My title

Episode 52: David Smyth email

Hi David,

Just a quick email to say “thanks”  

My eldest son Nate, who is now 14 years of age, was born with a variety of serious congenital heart defects.  Over the years he has undergone 8 open-heart operations and numerous supporting operations.  He has a pacemaker, mechanical valve and his heart has been extensively re-plumbed.  We’ve spent many months in various Brisbane hospitals over the years.   We live in Cairns so it has been challenging managing this.

Nate is naturally not drawn to outdoor activities, like sport, and tends to spend most of his time indoors.  So I was keen to find something he could do outdoors that was not too physically demanding and provided the benefits of getting outdoors.   After listening to some of your podcasts it occurred to me that sailing would be ideal.

In one of your podcasts you encouraged listeners to visit their local yacht club to get involved.  So, I contacted our local sailing club and booked myself, Nate and his younger brother Elliott into a beginners sailing course.  Over several weeks we learnt the basics of sailing using Puffin Pacers (dinghies) including learning, the hard way, to remember to duck under the boom :-)

This went well and I thought we shouldn’t waste these newly acquired skills.  Nate was not keen on the stress of racing so I thought we could simply go sailing on weekends for a bit of fun and get outdoors.  So I bought a small old fixed keel sailing boat, a 25ft Top Hat for $6,250.   Basically, the price of a crappy secondhand car!!!  It was in pretty good condition given its age and came with everything including a relatively new tender and a permanent swing mooring in the Cairns Inlet.  The swing mooring only costs about $55 per year!    It is not fast or flashy but it is clean, sails and floats J.   I was pleasantly surprised that it can be low cost to get started on the water!   

This little boat, which we have had for just over a year now, has been fantastic.  We go out to local islands or nearby beaches and have had multiple overnight trips.   It is small enough for the boys to handle the sails etc.   We regularly take other kids out sailing with us too.  These kids are often experiencing sailing for the first time and, like Nate, going through various challenges.

We have learnt heaps with this little boat and hope to learn a lot more.   

Your podcasts have really helped so I just wanted to let you know the impact they have had on us and hope this encourages you to continue sharing information about sailing.

All the best and I look forward to hearing more great stories.

Regards

David Smyth

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Episode 23: Lisa Blair Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks and welcome to the episode 23 of the Ocean Sailing Podcast. Just so you know, I’m back on track, just punching out the second episode in the space of three or four days for a little bit of a break while I was away sailing. So thanks for joining me this week on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and we’ve got Lisa Blair who is planning to set a record as a first female ever to circumnavigate Antarctica. So it’s a two hour session, it’s a long one. Lisa has a fascinating background with having done a clipper race, having done a solo Trans-Tasman and now planning to depart in November from Australia, head south and sail around the Antarctica.

So great stories, some great insights into her life and her plans and if you want to find out more about Lisa, you can go to her website, lisablairsailstheworld.com and if you like her story, if you want to get behind a project want to find out more about it, want to follow her, go to the website, check her out. She’d love your support, love to hear from you and love to share her project with you. Enjoy this week’s episode with Lisa Blair.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, this week we are talking with Lisa Blair, this is a really interesting podcast episode. Lisa’s done some pretty amazing sailing in the past over a long period of time. She’s done quite a few interesting things she’s going to tell us about and she’s got a really big challenge coming up, a challenge ahead of her that relates to circumnavigating Antarctica nonstop. So Lisa, welcome along, thanks for joining us on the Ocean Sailing Podcast.

Lisa Blair: Thank you so much for having me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’re welcome, my pleasure and it’s great to talk about something so unique and so exciting, so very different. I guess before you dive into what you’re in the thick of right now, tell me about your background and what sort of sailing have you done to date and I guess what led you to the challenge that you are now facing with the Climate Action Now program and your goal to sail around Antarctica. So take me back and just feel free to tell me your story.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, okay. So generally when I’m talking to people and I say, “Hey. Hi, I’m Lisa, I’m going to go and become the first female to sail around Antarctica solo.” People tend to get a bit of an assumption that I’ve grown up sailing and I’ve done this for 20, 30 years and I’m some real professional sailor. For me, that’s not really the case, I actually grew up in the rainforest on the Sunshine Coast and I didn’t even start sailing till I was 22, 23 and I’ve since been sailing about 10 years now and I just fell in love with it and I just got an awesome opportunity to work as a hostie on a maxi racing yacht in the Whitsundays.

So that’s like an 80 foot yacht doing tours around the Whitsunday Islands and I was the cook and cleaner on board and that was my first real taste of sailing as a career and I just fell in love with it and I was very, very fortunate to have a skipper and a deckhand that were very patient and answered all my questions. They just started teaching me how to sail. So that was sort of where it all started. 

Since then, it’s taken so many twists and turns and my story’s sort of almost written itself. It was never, I didn’t wake up one day and go, “Right the goal is I’m going to go and sail around Antarctica solo.” I woke up one day saying, “Hey, this is fun, let’s do some more of this and see where it takes me.” And it took me on this really long road, which has brought me to today. Throughout that journey I’ve had the great pleasure of sailing from Samoa to Hawaii with some friends and that was like my first real blue water experience.

I also, by that stage I’d sort of fallen in love with sailing and wanted to turn it into a career path and I wanted to do some form of solo sailing but I wasn’t quite sure how to make that a possibility. My skill sets at the time were sort of deckhand level of experience but not by any means capable of sailing a boat solo around the world. So I needed to get more experience, so I researched and I found the yacht race, the Clipper Around The World Yacht Race, have you heard of that before?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I have.

Lisa Blair: Yes. So for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s an amateur around the world yacht race where you pay a berth fee, you sign up, you then have 10 identical yachts all on the same budget and all with the same amount of crew and sail wardrobe and everything and you race each other around the world. So people can sign on for sections of the race or do the whole thing. 

So I found this race and I was like, "Well, here is a fantastic way to get the amount of experience I need to go and do potential solo stuff later.” The catch is that the price tag at the time was $40,000 pounds so $80,000 AUD. I was selling costume jewellery in the mall at the Sunshine Coast earning $20 an hour with absolutely no savings. So for me to make that leap and go, “Okay, well, this is something I actually want to do but how do I make it into a reality?” That was quite a journey on its own and it taught me a lot of lessons and it also brought me to the point where I realised what you’re capable of.

So over 12 months, I managed to fund raise through sponsorship, the $80,000 to go racing around the world. I was $2,000 short and I had like two weeks until the race start and we tried absolutely everything, and my family’s been amazing support throughout all of this and we were holding fund raising dinners, I cycled my bike from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast as a big fund raiser, selling raffle tickets along the way and just whatever I could possibly think of that was a bit left field, that would get some attention, that would help me raise the money, we did it, we tried it. 

But still we were that $2,000 short and my family had given me everything that they had. So as a family collective, we literally had no money left and so I went to the media and the Sunshine Coast Daily and we just wrote an article and I just said, “Look, can we just do a shout out and see if anybody there that can help me get across the line.” Because with Clipper, once you’ve sign on for the full circumnavigation, you have to pay all the fees upfront or you’re not allowed to race. Even if it’s only $2,000 left.

So we did this article and believe it or not, there was a US citizen who was living in China who once holidayed on the Sunshine Coast and he gets bonuses from work, which he calls his “funny money” and he donates that to charity or individuals who are doing cool things. Anyway, he read the article online just randomly from China and donated $2,000 that night and all of a sudden I was going and yeah, I was racing around the world. 

So I think it’s largely putting yourself out there but also having this incredible opportunities come my way because I put myself out there for them, I’ve been able to be in a position where I can accept them has largely cultivated my sailing career. So yeah. So then I spent 12 months racing around the world, which was to date, one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. One of the most incredible, life changing experiences as well. There’s nothing quite like crossing an ocean or arriving at the next port after 30 days at sea and just be like, ”Yep, we survived that. We worked together and we got ourselves through that.”

Everything that breaks, every incident that occurs, you’ve got to deal with, you’ve got to be the medic, the doctor, the plumber, the tactician, the meteorologist, the baker, the electrician, you’ve got to become everything when you start doing ocean crossings because you can’t just call the handyman up from around the corner and have him come and fix something, you kind of got to become the person that can fix everything. So that was an incredible opportunity and you know, some of the conditions we were sailing in were, well the worst conditions we had were 80 knot winds and 90 foot swell.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Lisa Blair: So the boat’s are 68 feet long and the mast is 90 feet high and we couldn’t quite determine how big the wave was but we knew it was bigger than the mast.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s substantial. In what part of the world was that?

Lisa Blair: That was off Stuart Island the bottom of New Zealand.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, down in there. It gets pretty wild down there.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. Well you get the entire southern ocean swell rolling through. So as the storm swell circles the bottom of the world there, there’s no landmass to break them up. So they just get bigger and bigger every time and more aggressive and the swell also has that entire ocean to just keep building and building it. So your average swell is like 30 to 50 foot high waves. Then when you get a low pressure system on top of the average swell then you get bigger waves and in the case of Stuart Island, it’s actually on the edge of the continental shelf.

So you’ve got this 50 foot waves, heeding the edge of the continental shelf and the depth of the ocean going from like three kilometres to about a hundred, 200 kilometres deep and the whole storm, the whole swell size just peaks and stands right up into a really steep sharp wave that is huge and incredibly powerful to see and it’s so breath taking to watch that kind of ocean.

