Leg 4 Race 5 - Competing with the big boys

Leg 4 Race 5 - Sydney, Australia to Hobart, Tasmania

Number of souls on board: 21

Distance sailed: 640nm

Number of days at sea: 3 1/2

Finish position: 10th (9th place line honours) within the Clipper Fleet. 54th overall.

 

Wow. What an awesome city Sydney is. Shame about their lockout laws but the weather was spectacular, people generally friendly. Commuting on a ferry in the sun? Beats the Thames clippers. Fantastic to catch up and catch some waves with the Lachie (only while KPMG Cayman is sleeping I promise he is not dossing around). But mostly it was really cool being shown around Kia’s new city and home in Manly and to hang out with Red in his home town.

After a fantastic stopover and Christmas in Sydney with the family, Christian and Darren (Moonies and Jenks you were epically missed) it was time for THE SYDNEY TO HOBART YACHT RACE 2017. To say I was frickin’ excited could only underplay it. This is a race I had dreamed about doing since I watched the documentary on the disastrous 1998 race as a kid. I had this beautiful moment to reflect on this as I took the first morning ferry from Manly across the harbour with the sun rising behind the Opera House. 

A few hours later the serenity had lifted and Sydney Harbour was manic. The Clipper fleet paraded down passed the Opera House to the Bridge and then back up the harbour to the start lines. To be motoring along next to the most elite racing machines in sailing today was a little yachts dream - Wild Oats XI, Magic Carpet, the mighty Comanche, Black Jack, TP52s, 1929 Dorade and on and on. 

It turned out to be a race for the history books. Comanche stole line honours fro Wild Oats after Wild Oats was penalised for an infringement not he start line. The first 5 boats across the finish line all beat the previous record set the year before. The new record now being held by Comanche. 

For us it was glorious spinnaker runs almost the whole way and with some classic tricky conditions coming up the Derwent river into Hobart. We had such a tight finish. We were chasing Team Great Britain hard up the Derwent with Dare To Lead hot on our heals. Unfortunately we never caught GB and were pipped over the line by Dare. I was pissed. We should have drove them out of the line. It was exciting racing though. I came up the dock to meet Mum, Dad, Kia and Christian fuming. Mum reminded me that it really didn’t matter, that I had just completed the Sydney Hobart for the first time and had been dreaming of doing this since I was about 12 years old. They always say the right thing don’t they!

We finished in 3 days and 4 hours. Chuffed with that. The whole Clipper fleet was separated by only an hour and a half. That’s good racing.

 

Hobart put on a show for us. What a stopover. New Year’s Eve was a =n amazing a surreal combination of meeting up with best friends - the old ones with Freddie, Tara, Sarah and Clutts for tour of my boat, food and drinks at Taste of Tasmania and dancing (obviously) and the new clipper family for the midnight fireworks on Liverpool boat party. 

A few of us hired a mini bus, bought $12 tents and drove up to Friendly Beaches and Wineglass bay. This is an extraordinary part fo the world’s coastline. Untouched massive beaches. We set up camp and a little bonfire. Had an amazing sunset and were graced by dolphins packing the shore break (Marty!) at dusk. 

The next day I got a full taste of the kindest and generosity of the Tasmanians. Nano and I missioned to Clifton Beach to try and catch a surf. This involved hitch hiking to the beach after we found out the busses didn't go all the way. On arriving, there was no where to rent boards other than a surf school with some foams…but the waves were perfect. 2-4ft beach break with an offshore. Not a foamy kind of day. But with Nano everything works out, he started to chatting to this guy working in his garden. This guy turned out to be Richie. What a legend. Richie invited us to take our choice of his exceptional quiver, offered me his favourite wetsuit. We were sorted. Fours hours later there were two serious international ocean sailors with un-fade-able smiles. But Richie still extended his hospitality further, inviting us into his home to have beers, meet his wife and daughter and share stories. If I, or any of you, can emulate even a portion of his attitude, kindness or generosity we will have a beautiful world to live in. It reminded me of my friends Chris and Norm who looked after me when I was a ski bum and a certain Kramer. Share your good fortune/karma cause it might come back one day. Preach!