, golf – you name it – the story has been told. Gender equity is an issue that has hit every part of society and all sporting codes and yet the spotlight has not been aimed at sailing. Hold Your Course explores the history of recreational sailing for women with Sydney as the focus, their experience providing a template for other female sailors, both nationally and internationally.

The cover of Hold Your Course features Stacey Jackson at the top of the mast on Team SCA in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean taking a selfie. Stacey was part of an all-female crew on Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race, 2014-15. SCA refers to Svenska Cellulosa AB (English: Swedish Cellulose Company), a Swedish timber, pulp and paper manufacturer whose products include hygiene products. They supported an all-female crew in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 because, as their publicity says, 80 percent of SCA’s consumers are women.

This image is rare amongst the photographs of sailing which usually show the boat from the water level. It is powerful because you have to look twice to understand what you are looking at. When you do, you realise that this woman, who is presumably fixing a rigging problem, is hanging off the top of the mast of a racing yacht in the middle of the ocean and has cheerfully taken a selfie up there. If that doesn’t speak of powerful women, what does!

Prototype Book Cover for Hold Your Course
Elle Racing, an 18ft Skiff on Sydney Harbour
Elle Racing on Sydney Harbour: Women have even conquered the wild world of racing 18ft skiffs.
18ft Skiff, Sydney Flying Squadron, 1922
18ft Skiff, Sydney Flying Squadron, 1922: In the early days up to 15 hefty blokes to keep the hull afloat.
Rigging Sabot Dinghies, Lane Cove, 1962
Rigging Sabot Dinghies, Lane Cove, 1962: In the 1960s, learning to sail dinghies became popular for kids and now included some girls.

Sydney Harbour is made for sailing but whether in a dinghy or keel yacht, it was always a boys’ club. Although women have increasingly invaded this club, the central question of this book is why, proportionally, far fewer women are at the top level of sailing or on the boards and selection committees.

This book explores the reasons and found, amongst other things, that lack of gender parity in sailing was part of the social norms of the 20th century and that the accepted roles for women and the roles women accepted for themselves were changing. By the 1960s girls were winning dinghy races in local clubs and by the 1980s women competed at World and Olympic level, but a career path in sailing for women still remains difficult.

Sailing Home after a Race

This is a memoir in part, the author including some of her own sailing experiences, and a history in part; but the focus is on the last three or four decades and how the institutions in sailing helped or hindered female sailors. A wide range of sailors have been interviewed for their experiences and opinions and there are some special portraits of individual female sailors who have broken the mould – and a remarkable bunch they are too.

Hold Your Course is a call made from one boat to another to keep sailing in the same direction in order to avoid collision and is chosen as the title to reflect that women have a way to go and need to know where others are steering.