Yeah, people always ask me what was my favourite part of the race around the world and I always say, “The storms in the southern ocean.” Whilst they’re terrifying, they’re just so beautiful to watch.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think a little bit of stuff, just the sheer grandeur. If your boat’s set up well and you’re sailing well, just the sheer scale and the sheer grandeur of the mother nature’s full force, it’s really quite incredible. Once you’re confident and you’re happy, you got to make it, it’s just surreal to see the scale. It’s really hard too, photographs don’t even show the scale. It’s very hard to take a photograph showing a big swell at scale, it’s almost impossible.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, unless you get a long range shot from a helicopter or something that can show the boat. But even then it’s really hard to photograph something like that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s hard to get helicopters out there in the middle of nowhere just randomly taking photos for you as well.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly. Like they just call up your helicopter and get them to come down.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: There were some great shots that did come out when two boats were close together and they were taking photos of the other boat. But even still, it doesn’t highlight it because the photo would be of the tip of a mast showing beyond a wave but you don’t have the perspective distance or what size vessel that is or any sort of stuff and then the next wave it would be on the peak and you’d have the photo of the boat. Whilst you can see they’re large, I think conceptually, people struggle to understand exactly how large.

I always put it in the form of your average swell is like a two story high building and then when the storms come through, imagine standing on the top of a 10 story high building or at the bottom and looking up and seeing a 10 story high building, which is a wave coming at you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s about best way to put into context you can get, for people to be able to grasp the sheer scale.

Lisa Blair: Yes. But a lot of people also think that they’re throwing over, that they’re these big barrelling kind of ocean waves but it doesn’t really work like that because it’s so deep. What happens is you just sort of go up and over mountains basically, like little hills.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You just rise up. Like a cork your boat just floats all the way up and then flows back down the other side, and they’re quite nicely spaced out most of the time. Unless you’ve got really high winds whipping them up but they’re just completely different aren’t they? The localised swells a kilometre off the coast.

Lisa Blair: Yes, exactly. Then also one of the best things I think about the southern ocean swell is when you watch it, because it’s generally all grey down there, so there’s not a lot of colour. Like everything is sort of washed out grey, the sky’s grey, the water’s grey, you get a few grey birds flying around, but pretty much everything to grey.

When you look back though and you see what will happen is the wave will crest and just the top of it will crumble but just the second before it crumbles, there will be like the most breathtaking aqua blue in the water with the light behind it and it’s a blue I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. It’s so vibrant and it’s almost like a fluorescent, turquoise, aqua blue and it’s just on the tip of the wave, a second before it crumbles into white foam. But yeah, it’s another thing I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Some really, really stunning sites. So that Clipper race, you went on to win that race, right?

Lisa Blair: Yeah we did. So it’s basically the whole circumnavigation is 40,000 nautical miles and it’s broken into legs. So you do eight legs over the course of the whole race, you’re competing in 15 different races and each race is from a country to country kind of scenario. So initially we started from south Hampton in the UK, we went to Madeira in Portugal and then Rio de Janeiro and then across the Atlantic again to Cape Town. Around the bottom of the cape there, over to Geraldton in western Australia and then from Geraldton we went down around the bottom of Tasmania and then up over to the east of New Zealand into Taronga and then around the north of New Zealand to the Gold Coast of Australia and then up to Singapore, China and then across the North Pacific to California to through the Panama Canal to New York and then Nova scotia, Derry, Londonderry. Den Helder and then back to the UK.

So yes, it’s an intense race and it’s 15 individual races and we worked really, really hard and we did win overall but we also won 12 out of the 15 races. Got one second and two thirds so we set a new sort of event record, getting a podium position for absolutely every race. So yes, that was pretty cool.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what year was that? 

Lisa Blair: That was between 2011 and 12, so a couple of years ago now. Yeah, but it did give me all the skills I needed. I came back from that race with the confidence to skipper my boat or a boat or any boat anywhere in the world. I set about getting my commercial licensing and became a master five in the industry and a yacht master off shore and went back up to the Whitsundays actually and started skippering 68 foot yachts up there. So yeah, that was pretty cool. 

And I also started looking for the next adventure, which for me was the Trans-Tasman Yacht Race, which is a race sailed from New Zealand to Australia solo and yeah, so I was working in the Whitsundays trying to pull together another campaign. What Clipper sort of taught me was that you can achieve absolutely anything if you set your mind to it. So when I signed my contract for $80,000 to go and race around the world, I had no real idea if this was something I could succeed at, I just knew I was going to give it everything I got and try and make it work. 

I was successful at it so it showed me that with hard work and dedication, you get amazing opportunities come your way and you can achieve those sorts of things or anything that you really want to achieve. 

So then when I came back, I was like, “Well, what else could I do?” I’d already had this idea that I wanted to sail solo but I hadn’t yet sailed solo. So I needed to get some experience on that and the Trans-Tasman Yacht Race looks like a great way to do that. I had 12 months, I was the only female to sign up for the race and I was the only person without a boat to sign up for the race, which the organizers thought was quite hilarious. The race runs once every four years and actually finishes in my hometown of Mooloolaba in the Sunshine Coast. So I thought that would be a great way to finish off or to make the next step in my sailing career would be to sail home to where all my family and friends and people who had supported me so much through the Clipper Race could then be there to actually welcome me into port. So yeah, that was pretty cool.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so that race goes from New Plymouth to Mooloolaba every four years?

Lisa Blair: Yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I read a book maybe a year and a half ago on the history of that race going back to the early 70’s and quite a few other sort of anecdotal stories of the different people that had done that race. It can be a really, really nasty stretch of water for any crossing, let alone a solo crossing. How did your race go and what were the high points, low points of it?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, I actually, I had 12 months to get it all together and I had arranged for this boat to be lent to me to do the race in and unfortunately like a month and a half or month before the race start, the owner of the boat called me up and said, “Look, I’m really sorry, somebody’s offered to buy it, I’m selling it, you can’t use it for your race anymore.” So I was left without a boat very close to the start line and I also had to do my qualifying passage, which was over 500 nautical miles and I had to get the boat to New Zealand, whatever boat I manage to find.

So there was this period of madness where I quit all my jobs and figured, if I’m going to make it work, I need to 100% be applied to this. Moved into my grandpa’s apartment in a retirement village and shared a room with my mom while I phoned boat brokerages and boat owners to try to find someone, anyone that would lend me a boat. It wasn't until an article was written for my sailing that went out saying “Lisa hangs up the boat wanted sign” that the editor of my sailing emailed me and said, just jokingly, his name is Roger McMillan just jokingly and said, “Look, if you don’t get a better offer, my boat’s always there.” And I don’t think he quite realised that I would totally take him up on that offer.

So I emailed him straight back and said, “Right, what boat? Where is it? Where can I get access to it?” He was like, “Look, let’s just give it a couple of days and see if you do get a better offer.” So we did wait a few more days and I was really impressed with the sailing community. I had another five people contact me to offer their boats and…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, how good is that?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and remember, this is to sail solo to New Zealand and back when I’ve never sailed solo and I’ve got to go and take somebody else’s boat through such an extreme trip. So it was just incredible to see that level of support and the maritime community kept supporting me and helped me get the boat ready and to the start line and without their help I wouldn’t have been at the start.

So anyway, I picked up Roger’s boat in Gosford and we took it to Pittwater to fit it out and I had one week to get it operational before I had to leave to sail to New Zealand for my first ever solo passage, which was going to be my qualifier as well. So 1,200 miles to new Zealand, I hadn’t yet sailed solo, so that was going to be my training trip. I think most people would take the boat out for a day first and see if they like it but I just figured I knew I would like it and I just have to go and my timeline had run out, so off I went. 

Now we had so much to get done to that boat, unfortunately it had been sitting on a mooring for over a year just sitting there. So as most people with boats know, a boat doesn’t like to sit around, it likes to be used. When it’s used, you can pick up any faults or breakages really quickly and easily. But when they sit there, the jobs list tends to accumulate. Yes, so the boat sat there for a year, so we had to haul out, get anti-fouled, get the electronics working, the battery charging system working properly again. 

And he used to have a furler reefing boom system on it but he had changed it for a Slab reefing system. So the whole mainsail had to come off and get recut so it could fit the new system and add sliders to it because it’s no longer a bolt rope system. All of this work and the end of the week I was just ready. I did delay another couple of days but we did get there and by the time I left Pittwater and cleared Barrenjoey Heads, I hadn’t yet put the sails up once.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Gosh.

Lisa Blair: So I was sailing to New Zealand on a boat that I’d had for a week, that I hadn’t even looked at the sails properly. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s pretty bold.

Lisa Blair: So yeah I did have some problems as expected. So we put the sails up and the mainsail I put up and then the jib, I unfurled it, and it worked out that it had been incorrectly installed over a year ago and it had been furled the wrong way around on the forestay. So the UV strip hadn’t been protecting it…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh no.

Lisa Blair: …that whole time and it was a laminated jib, so the laminate was cracked in parts. So the first thing I did, about to leave on a 1,200 mile trip, was get the sticky back out and starts putting sticky back on the jib trying to get it to hold together enough to get me to New Zealand. Yeah, so anyway, I left and I had eight days of relatively mild conditions and moderate weather and just got into my routine, so to speak. I didn’t sleep more than 20 minutes the whole way across because I hadn’t had any time to test the electronics and make sure the radar worked or the AIS was reliable or any of that com systems. So I was my own eyes and so every 20 minutes I would get up and scan the horizon for shipping and then go back to sleep.

