Sally SAALFELD BA

1948 - 1950

Yachtsman (1929-98)

SallySaalfeldSALLY SAALFELD enjoys the distinction of being the first woman to sail in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Sally was born in India where her father was in the British army. The family returned to Britain shortly after and Sally grew up in England until the outbreak of World War II. In Australia, she completed school at Frensham and it was here that she was persuaded by a friend to buy a V.J. This partnership was not entirely satisfactory as the boat had to be kept at Double Bay and sailing opportunities from Mittagong were scarce!

The family moved to Mosman into a house with a water frontage and boatshed where her father kept a V.J. for her. Sally persuaded her mother to crew and together they entered races from the Mosman V.S. and V.J. Club. Sally became the first female member of the club and it was there that she met her future husband, Gordon Ingate.

In 1948 Sally began an Arts course at Sydney University and entered Women’s College. As well as philosophy and English, her special interest was signing and she studied Italian and music. She was fond of Miss Archdale because she ‘made a great deal of sense’. Sally’s passion for sailing continued while at College, returning to Mosman each Saturday mornings to compete in races.

In December 1950, Sally went straight from her final university examinations to the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on ‘Jasnar’, the family owned boat which was to be skippered by Gordon. The 1950 race started with a violent gale of 35k winds which lasted four days. Sally recalled the experience as enjoyable – ‘I really don’t know why because I was buffeted beyond belief and slept on the floor with water dripping on my head… I lost a stone from being thrown against the boat all day long – but I was not frightened by the rough conditions.’

Her skills and courage received less focus in the current newspapers, which preferred to depict this young and pretty woman as a ‘glamour girl’. The idea that she was a celebrity or had broken down barriers for women did not seem to occur to Sally. She knew there was an anomaly at the Yacht Club in Hobart when they did not admit women, so she ‘just walked in’. Indeed, Sally saw herself little out of the ordinary.

Extracts from Women’s College Journal 1990

Back to Alumnae Stories