Starting an Ocean Race in Sydney Harbour is amazing.
Why were you inspired to do this?
When I was first in Sydney in 1995, I watched the start of the Sydney Hobart Race from the Heads. It was an amazing thing to see and I was in awe of how a sailboat race could capture so much attention. Then in 2005 my friend Charles did the Fastnet yacht race and listening to his stories inspired me to want to do the Sydney Hobart while I lived in Australia. As Charles put it doing the Hobart would certainly raise the bar on my other adventures!
What were 3 things you did to make this happen?
Start Racing Sailboats – Even though I had been around boats my whole life I had not done much racing. I joined the MHYC and started racing with the crew of a 38’ boat called Forty-Two. The boys were great fun and I learned a lot about racing from JM and the rest of the boys.
Big Boat Training Program – My friend Kenny was pretty keen to do the Hobart and his company DHL sponsored a former round the world Volvo 60. Kenny organized for a combined group of pro and amateur sailors to do the Big Boat Training Program offered by Kookaburra Challenge and do the race as part of the DHL Racing Team.
Preparation – The physical and mental challenges of an offshore race became evident during our intensive 3 months of training. I spent a lot of time in the gym getting ready for the physical challenges of the race and was pretty happy that I had a great Sea Sickness pill (Avomine).
How did you feel once you had accomplished this?
On Boxing Day when the boat leaves the dock you are greeted by a 2,500 boat spectator fleet and the buzz of helicopters covering the race. The start of the race happens quickly as the boats race across one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Once the boats leave Sydney Heads a new reality sets in for the crews. Most of the crew go strangely quiet as they contemplate the next 3 days, for some the feelings of sea sickness come far too early. For them this will be a trip they will wish they never took. Watch systems are established to ensure crew get proper rest while the boat races day and night. Many sailors who suffer from seasickness still compete and never miss a watch while some are never seen above decks again. While racing, the boat and crew will go through several moods from excitement and boredom to pure terror. The most notorious part of the race is crossing the Bass Straight, which can whip up some of the steepest waves in the shallow water between mainland Australia and Tasmania. Once you cross the straight the site of Tasmania is cause for great cheer. Land Ho! Then as you finally arrive in Hobart its pure joy and relief. It feels like the whole town is on hand to greet you. There is a massive sense of pride in the crew as we cheer our massive accomplishment. The feeling of completing the Hobart is incredible and we celebrated as a crew for three days straight. For many on the crew one Hobart was enough but for others, including myself we were looking forward to doing it all over again.
Additional notes and tips:
Many yacht clubs have opportunities for new members to join race crews, for example at MHYC www.mhyc.com.au they have a crew board for new members looking to start racing.