It’s amazing how if you do that say a six hour block, you do actually get sleep in your 20 minutes because you get in this sort of hyper, not awake, not quite asleep, just sort of middle zone where you can make enough of an observation to know you're not in danger but you don’t actually wake up completely.

So anyway, I did that the whole way across and I also hadn’t had a chance to setup weather files or GRIB data or any of that information. So I had a friend of mine from Sydney and he was getting my latitude and longitude position off the tracker and he was texting me the known weather forecast for my area. So he would say things like, “You’re going to have westerly 12 to 15 for the next 12 hours, in 24 hours you can expect a southerly change, building to 30 knots.” Or whatever the forecast was.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: In the end, he sent me this text message, I was about 40 miles off the edge of the continental shelf, 40, 50 miles from the finish and I sailed all the way across with relatively little problems, if anything, not enough wind. He texted me and said, “Look, just letting you know there’s a low pressure system going to come through and pass over you. It’s a pretty small system that should only be a maximum of 30 knots of wind and it should pass over in about six to eight hours and not be too much of an issue.” I was like, “Yeah, no worries, 30 knots, I can handle that pretty easily. I’ll just put some reefs in the sail and drop the jib and put the storm if I need to.”

Anyway, the storm sort of started coming over and it’s getting 25 knots and I’m putting the second reef in and then it was hitting 30 knots and it just kept increasing. But I went downstairs to do something and all I remember was hearing a ping and thinking, “Oh no,” and ran all the way upstairs really quickly just in time to watch the whole main sail tear off the masters, every slider attaching the sail to the mast popped off. I didn’t have time to check how they were attached and unfortunately the sail company at the time didn’t stitch them on very strongly. So they all just tore straight off.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Gosh.

Lisa Blair: Ping, ping, ping, ping. So I was left with half a mainsail, flogging around in 30 knots of wind on my own. It took me about an hour and a half to get it down and under control and in the time that I took to get all of the sail down and under control. The swell had just kept building and the winds were getting up to 40 knots and whilst in normal scenario that wouldn’t be such a drama. In that current circumstances, it was actually a really dangerous place to be.

So I had the jib up still, sheeted on tight and I’m going upwind so I’m 45 degrees, 50 degrees off the wind, which means I’m going into the swell as well and trying to travel across the swell, not directly into it. But because the ways were getting so big, the boat was having a lot of travel to get up and over the wave. I didn’t have the mainsail and I couldn’t get the trysail up with the amount of winds and I was running on the diesel engine at the time and the boat just didn’t have enough grunt with the engine plus remember this is the end of an ocean crossing so my fuel supply is relatively low and the tank on that boat was only like a 60 litter tank.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, that’s not much at all. 

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so I burned through it relatively quickly. I was throwing jerry cans into it but I was only doing one jerry can at a time because I wanted to make sure I still had a jerry can left to actually to get into the harbour when I got there. So we were going up and over these waves and the winds that had increased and the main’s already damaged and my jib is about to break. I did manage to get the storm jib up but then I’m on the storm jib and the engine and that was…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you’re severely underpowered at that stage and the seas are getting bigger and bigger.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly and I got knocked down, like the bow of the boat would get caught by the wave breaking and pushed sideways down the wave and once or twice I did get knocked past 90 degrees and I just remember thinking, “This is a really bad place to be.” I checked the charts and it turned out that I was right on the edge of the continental shelf.

Gold Coast Clipper Yacht

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right so the sea is just standing up right there.

Lisa Blair: Yeah and if I had have been five miles further in, I would have been totally fine. But because of exactly where I was and I couldn’t get through it, I just kept getting shoved back and I didn’t have enough power. I ended up streaming the drogue and turning the boat around and just under jib and drogue, riding the storm out over the night. But I’d been like 25 hours on deck working on the sails and trying to get the boat through and hand steering over the waves and by the time I streamed the drogue out, I was just exhausted.

I went to sleep and I was trying to do my 20 minute watches because you got to exercise the drogue lines as well to make sure they don’t chafe through and slept right through my alarms, woke up like an hour or two later. The storm had died down and I looked outside and there’s a container ship on one side and a fishing boat with trolling lines at the other side of me and I was about to, like I wasn’t that far up the collision course with this fishing boat and so I radioed them and said, “Look, I’m running under storm drogue, I’m restricted in my ability to manoeuvre. I can’t get around you very easily,” and he was like, “I’m sorry I’ve got right of way, you need to get around me.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh that’s a helpful attitude.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. I was like, “Okay.” So I managed to jive the jib across and just set enough of a course that we went and just cleared his nets on the other side. But yeah, it wasn’t a nice thing to wake up to after being through a storm all night and running on the storm drogue.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Especially when you’re a solo sailor, it’s not that easy to change tack, change sails, pull a drogue back in, it’s something you could do in five minutes flat when you’re on your own.

Lisa Blair: No, exactly yeah, it takes a bit of time and yeah. But anyway, we did get through it and I ended up about 150 nautical miles further from my finish by the next morning and then of course after the low pressure system had passed over, we had the high pressure system. So I had no wind, no mainsail and I was tacking up wind with storm jib and storm trysail.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, and hardly any fuel.

Lisa Blair: No fuel and big swells still left over, like really messy, horrible swell. So I basically like bulked around for two days before enough of a steady wind filled in to give me any momentum forward and then coming in to closing in on New Zealand like the entry there is actually a really treacherous entry. There’s a lot of this little tiny rocky islands just outside the harbour entrance and if you make a mistake, you can run aground quite easily and it was closing in on sunset, during the storm as well, my GPS had been damaged so I had no GPS overlaying my chart systems anymore. 

I just had like a handheld GPS and paper charts and so I was doing like six minute fixes on the paper chart and getting a new course to steer and then steering in but this nice late afternoon shell came through the, completely created a white out for like an hour, which was the exact hour I was entering the harbour of course. So I had no visual whatsoever coming into harbour of anything around me and I was standing out in the rain and then have to run downstairs and do another plot and hope like hell my mathematics was working and that I was on the right course. Yeah, but we’ve made it in okay, safe and sound and that was my delivery to New Zealand and then I had to race back.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: This is the stage where this is just your race to get to the start line.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is an exciting story in itself. So I have some questions for you. So a solo crossing like the Tasman, are you able to get insurance for that? Do insurance companies insure that?

Lisa Blair: I do have insurance yes. North Reef Insurance, which is offshore Maldives, Marquesas Islands, it’s somewhere over seas. They run through Edward William Marine brokerage and they’re about the only one in the world that I’ve come across that will sponsor or ensure solo sailing for offshore passages. So they were aware of what I was doing, they were aware it was Roger’s boat and I was sailing it. 

So yeah, it was insured but my excess was $15,000 more and the rigging wasn’t insured. So if I lost the rig I would have to try and pay for that and if any real damaged occurred, I probably would have just paid for it anyway because it would have been less generally, than cost of. But at least to complete loss of boat was covered.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So another question, what was the name of the boat?

Lisa Blair: Cator of Margaret River. It’s a Van de Stadt 37 foot. It was home built in Margaret River by Roger McMillan, the owner and he had a mate who was an aluminium welder and the two of them built the boat together and yeah, that was it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s a small world because that boat somehow ended up sailing in the Gold Coast in our Twilight series for a couple of seasons. There were a couple of series and then eventually it was sold. I know the boat actually. It’s a bit of a battle truck, so it looks like a solid boat, wouldn’t have been light.

Lisa Blair: Yeah it is. Yeah, she’s a good boat but when you didn’t know the boat and you’re taking it across an ocean, your sort of opinion on what’s reliable and what’s not can be different, especially in 40 foot waves in a 37 foot boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So did you have to be category one rated to leave Australia and to compete in the race?

Lisa Blair: So to compete in the race, you needed New Zealand category one. I did get signed off as a category one compliance with the Australian legislation and then I had to make some modifications over in New Zealand for the New Zealand legislation on category one ocean racing. But yes, it did need to be category one.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you managed to get to cat one all in the space of a couple of weeks before departure? Cause I’m assuming it wasn’t already cat one when you inherited it. That’s pretty amazing, in a week? There’s a hundred things on that check list and even boats that are cat one, after a couple of years have gone by, there’s always a few things you need to do to get back up to scratch. So that’s a pretty amazing achievement to get to that level that quickly.

Lisa Blair: Yeah it was. That’s why it was such an immense week and like I said, without the support of the maritime industry and all the individual businesses that contributed to various items on the boat and helped with the labour and the work side of things, it wouldn’t have been a possibility. The boat was initially established to be a cat one boat but it never had it actually set up. There were several things that we did have to modify and change. Like we had to actually put drains into the boat. So I had to plum drains in. They didn’t like how the oven was mounted so we had to work out a jerry rigged system to stop the oven flying across the room in a 360 roll over and get a medical kit together and a life raft in the day. Yeah, there was quite a bit to do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So once you got to New Zealand, then in terms of getting your sails sorted out and getting a jib and a main that were back in good shape and then the race itself, how did all of that go?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so I had a nine days in New Zealand and true to New Zealand weather, we had a nice big storm for about five of it, which prevented most work. So I met a local guy over there who builds sails and he built me a jib in three days, which was amazing and he also took the mainsail off for me and did all the repair required to the mainsail and sewed the sliders all back on correctly. So he was huge amount of help and then we also had, because my GPS was down and I didn’t have any money left really, just some locals who knew a bit about electronics and they rewired my GPS system back in and helped me with other odd jobs. 

