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Lady Sailor Takes to the Sea

Scientist, teacher, Assistant Principal at an all boys school, wife and mum, Sheenagh Neill, tells DBY what’s on the horizon as a first time boat owner as she sails from Sydney to Hobart and approaches retirement.

Are you and your husband, Christian, sailors?

Yes, but we were always crewing on other people’s boats. I wanted to make my own path and plans moving forward. There was much more I wanted to explore.

I started back to sailing when my husband moved to New Zealand to do his post doc degree and I was still in Tasmania. My once a week joy during those times was getting reacquainted with boats and learning how to sail again.

What do you remember as a first sailing experience?

I’m actually an immigrant to Australia and sailed from Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1965 at the age of 4 with my family to escape the conflict. I remember telling my father I loved sailing. He was a submariner in the Navy and WW II.

What type of sailing do you enjoy?

We like racing and started off as crew in the local twilight and Saturday races. We eventually did some overnight racing. We’ve competed in Division 1, 2 and 3.

Before buying our own boat, we were racing on a Duncanson 35 with the same skipper for 13 years. We kindly call him Captain Bligh!

He was an excellent skipper and taught us how to do most every job on the boat. We know most skippers don’t have that philosophy and grateful for the education. Kay Cottee previously owned his boat.

I love racing in a different way to the love I have for cruising. I’ve taken a few yachts back from Hobart to Sydney after the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race and those were all great sailing experiences.

Why did you buy the Jeanneau 42i Tahiti?

We started looking at Catalinas, twin cabins in the 40ft range about 2 years ago. After encountering some obstacles, we stopped and restarted the search for various reasons at various times.

The Jeanneau was a good compromise and offered more style than some of the other production boats we looked at. The Jeanneau 42i features we like are the layout, which was important for living aboard long term. Light and space, which the Jeanneau has in abundance, were also very important.

How was DBY as a Yacht Broker?

The owners of the Jeanneau 42i Tahiti mentioned that DBY took over the listing for them.

When we started speaking to DBY broker, Darren Parker, he was very patient with me and I had a lot of questions. He was really great about following up and keeping in touch with us on a regular basis keeping us informed of any changes including a price drop which got us moving.

What’s on the horizon for you and Christian on Tahiti?

We’ll sail back to our home in Hobart, get to know her, do some fine-tuning and enjoy the boat through winter – Tasmania is very beautiful in the winter!

The long term plan is to join a bi-annual cruise around Tasmania by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and looking forward to sailing to Port Davey. I don’t feel like I’m really sailing when I have mobile reception like I do on Pittwater now!

The next trip will be to sail around Australia.

What are your hopes and expectations looking ahead?

Why wait to die… I’m not one of those people that is going to sit on my bum and wait. I’m on a time line and I’m not getting any younger.

Our son, Aden, is now learning to sail and race on another yacht and we’re looking forward to having him sail with us.

My best experience is being out on the open ocean with nothing around you apart from the sea, you can only see the horizon. I’m looking forward to doing that very soon!

Christian has a PHD Doctorate in Marine Medicinal Chemistry and amazingly calm in chaos in comparison to my Irish personality!

He skippered us through a 15 hours storm at night off Gabo Island while the Dunalley fires were burning near our house. We survived with 3 of us on board and made it through the night although I wasn’t sure if I would. It was very scary. I had an epiphany after that experience that I was really up for anything and could survive.

My husband and I are a good team and very different as well. Christian will be the skipper. We hope to help people to learn to sail and inspire them to enjoy it as much as we have.