Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sydney Hobart Recap & What's Next!

What a start to 2012 it's been! As always, I'm amazed by how quickly time flies when you're having fun! It feels like only yesterday that I flew out to Australia at the start of October to begin my training for the Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race with Team Another Challenge.

After three full months of training we crossed the start line with high ambitions to do well and prove the 'old boys' that we could compete at the highest level sailing and be pretty darn competitive. I'm not sure what the general public consensus was of our crew, but I'm pretty sure that not many people were taking us too seriously. After all, we did have a pink boat. - Oh boy we proved them wrong!

We had a great start off the line and were continually crossing tacks with Deloitte as One, our coaches Sydney 38 which he had chartered to race against us. Out of the harbour we went, virtually neck and neck with them, and then we each chose our strategy. I was navigating on board our boat Ella Bache and I followed my game plan to be to the East of them throughout pretty much the whole race.

On the first night, a fairly impressive front rolled through with a nice punchy rolling cloud on the edge of it. In the space of 5 minutes we went from sailing downwind with our masthead kit to beating upwind in 35 knots. That wasn't fun. Both us and Deloitte as One were trading 1st place in class as we jostled for position and played out every shift that came our way.

However, our time at the top of the leader board was fairly short-lived, as by the time the sun rose the following day, the Sydney 38's even more East of us had gained a better lay line into the coast and had overtaken us by 5 miles. That hurt – but it gave us a rather large motivation to catch them.

Sailing down the coast to just before the latitude of Green Cape was a rather tough slog upwind with not many game changing options amongst the fleet. Until we arrived at the Latitude of Gabo Island that is. I saw an opportunity in the routing to take an unfavourable tack out about 10miles to the East which would then set us up for a better tack into the Tasmanian coast. It was a long term strategy and a bit of a gamble but we had to make us the miles of the Sydney 38's in front of us that had etched out a lead of around 8 miles.

The reasoning for this strategy was two fold -  it would set us up for a better lay line into the coast and we'd also have more favourable current. The ultra long term strategy was also to be the most eastern boat so that when a forecasted high pressure cell moved over Tasmania on our last night of sailing, we'd be best positioned to negotiate it. I was a bit surprised and also a bit nervous when after an hour, no one else in the fleet had done the same thing by heading east. But then, Deloitte as One also tacked out to almost an identical longitude and just a mile behind us. 

In the end, after another day and a half's sailing it paid off big time. We had reduced the top boats lead by 15 miles down to a mere 4
5 miles and we were in a close neck and neck race with four other Sydney 38's all within a mile of each other. We were still the most eastern boat and I hoped this would pay off in the final stages of the race.

Sailing the final miles across Storm Bay and up the Derwent river were some of the most exciting miles I've ever sailed. We were holding onto second place and we were defending our position against 3rd placed The Goat. We crossed the line after 4 days, 2 hours, 43 minutes and 49 seconds of fantastic close racing – Just four minutes ahead of 3rd placed The Goat. After three months of serious training, we had done it, we had shown the sailing community, and the public, that a team of youngsters could compete against the top guys! It was such a good feeling and the whole crew was on a huge high for a number of days.

After the race, I sailed our coached boat Deloitte as One back up to Sydney and then after a couple of days rest, flew up North to the Sunshine Coast for a bit of relaxing in the sun. I had a great time up there and also learnt how to wake board on a surf board which was a novel experience!

I've now flown back to the UK to catch up on a bit of paperwork, but most importantly, for the start of my Schools Tour which begins next Monday. I'm throughly excited about this as I love talking to school pupils of all ages about my experiences as hopefully through doing that, it will inspire them to put a foot out and try and live some of their dreams. If you have any interest in booking a talk for your school or organisation, please don't hesitate contacting me through the 'Contact' section of my website

Recently, it was also great to see Laura Dekker return from her around the world trip. I'm a big fan of the way she has embraced adventuring and hopefully through her promotion of this, we'll see more teenagers making the most of their lives! It was such a shame to see the struggle that she went through with the courts and I'm chuffed for her to have proved them wrong! Good on ya girl!