And you know, the community support that I found over in New Plymouth was just as strong as what I had in Pittwater when I was preparing to depart. Everyone just sort of gets behind trips like this and other sailors from other race boats were coming over to help me on my boat and yeah, it was fantastic and we were ready for the start and we did race all the way back to Mooloolaba.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And the race to the south, was it as eventful as the delivery trip?

Lisa Blair: Not quite. It was probably harder than the delivery trip though, because what we found was it wasn’t that we had enormous extreme conditions, it was the fact that we had such changing conditions. So we had like no knots to 30 knots constant, all the time. So you went right through all the range, every time. You put a reef in, reef in, reef out, reef out. Reef in, reef in, reef out, reef out and it was just exhausting. 

Because you’re actually racing, not cruising, every time the system would pass over you, you would have no wind on the other side of it. For like a good two hours, you’d be walloping around, going nowhere. So you’d want to shake all your reefs out, you’d want to get your code zero up, you’d want to try maximising any potential speed, which meant you couldn’t rest. And then the next sail would start coming over and they were these small little squalls that they were kind of bigger than a normal squall in a sense that they would sit on top of you for a couple of hours and then move off.

But you were still required to do the full change of sails every time and the wind would start building, so you’d change you headsail and then you’d change your mainsail and put a reef in and then put the second reef in and then all hell is breaking lose for an hour or so and then it would be gone again, and you’d have to shake through it out. So it wasn’t that the conditions were unmanageable, they were just hugely exhausting from a solo perspective because you just didn’t get the chance of sleep.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I find that really challenging in a multi-day race with a crew of eight when you have four asleep and there are only four of you to do this stuff. It’s really hard work. When you’re by yourself, it’s just another whole level.

Lisa Blair: Yes, I totally lost myself. I lost it a couple of times.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It gets to the point where it’s not funny anymore.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, it wasn’t. I went to sleep once for a 20 minute nap and I woke up and the boat was sailing back to New Zealand because I had gone through 180 degree wind shift while I was sleeping in 20 minutes. So it was just, you had to be so on top of it. I also just had one auto-helm unit and it didn’t like strong winds. So every time it hit a point where it was like it’s cut off, it would just start beeping and the whole boat would start doing pirouette. So I was thinking I became the best ballerina yacht out there with how many donuts I’ve done in the Trans-Tasman crossing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah right. Then your sleep goes because for that period of time you’ve just got to hand steer, right? You don’t have any choice.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly. Then when it’s moderate conditions or light conditions, you actually work harder in the light conditions because again the auto-helm won’t work if it’s too light a wind, you don’t have enough flow over your rudder to hold course. So you’ve got to hand steer all of that. I remember seeing Lord Howe Ball’s Pyramid, I saw that chunk of rock for about three and a half days because we got a little bit of wind, got there and just got no wind for like two days and the birds were swimming faster than me. We just sort of drifted pass and I just remember thinking every time I woke up from a nap, “Ah, still there. Ah, still there. Still haven’t lost sight of it.” 

So yeah, most of the trip was like that and then when we closed in on the Australian coast, you’ve got the East Australian Current, which can be really challenging to try and work out the best approach there and you really don’t want to be trying to go up current against two or three knots of adverse current against you. But then also you start getting all the land mass interferences. So you start getting hot air coming off of the land, which generates your little thunderstorms in the evenings and lightning storms, which was just additional challenges to the offshore storm systems.

I’ve got some footage actually of just this amazing lightning storm that was all around the boat and I remember sitting in the companion way going, “Right, I’m in a big metal boat, in the middle of the ocean, on my own, completely surrounded by lightning,” and it was striking the water like 20 meters away. You could hear it hissing and sizzling and I have no idea how the boat didn’t get hit but I was very fortunate and I also had waterspouts as well. I had three water spouts and I woke up one day and looked out and there’s like these three water spouts about three or four miles away from me, coming right at me and I had to tack to get out of the way of the pathway of the water spouts. So that was very…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I’ve seen them a couple of times on Morton Bay and I’ve always wondered, the force to lift that amount of water, what would actually happen if they came over the top of your boat? Do you know of anyone that’s actually suffered from that?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, I have. I haven’t spoken to them personally but I’ve seen the results in a little video that they put together. I can’t remember the name of the boat. I think it was the Hobart.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Lisa Blair: Anyway, they had this waterspout come over and they dropped everything but it still yeah, did quite a lot of damage. It didn’t de-mast them but it did tear their sails and I’ve heard of other boats just getting flattened completely sideways. It’s only for a couple of seconds but it’s just like getting hit by a brick wall that just flattens you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Massive amount of water.

Lisa Blair: Yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so I did finish the race, yeah. So I started losing my cool on the finishing sort of two, three days coming into Mooloolaba because the weather forecast had been given would have meant that I would have had winds behind me and would have been there by the next day kind of thing, because I wasn’t that far away. But it ended up being that I got hugely tricky and challenging conditions between no wind and lots of wind and all on the nose. So I was tacking my way against…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then against current?

Lisa Blair: …the current up the coast. Yes, just getting pulled down sideways by the current and I did finally get there and when I went across the finish line, the wind dropped out absolutely completely and I was like half a mile from the finish and it took me another six hours to try and get the boat to move and all my friends and family are on the rock wall just going, “Hurry up.” I finally got across and then when I got across, I’d also broken my furler partway across. It stopped allowing me to furl and I managed to get it to furl halfway but it meant that when I had light winds I had not enough sail, when I had too much wind, I had too much sail up. I couldn’t find the happy medium anymore.

But when we finally got there, nobody was allowed to board the boat and I couldn’t get the sail away. So I couldn’t get it to drop, I couldn’t get it to unfurl and I couldn’t get it to do anything and we finally had customs jump on board and take the helm so that I can run up and I didn’t quite have to go up the rig but it was a close call and we managed to just yank it really hard and it came down. But yeah, it was a good lesson learned.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so your sail configurations, you said you had a code zero and then you have a genoa and a furler and a jib that was on a different forestay? Or how did all that work? 

Lisa Blair: For the Trans-Tasman, all I had was the mainsail, one furling headsail and I had a little code zero thing that I could put up on a top down furler separately, and that was it, and a storm sail.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So do you have a separate jib to your storm jib?

Lisa Blair: Yeah. So I had the one on the furler, on the bow, on the forestay. So I had a set furled jib, and then I had a storm jib.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh okay, so you didn’t have a Genoa and a Jib on the furler? You just had the jib? So they provided some challenges.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, especially in the light winds. I didn’t quite have enough speed. Yeah, I mean it would have been fantastic to have a wider range of sails but given the circumstances of how I actually got the boat, I was just pretty happy with having succeeded and got there and back.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. A wider range of sails would be even more sail changes too, right? So it’s got some upside and some downside.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and I did end up finishing eighth across the line out of I think it was 14 boats racing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh, congratulations.

Lisa Blair: So that was a pretty good result really, given that there’s no real handicap system.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, because there isn’t, is there? It’s just first across the line no matter what sized boat you’re in.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly. So there was two class 40’s racing that year in a trimaran. So there’s three positions gone. Yeah, but we did run our own sort of in house club handicap as well, which got me sixth place.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Lisa Blair: Which was just for fun handicap.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s pretty good, given how painful your last three days were and even your last six hours.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, well I actually overtook someone in those last three days, which was fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a bit of a buzz.

Lisa Blair: Then I found out later, it’s because he broke his mainsail. I was like, “Oh, well now I feel bad.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So how long in total did the trip take in terms of days and hours?

Lisa Blair: I couldn’t tell you to the minute, because I never actually looked it up. But yeah, it was 12 days.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Lisa Blair: It was 1,380 miles.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so it’s a decent distance that’s for sure.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, because you’re going north and then it was the guy who took over the boat from me who was racing it on the Gold Coast there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right, got you.

Lisa Blair: David Croft his name was.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I’ve done some sailing with David. He’s an excellent sailor.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, he did the Hobart with me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Of course and with Steve as well?

Lisa Blair: Yes. So I only met him because I handed the boat over to him when Roger knew he didn’t want to do anything with the boat for another 12 months. So he found somebody who was willing to take ownership of the boat for 12 months, which was where David came in and yeah. So he took the boat and I handed it over to him. So I was like his point of contact for any dramas with the boat. So yeah, that’s how we know each other.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well it’s a really, really interesting story that leads you to where you are now and the bit that I can’t figure out is how you go from sailing the beautiful Whitsundays in plus 30 degrees to wanting to go around Antarctica where it’s pretty minus 30 degrees and then some. So tell me that? So from what I understand, you’re aiming to be the first female to compete in the Antarctica Cup Ocean Race.

First female to circumnavigate Antarctica nonstop, solo, unassisted and circumnavigate below 45 degrees south and you’re also aiming to break the current record for the 16,400 nautical trip, which was originally 102 days, one hour, 35 minutes and 50 seconds that was set by a sailor, I can’t even pronounce his name but…

Lisa Blair: Fedor Konyukhov. Ueah if you’re just reading it, it’s hard to pronounce.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: On an 86 foot aluminium sailing vessel, which sounds like a pretty big reasonably fit for purpose. So tell me about your goals there Lisa? Your goal of completing it in 90 days or around there and then tell me about the message that you’re looking to share around Climate Action Now and what the focus is and how it’s come about and what you're trying to achieve with that?

Lisa Blair: Yes, sure. So I didn’t, like how I actually found out about the record being an option was when I was trying to do the Trans-Tasman Yacht Race. I was talking to a guy, you may know of him, James Burwick, and he’s got a yacht, an open 40 called Anasazi Girl. He was in the media about a year ago because he de-masted off Cape Horn and he’s been cruising around the world with his wife and two young children, now four young children. 

But anyway, at that time I was trying to charter his yacht for the Trans-Tasman Yacht Race and he said, “Look, I won’t let you charter it but it’s available for sale if you can get the money together, you can buy it,” and I obviously didn’t get the money together but he said, “Look, one way you could look at doing it was combine the trip for Trans-Tasman together with another record. What’s the next step? What’s something else you can do afterwards?” And he said, “Look, you should have a look at this record because it is relatively achievable in it and it’s there,” and the record he pointed out to me was the Antarctica Cup Ocean Race and Fedor Konyukhov’s record of 102 days sailing solo around Antarctica and I immediately went, “Red flag, Antarctica? No way!” 

Then I went away and I sort of thought about it and I’ve spent probably three months, four months, researching it before I mentally came to terms with the fact that yes, this is something that I could achieve and it’s something that I actually wanted to do and it’s within my capabilities and all of those sorts of thought processes that you go through when you’re trying to take on something that is perceived to be extremely risky. 

So yes, the idea was bought then and it was always sort of a long term goal by doing the Trans-Tasman that then became like just a short of shake down trip. So my 12 days at sea, I was always thinking, “Oh this isn’t so bad. I’m going to have three months to see you soon.” So, it sort of changed the way I dealt with that situation as well because I always knew I was going to go and spend a couple of months at sea shortly after.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: So when I finished the Trans-Tasman, I made the choice to move to Sydney and I started working as a skipper down here in Sydney and as a sailing instructor and tried to pull together a campaign to sail solo around Antarctica. Now, initially I was trying to build a boat, a 50 foot yacht. I had Andrew Develle who is a very well respected architect, design me a 50 foot yacht. Unfortunately, we never got that part of the progress project together. But towards mid last year, I remember talking to my mom and I’ve been working on this for a couple of years now and I was talking to mom going, “Look, if it doesn’t happen this year, if I can’t pull it off this year, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll just go and skipper a Clipper Race around the world or something and then come back to it. Because, then I’m getting a better sort of sponsorship platform or public platform so that I’m more sponsor-able.” 

I sort of had this conversation with mom not really thinking it was leading anywhere. A few months later or a few weeks later, she calls me up and says, “Look, I’ve been thinking about your Antarctica trip. I think I’ve got enough equity in the units to help you buy a boat,” and I was like, “What? No.” I tried to talk her out of it and I was like, “No mom, that’s silly, don’t want to be putting your house on the line for me.”

So mom’s got three units in Cotton Tree, which are just investment properties. She’s got her own house separate of that and she was going to use the equity in these investment properties and the way she sort of sees it is that it’s just a loan that I paid back. It’s just like any other investment I would gather I interest on it and she would make money out of it and it would just be something that I’d pay back later when I’ve succeeded and the sponsorship money has come through.

So I relented and we started boat hunting and we started looking at different boats around the world, in France and the UK and very few that I could find in Australia. In fact, I didn’t really find anything in Australia that I thought would be capable. Somebody pointed out a boat to me in New Zealand but he said, “This would be an amazing boat for you, but I have no idea if it’s even up to sail,” and it was just this amazing open 40 aluminium boat. Then at the same time I just randomly did a Google search and this yacht popped up, which was perfect and it was one that I was familiar with. The original name of my boat is Funnel-Web, and a lot of people know the boat because it’s done a couple of Melbourne to Osaka’s and it’s done a Hobart and a Trans-Tasman and a few other events. 

I was familiar with the boat and I always had boat envy when I looked at that boat, I had a bit of boat porn for me, and it was up for sale and it was up for sail for $140,000 and I was like, “What? That is so cheap. That is within our budget, we can afford that,” and I always knew that I’d need to buy a boat and fully refit it. Regardless of how expensive the boat was. You need to know as the sailor on board in those conditions that you’ve got the right equipment and that you’ve done the checks. So any boat I’ve got, I was always going to have to refit. 

So$140,000, effectively I’m buying the shell and a mast and I’m putting everything else onto the boat. I called the owner up and we put a thousand dollar deposit on it straight away. Then we had about three weeks till I could actually make the trip up, mom flew down and both of us made the trip up to go over and look at the boats. So we went right through the boat, the first time Ivan met me, he spent a good hour trying to talk me out of buying his boat because he just thought I was too small and too little like I’m a five foot two female.

He just was like, “You’re bonkers, no, you can’t. This boat requires lots of power, you know? You need to be strong,” and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m strong.” He kept trying to talk me out of it. Then what happened was we actually put the loan in for the bank and the bank knocked us back. So we had found the right boat and if we had put in a week earlier, it would have all gone through. But they changed the laws that week and closed down on extensions on home loans so that it actually prevented us from being able to do what we had planned to do.

So we were desperate, we tried everything combining our incomes and getting boat loans and we just madly, for three months, we’d try to do anything and every month I’d put another thousand on the boat to just hold it and poor Ivan was losing it and I remember the boat works guys or the buyer boat guys in New Castle said that he just came storming in one day and said, “That’s it, give her money back and put the boat back on the market, I’m not waiting any longer.” I was just so desperate to get this boat because I knew it was the right boat and we really just tried absolutely anything and he really didn’t think that I’d pull it off. 

Anyway, we ended up going to the papers and Roger McMillan wrote an article for me about trying to get a private investor because we did have the equity there, it’s just that the laws had changed that wouldn’t allow us to use that equity. So it ended up being a crew member of mine that helped me deliver a yacht from Albany over towards New Zealand and he got in touch and said, “Look, I don’t know if I can help but send me some more information.” So we sent him all the information and he sat down with his wife and they’ve been amazing and they loaned me as a personal finance, $130,000.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s fantastic.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. So we got the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just to clarify, the boat was called Funnel-Web and if you get bitten by a funnel-web spider, you’re dead in 20 minutes. There’s no irony in that, is there?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, it’s a bit of a beast of a boat. Yeah, well it’s also a 50 foot yacht, which a lot of people look at and go, “It’s too big.” But Fedor Konyukhov sailed an 88 foot boat solo. It’s how the boat is setup with how big it is.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it’s ability to protect from big winds. 

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly and being down there in a Clipper boat, which weighs 38 tons and getting tossed around like a match stick, I wanted to be in a big boat. I want to be in a heavy boat because I know then I’m going to have more chance or less likely to get shoved around by the waves so much. So yeah, then we had already sort of when we went looking to buy the boat, we’re looking at doing the Sydney to Hobart that year because there wouldn’t be enough time to put the boat in for a full refit for Antarctica but there would be enough time to get it race ready for the Sydney to Hobart. 

So I officially became the owner of the boat, the same day the entries to the Sydney to Hobart closed and I had about eight weeks to get the boat ready for the Sydney to Hobart and again I had to get a cat one safety standards and sign off and all of that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, which is not a lot of time, there’s a lot to do.

Lisa Blair: It was a lot to do and again, it had been sitting there for like a year and a half and the previous owner had literally just stepped off it on his last trip. There were still dishes in a bag that he had just thrown his bowls and stuff in with mould all through them. He obviously had just hit his limit with boats and stepped off. Yeah, so there was quite a lot of work to be done and we spent the next sort of six weeks getting the boat ready.

The crew I managed to get together is just mates and friends of friends and incredible sailors in their own right that I have had the privilege to sail with. None of us actually had much of a chance to sail the boat before we left. We hadn’t even hoisted a spinnaker before we left. The race start to the Sydney to Hobart last year, I lost a steering cable like 30 seconds to the start gun and I was pinned in by two 70 foot clipper boats on either side and I remember being on the low side and having the guys on the high side sort of give me a guideline with their hands as to how far away from the boat next to me I was.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Whoa. That’s a hairy start.

Lisa Blair: Because I had to give way to the guy on the other side of me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So did you lose a rudder on one side only but still have a rod on the other side?

Lisa Blair: No, it’s a single rudder boat, its just twin steering.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh got you.

Lisa Blair: One of the cables in the steering snapped. I heard it go when we went through a tack and I just jumped straight to the other wheel. But it meant that I was stuck on the low side coming across, right at the start gun moment with hundreds of boats.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No visibility on the high side because you can’t see over the top.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly, can’t see anything, and the boat leans over quite a lot so I couldn’t see anything to my right at all. But that’s okay, we got through together as a team.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you repair them? Did you carry on racing with one wheel or?

Lisa Blair: No, we repaired it under way. Once we cleared the Heads and the congestion dropped off a bit, one of the guys is a U Beaut mechanic and he got down there and repaired it all for us, which was fantastic. so we did have two helms for the rest of the trip. Yeah, cleared the heads, got the spinnaker up, got a wrap in the spinnaker for our first hoist, got that cleared and then off we went and the boat performed amazing.

It needed a lot of attention, it still does need a lot of attention but we were catching up to TP 52’s and we overtook a couple of them. Like these are the latest model racing yachts and this thing that’s 13 years old was like sailing past them under spinnaker. That was amazing and then the first night, we all knew this southerly change was coming through with a southerly buster and it was forecasted to hit at around midnight. So at about 7 o’clock I said, “Look, I’m just going to head down for an hour or two because I’ll probably be up for the rest of the night once the southerly change comes through.” 

So I went off watch and just got out of all my foulies and the boys poked their head down and said, “I think you should come up and see this.” I was like, “Okay.” So I got all my kit back on, went up and just in the horizon was just black. This banker. It was probably the most aggressive southerly shift I’ve seen come through just this wall of cloud that was so aggressive. So I just said, “Right, all hands on deck,” and a little oversight on my part is that I hadn’t changed the jib down yet. So we still had the number one jib hanked on at the bow so we had to take that off and hank the storm jib on before we could get the spinnaker down, before we could then put a reef in.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: right.

Lisa Blair: Because you can’t really throw a reef in when you’re sailing under spinnaker and you can’t drop your spinnaker and then hoist the number one jib because that would have just been blown out in two seconds, and yeah, it was this accumulation of effects. So we’re madly trying to get this jib off, threw it down the hatch, grab the storm jib out. We didn’t have time to get the storm jib on. The wind was coming and I just said, “That’s it, we’re dropping.” 

So we spiked the spinnaker and somehow it ended up being just me on the bow and all the boys were at the back of the boat looking at me and I was like, “Guys, a little help here.” I’m madly trying to pull down this ginormous spinnaker that we’ve got on the boat and I got that down and then we couldn’t put a reef in until we’ve got the storm jib on to give us some steerage while we put the reef in. We then had to put the storm jib on, got the storm jib up and then went and put two reefs straight away, and then finally put the third reef in and rode the storm out.

That was like a good hour and a half of energy and then I went to go and fill the water ballast tanks, because the boat’s got six tanks and the power didn’t work. So unfortunately, our U Beaut secret weapon of water ballast tanks didn’t work. By the time we got the connection fixed, the wine went down. There was a numerous amounts of issues with the boat that hadn’t had yet had a time to address. But we did successfully sail to Hobart and finished 54th over the line, which was pretty good and coming up to the finish, we overtook 12 boats as it bottle necked. So yeah, that was really great.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a good result, because that was one of the tougher races in I think about 10 years in terms of the weather that came through. I think there was like 34, 35 retirements out of a fleet of 115 odd?

Lisa Blair: 23.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: 23 was it? So yeah, a reason chunk of the fleet didn’t make it for whatever reason. So finishing was a good achievement, given your preparation time was again quite short.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, I mean, none of us had sailed together before. Most of these U-Beaut racing teams, they sail all year round together, trained just for the Hobart all year and the boats are so worked up and protected and we didn’t know the boat at all. We didn’t know what made it go fast, what made it go slow. We had to figure all that out on the way down and we didn’t have weather. I didn’t get GRID files because I didn’t have a chance to set that sat com system up. So we had the four class when we left and then we have whatever we got off the radio on the way and that was it. So yeah, I think as a team we did remarkably well and we did beat some of the clipper boats to the finish and yeah, so I was really happy with how the boat reacted and dealt with the situation and beating into 50 knots for two days, the boat was totally fine. Uncomfortable but the boat was fine itself.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: To give the listeners an idea, like an open 50, what kind of speeds can you do in a boat like that?

Lisa Blair: The way to Hobart was mostly upwind, so we didn’t get a huge amount of speeds. But the delivery back from Hobart, we were doing 23 knots pretty easily, averaging probably 16 and then get the surf up to 23 knots and then the wave will pass over you and you sort of drop down to 16 knots, 14-16 knots and then the next wave would come underneath you. Yeah, when she’s going, she goes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Those are great speeds.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and that was in like 30 knots of wind with the storm jib and two reefs in the main.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What’s your displacement?

Lisa Blair: The weight of the boat is 11 ton.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. That’s really light. That’s really light.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, she’s pretty light.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Nice and beamy really quite square at the back.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, she’s square at the back but she’s not that beamy for a 50 footer. Four meters wide and the reason I got a narrow boat was because it allows you to reef really early but still maintain good speeds. So because she’s narrow, she doesn’t need a lot of force or pressure to actually get her going fast. With the clipper boats, you had to push them whereas with this boat, it doesn’t need pushing as long as I’m above my set average.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: I’ll just throw a reef in and make it easy. So yeah, that was another big reason why I went for that kind of boat. It was very similar to the 50 footer me and Andrew Develle had designed in the fact that the same length, the same sort of width. It’s just the transom’s slightly more square than the other boat that we had designed. But yeah, very similar so I was really happy to find it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So tell me then, from here, so tell me about Climate Action Now and where are you up to with your project to circumnavigate Antarctica and tell us about some of the stuff you’re doing that’s quite cool around emission friendly, carbon free technology you’re using to power your trip.

Lisa Blair: Yeah cool. So when we took the Sydney to Hobart, we ran a campaign called Climate Action Now where we actually got people to help fund the trip by buying at post it note for a donation. Donation of $5 or $10 or whatever people really wanted to donate towards my trip. That would give them a post it note. Now, on their post it note, they put their climate action message and the whole thing around it is it’s actions that people are already taking towards a better environment so that we can inspire other people to take those same actions. So it ended up being, and if you see a photo of my boat anywhere…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I’m looking at it now with a zoom in of the individual messages. It looks so amazing.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so the whole bow of the boat had a seven meters on either side of this very colourful, vibrant, standout, louder than life hull wrap and it was all done in vinyl as a digital wrap and it’s hundreds of post it notes that each message has an environmental message on it from a supporter of the trip, which was, you know, it’s a great way to just get the community involved and it brings someone’s contribution is actually on the boat that’s getting sailed in the Hobart or now in Antarctica. 

So we’re continuing on with that same message, it was widely successful and it sort of cemented and developed over time but it’s become the Climate Action Now movement or messages and we wanted to use post it notes because traditionally, that’s how you would leave a note for somebody and effectively we’re subtly trying to say, “Hang on, come on guys, we need to take action here.” I guess it’s probably not that subtle when big words on my boat say “Climate Action Now”. But with the post it note messaging, it’s subtly showing other people what actions they could do that when an individual does it, won’t necessarily have that big of an impact. But when you have a million individuals doing something like that, you create a big impact and it’s trying to show people that you’re empowered even if you are just the individual. If you can make a change or more to the way you live or the way you consume or the way you deal with your rubbish, globally that will create a massive impact when we start inspiring millions of people to create those changes. So that is really the messaging behind Climate Action Now.

For Antarctica, we’re trying to get enough messages so that we can do the whole boat rather than just the bow. So we’re trying to wrap the whole hull of the boat with all these post it note messages. So if people want to get involved, I’m actually launching a new website at the end of the month where we’re going to have an interactive post it note creator form building program thing on it where you go to it and you can generate your own post it note there and then. You can download it to print it or you can share it on social media. 

We’re trying to get people to nominate three people to take a stand for Climate Action Now and to fill out a post it note on an action they’re already doing and I just think it’s so important to get schools and the youth involved. It’s a great thing for families to do it collectively. They all fill out a post it note and then they can come and see the boat in harbour and try and find their message on the hull of the boat. Like, that’s sort of interactive with the community is so important and being able to inspire that next generation.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So where are you, what are the next tips for you on the project and what are the challenges you’re sort of facing right now?

Lisa Blair: So I’m still definitely seeking sponsorship, so if there’s anybody out there, I really do need a lot of help at the moment. But what we’re doing is the boat goes into refit over the month of October. So I’m also seeking anyone with any real skills, whether it’s just you know your way around a screw driver set that can volunteer some time in Sydney to come down and give me a hand on the boat and help me do a lot of the jobs and save me from having to pay professionals to do it, because I just simply don’t have the funds to do it that way.

So I’m largely trying to seek a big volunteer pool. But yeah, the boat will get refitted over the month of October in preparation for Antarctica and then in November, I’ll be sailing the boat to Albany in Western Australia for the start of the record. Now it’s an Albany to Albany circumnavigation and the reason for that is that’s because what that is where Fedor Konyukhov left who set the record. So therefore for me to do his record and have a chance of breaking his record, I have to leave form the same destination.

So the plan is to sail it over and have three weeks on land before I leave so that I can try and rest up as much as possible, eat lots of food and just generally try and be in the best health I can be before my departure and also gives me a chance to fix anything that might have broken on the delivery on the way over and then yeah, leave at the end of December to go and circumnavigate Antarctica.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Lisa Blair: So it’s going to be a pretty unreal trip.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so then you depart from Albany and then you go, which way do you go; Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Lisa Blair: Clock wise, yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and then, what sort of wind? Do you expect to have more wind from aft of the beam or more on the nose or what? Is there more of one than the other?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, well it’s more beam reach than broad reaching.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Nice, oh that’s very nice.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. Well that’s why we go with the prevailing conditions. But there is a 30% up wind sailing forecasted with the current model based of historical data for the southern ocean. Unfortunately the historical data in the southern ocean isn’t that detailed. They don’t’ tend to get a lot of data down there because there’s not a lot of people going down there. So yes, so what we’ve got is the best information we can find and that’s the modeling at the moment.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and the systems you’re using for charging, why don’t you tell us about technology that you’re using?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so I want to do the trip 100% eco-powered. So to do that and to have the right redundancies, because for me, this trip isn’t about high speeds. This trip is about sailing smart and sailing safe and coming back. Because I get a world record simply from finishing. So if I have to take twice as long as Fedor to finish, then I’ll do that. At the end of the day, it’s all about being safe and staying safe and coming home. 

So to build those redundancies into my charging systems, what I’ve got is two wind generators getting amounted to the stern of the boat. A hydro generator, which is like you want and see hydro generator. They just drop down off the back of the boat there. Some solar panels, while solar panels won’t give me a lot for the actual record, they will do a slight trickle charge of about 18 to 20%. Then I also am putting in fuel cells. 

Now, fuel cells are, they’re called Effy fuel cells and they’re methanol and they use them a lot in caravans, the mini transat boats use them these days to do all their powered requirements because it’s just easier, it’s a silent charging system and it’s environmentally friendly. So what it does is it takes methanol and puts methanol through a catalyst and spits out the hydrogen and then the hydrogen goes through a silent charging system and basically just puts the enzymes from the hydrogen into the battery cell.

I’m also trying to change, and it’s budget constraints will affect to this, but trying to get lithium ion phosphate batteries on the boat as well. That will give me a lot bigger redundancy power wise so that if I don’t get any charge coming in for whatever reason at any point, I’ve still got a couple of days back up charge at my minimum power requirements. So yeah, just trying to build those redundancies in. So that’s the plan at the moment and then for my sail setup for Antarctica, the plan is to have two furlers on the forestays. 

So on the primary forestay, I would have a number one headsail that can be reefed to number two, and then onthe inner foresail have a number three headsail that can be reefed to number four and number five. So it can go all the way down, to remove the need for me to actually put a storm jib out if the situation is that rough. Then, additionally we’re also putting in a baby stay fitting with a Dyneema halyard that will be out to run a storm jib off and then my mainsail just have three reefs but they’ll just be really deep reefs and I’m looking at trying to get an upwind sort of code zero/wind seeker sail, which should be a bit of a hybrid for the lighter conditions because you get just as much high pressure as you do low pressures down in the southern oceans.

Yeah, so that’s the sort of setup and then I’m taking a whole spare second number three headsail, which will have the same furling capabilities as the first one and both headsails or all three headsails will — they have eyelets all the way up them so that I can attach them around the furler using soft shackles if the furlers are broken at any point, I can still use the sails in their natural forms.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh that’s great, especially if the rope comes out of the track as well, you don’t have any track issues. That’s a great backup plan.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and then I’m also taking a couple of strips, the luff length of the sail, of bolt rope with enough extra cloth to actually stitch on a second bolt rope onto the sails. So if I do teravolt rope off, say the number one or something.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: I could just drop the whole sail down below and then hand stitch on a second bolt rope and then put it back up again. So yes, so I’m just trying to build those redundancies into the sails and the sails are just getting heavily over engineered, double stitching, everything’s glued, just to make sure that they survive the trip.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s great and then today’s glues help so much in terms of the strength of spreading the load as well, as opposed to stitching, which on its’ own can have issues at times. So that’s really, really good.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, definitely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then I’ve got a Dyneema inner forestay, which I use on my boat, which replaced the hard forestay and it’s purely for storm jib as well but it’s perfect because you just — I just sit on a block at tack and I just clip it away at the base of the mast when it’s not in use and then put it out when I want to use it. Otherwise, the inner forestay gets in the way when you're trying to tack your genoa across. It’s impossible. So it’s a really good alternative, it works really, really well. The way mine was designed, you had to go over the mast to put it in play. So what are you going to do? Are you going to wait until the storm’s almost there and then send somebody up the mast? It was just the most unpractical idea ever. So that’s good. The Dyneemais amazing.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. Again, it will all be soft shackles so the chafing will be very minimal and the storm jib will also have the same capabilities to be able to go on the furler if it needs to. So I’m just sort of trying to get the most amount of mileage from the minimal amount of sails.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, then it just keeps you off the foredeck 99% of the time too by doing that, which is a really good idea.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and we’re also trying to set the storm jib up so that what I can do is, when I know the beast of a storm is coming down on me, I go forward and set it up in 20 knots and I attach the halyard and everything and I can deploy it from the cockpit.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. That’s just great, that’s really, really good.

Lisa Blair: So the bags just sort of clip around the Dyneema forestay unit there and it’s all hanked in the bag and just sitting on decks. So just yeah, trying to eliminate going out of the cockpit as much as possible.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I know, just one thing to mention, our session will get typed up into an article and posted in the show notes as well. So any photos, any videos, anything at all you have, that would be great to add on the show notes and also I’ll link to your website and your contact details so that people can easily find out how to get hold of you. But if they’re just listening and they want to get a hold of you, what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you or make contact with you?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so just go to my website, which is lisablairsailstheworld.com. Alternatively you can email me at lisa_blair@outlook.com. But yeah, all those details are up on the website and like I said, we’re launching the new website at the end of the month. So I definitely recommend that everybody go back and visit the new website when it’s up because it’s looking pretty amazing. So I’m very excited about the new release and it will have lots of interactive ways of following and live trackers and all of that stuff will be out there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, which is great. Instinctively, when you say to somebody, “Wow, this person is going to sail around Antarctica,” the common theme seems to be, “Oh my goodness, the storms, the sheer force of the winds, the isolation, the cold.” What’s your expectation in terms of range of weather, range of temperatures, and what are some of the other things you have to do personally to mitigate those in terms of clothing and first aid and all sorts of things?

Lisa Blair: Yeah. So Zhik’s come on board as a clothing partner, which has been amazing and their production, sort of designer production area, is actually based in Sydney here. So we’ve been meeting up and going over their clothing and modifying things here and there just for specifically Antarctica and actually next month, we’re getting a big freezer and we’re going to have me in all the layers inside a big freezer where I get to run around on the spot and work up a sweat and then stand dead still and see what the effect is. Because at the end of the day, it’s that combination of high activity and then no activity that really makes you cold. 

So yeah, we’re looking at that ross, I’m looking at heated clothing, electrically heated clothing for when I’m down below. So additionally, instead of sort of heating the whole cabin, have a layer of clothing that I plug a batter pack into that I’m always wearing it, and I just have to connect the battery pack. So when I’m downstairs just cooking or going to sleep or just sitting at the chart table or something, I can have that heated clothing on and it’s additional to my core body temperature, so it’s warming me up more than my core normally would. So that would be fantastic. 

So yeah, we’re still testing the final side of things for that but I’m quite happy with where we’re at with the clothing side of things. Medical wise, this group called Telemed, which race around the world with the Clipper and basically what it is, is it’s a virtual doctor. So if you’re in an emergency, you sign up to a membership plan and they do it a lot for big containerships, crossing the oceans and big expedition ships and they can do inland ones as well as off shore but it’s largely been focused around the maritime industry to date.

What it is, is you create a membership and when you create the membership, you submit a list of what you have on board for all your medical kit and then any previous medical history that you’ve encountered, you submit all of that so that when or if anything happens, you can call them, they put you straight in touch with a doctor and the doctor has a full program in front of him of exactly what you have on board your boat as well as what your previous medical history is. So in the event that you’re having a reaction to something or you might need adrenaline or whatever it is, they can then direct you what you need out of what you actually got on offer.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Lisa Blair: Rather than saying, “Oh well you need to get this, this, this,” and you’re like, “Well hang on, I’m in the middle of the ocean, I can’t get this, this, and this.” Then they also have a program where they can help you put together your medical kit for the area you’re traveling in. So they’re helping me put together the full medical kit and saying, “Oh well I think you should take more of this or less of this because of how long you’re at sea for.” So that’s quite a unique and useful program. They had a clipper boat sponsored by the group in the last Clipper Race as a bit of a charity sort of event and yes, it’s was ClipperTelemed. But yeah, that’s sort of how I deal with medical side of things. 

Then as far as weather, yeah, first time I went to the southern ocean I saw a snowstorm and that was the first time I ever saw snow falling in my life and I was at like 48 degrees south in the southern ocean and it was pretty incredible to watch the snow fall in the middle of nowhere in the ocean. So yeah, definitely snow, sleet, hail. It’s bitterly, bitterly, bitterly cold and there’s really nothing you can do about it, you just got to endure and unfortunately I’m quite susceptible to the cold. So I have to be very careful that my core temperature doesn’t get too low. 

So for me, that is probably one of the greater risks of the trip is the risk of exposure and hypothermia. Because if I go down through something like hypothermia, my cognitive levels also go down and I can no longer make clear decisions or help myself get out of that scenario and there’s nobody else there to help me. So that is really important that I’m constantly monitoring my own systems and making sure that I’m not getting too cold in any given scenario.

Additionally you’ll have waves, like I’ve already said, we get 90 foot waves, but anywhere up to a hundred foot swell and I’m expecting winds potentially up to 120 knots, which is what I’m trying to prepare the boat for. 

So yeah, then a low pressure system generally passes over every three to five days and they’ll normally sit on top of you for eight to 16 hours, depending on how big a storm it is. But you do get some high pressure systems through there as well and you get a lot of high pressure ridges between the low pressures that are passing you around. But yeah, I’ve got — I’m going to have a meteorologist between some weather routing for me as well and he’ll be sending me GRID files every morning to make sure that I’ve got the right data and I can make the right calls a couple of days in advance of a storm to make sure I’ in the right quadrant of the storm and I’m not getting totally nailed. But yeah, I mean, it’s going to be rough. It’s going to be windy, it’s going to be wet, and cold and I’m not really selling it am I?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, not if you’ve got a natural sort of natural need to avoid getting too cold. So what sort of wind chill are you talking about? Are we talking about -10, -20? More than that? Then will you have a situation where it’s so cold that you actually have a maximum amount of time you can actually go out in the wind chill to fix the problem that if you don’t fix, you have to go down below and come back once you’ve warmed up again? What are some of the extremes you’ll face?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, look you do have to implement that timeframe factor quite a lot when it is cold like that and I guess at the end of the day you’ve just got to put more clothing on if you need to do something longer. Like say I de-masted and I’ve got to build a jerry rig. Well I’m not going to be able to build a jerry rig in 20 intervals. I’m going to have to be out in the cold for a couple of hours but you would pick your moment.

So it’s not the fact that it’s cold on its own that’s the issue. It’s the fact that you’re wet and then you’ve got 50 knots of wind on top. The wind just rips through your clothing like as soon as you get a tiny bit wet, it just cuts through. Now, I haven’t had the chance to test the Zhik gear. They do have a different membrane to cortex, which appears to be more water proof and more wind resistant. But if it’s not better, it will be the same as what I’ve already experienced in which you’ve got to eliminate one of the factors. So you either need to try in the wind or wet and no wind but you’ve got to try and minimize your exposure to the combination of all three. 

So your air temperature, when I was down there last time, 48 degrees south wise, three degrees temperature but the wind chill factor was in minus 20’s, easily minus 20’s. The sea temperature was eight degrees. So I will be going down as low as four degrees C temperature and below the convergence line, it goes down to two degrees. But I shouldn’t be dipping below the convergence line if I can avoid it because then I get into heavy ice areas.

So my wind chill factor yeah, it can be anywhere from minus 20, minus 30. But if I do have to spend extended time on deck then I would have to pick an area in a high pressure system when the weather is good and if I have to wait a couple of days for that then that’s the nature of the challenge, you’ve got to wait. It’s that or lose your fingers.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s not indifferent to mountaineering really when you’re talking about those sort of temperatures. Do you have the ability to keep every single bit of skit protected? Like will you have like a full body suit including being able to cover your face completely as well in terms of keeping your skin separated from the air?

Lisa Blair: No, not really. My hands, feet, body, yes. Head, yes but the actual eyes, nose, face area, I guess what you do is I have like a hat and neck warmer section that doubles up as like a balaclava and that would come up and I wear safety goggles.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Lisa Blair: So your clear plastic safety goggles. So that’s — yeah, you’re effectively doing the same thing without it being so formal as a full face mask. I’m also trying to get access to crash helmets with visors that are designed to be worn in a water environment that allow the water to not fog it up and stuff. So that when I’m helming, I can have the visor on and it’s also looking at getting body armor that the snowboarders use, because if I’m down below or I just know there’s a really bad storm coming through, I don’t want to get tossed around the boat in a 360 roll over and break a rib or something because at the end of the day, I’m the weakest link. 

So if I do break a leg or break a rib or have any sort of major incident like that is going to limit my ability to complete the trip and to survive. So I’m the weakest link so I’ve got to protect myself as much as possible. So that’s reef early to minimize having to come on deck in bad weather. Setup safety protocols on the boat so that as soon as signs for hyperthermia are showing up, I’ve got a check list card that’s laminated and stuck on the walls with a permanent marker next to it. 

The checklist card is including things that have you had a [mars] bath? Have you changed clothes? Have you got the hot water bottle going? Have you done this? So instead of me having to make the thought process and actually thinking through, I just have to read the cards and read the next step in the scenario. So yeah, we’re trying to do that as well. For me, safety is so important with the trip like this that you’ve got to really try and think of every scenario and how can you control it and if you can’t control it, how can you minimise the risk involved. So yeah, that’s a big part of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s a good idea and body armour, I mean, ribs the only thing I’ve ever hurt sailing is ribs and it’s ironic but as soon as you crack your ribs, you seem to have find more ways to land on them and hurt them. But they really limit you in terms of what you can do and also even sleeping becomes hard. so protecting your ribs because it’s amazing all the things you can do it fall over or fall down or land heavily. Arms and legs seem to be pretty robust but ribs seem to be quite fragile really.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, ribs and head injuries were the biggest ones with the Clipper Race and a few leg injuries as well where we got flung or washed by a wave and hit something really hard with your shins. But yeah, definitely we had quite a few head injuries as well with the Clipper. Just people losing their grip and falling across the deck and smashing their head. So yeah, helmets and the likes are going to be really important for that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If something ends up happening to you down there and you need assistance, how long are you likely to have to wait before somebody can come help you?

Lisa Blair: Look, it really depends on the scenario and where you are. But yeah, you can wait days if you really need help. The same step time, I’m building in a redundancy where I can motor the boat north if I have to. So if I can’t sail the boat, I can still manoeuvre the boat to get to help faster. So if they’re diverting a containership to me, I can divert myself to the containership as well and be there in half the time unless I’m completely unable to do anything. In which case, three days is going to be too long anyway.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes. We won’t dwell on that.

Lisa Blair: If I’m decapitated and debilitated then the chances of them getting to help me before I’m dead are probably pretty slim.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, prevention is definitely better than the solution.

Lisa Blair: Yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: In that scenario. Then with your trip, in terms of taking your provisions and managing water, what’s your plans around water making, water storage, water capacity?

Lisa Blair: Yes. So your average person uses three litres a day. So being solo over a 90 day trip, that’s 350 litters, somewhere around there. So I’ve got two tanks that will make 400 litters, which should do me most of the trip. But what I’m going to do is also have a water maker but the thing with water makers is they like to get used. It will be putting out 30 litres a day and I’m not able to consume that much water.

So when it gets low or one tank is empty, I will transfer to the new tank and then I’ll re-flush the water maker, fill the tank completely and then shut the water maker off flush it again with fresh water, get the saline out of it and then let it sit while I use the second tank and when that tank’s empty then I’ll do the process again. So rather than risking the membrane getting all clogged up, that way I minimise the damage to the water maker.

So that should be fine, I should only really need to fill it up once, maybe twice if I’m using it for bathing and wiping walls down in the boat or something like that. Generally, fresh water consumption will be filled, will be cut off at simply eating and drinking and nothing else, and everything else will be salt water. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s great.

Lisa Blair: Any other questions?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think I’m out of questions. We could talk for hours on this.

Lisa Blair: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so what else would you like to share that we haven’t discussed or haven’t talked about?

Lisa Blair: A lot of people ask me about the ice, how do I deal with the ice? So I think you know, it is perceived as a real high risk event and whilst it does have its risks such as exposure and the cold and the isolation and everything else we’ve already spoken about, ice is there and it is a factor to consider and it is something that I may or may not encounter. But it isn’t as high a risk as everybody perceives it to be.

So what we have these days is satellite forecasting on iceberg movement. When I’m at sea, I’m getting basically shipping forecast for iceberg movements and it gives you the latitude and longitude position of the Nolan Burg and the radius of the boat. So you plot them over the period of the trip for the whole ocean. It’s a bit of a task but you plot them constantly, so that you can find out what their set and drift is.

Once you’ve got that set and drift, you’ve got there no and debris area. So when an iceberg is moving it leaves the bergy bits and growlers in the water behind it as it’s moving along. Prevailing conditions and prevailing winds will then spread those growlers and bergy bits out. So as you're traveling, you can effectively forecast an exclusion area of where you’re almost guaranteed to see ice and you can do a low risk zone and then a high risk zone. If you have to enter that zone, for me, I’m changing tactics in how I sail my boat. 

So A, I’m eliminating going into that zone wherever possible. So if I have to sail an extra thousand miles to do that then I’ll sail an extra thousand miles. B, my boat is seven full water tight compartments, so if I rapture the first two compartments or rapture on a bulkhead and lose two compartments, effectively I can still float. What I’m doing with the first two compartments is I’m filling them up with empty plastic bottles and that way if I have the hull raptured, the plastic bottles will actually still give me the buoyancy and prevent the whole bow of the boat sinking.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Sinking too low in the water.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly. Then those plastic bottles, in case I rip a big hole in the boat, they’re all going to be encased in some netting to stop them floating away should I actually rip a hole in the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, of course.

Lisa Blair: Because I’d hate to have an environment disaster on the Climate Action Now boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just big enough for them all to start falling out one by one.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, exactly. Then I can set about running repairs and tactics of how to stem the flow of the water, bail out compartment, bolt on seals, whatever I need to do to deal with the scenario. Then if I have to sail into iceberg waters, you have radar, which picks up icebergs but only really picks up things big enough to be seen on a radar and seeing a small growler, which is 90% of the growler is generally floating under the water and a growler is like two by two meter block of ice. 

So having that in the water, it’s the size of a mini car and it will rip a hole in your boat, especially if you hit it going 20 knots. It will rip a really big hole in your boat. So trying to work out tactics to sail safely through those known ice areas. I’m actually fitting the boat with infrared so instead of spotting the growler, I’m spotting the isolated cold area of water around the growler that’s been cooled by the growler sitting in the water.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s really clever.

Lisa Blair: So we’ve got that and then I’m also going to be slowing the boat down. At the end of the day, and like I keep harping you on, I have to finish to get any record. So if I have to go five knots to make my way safely through an ice area then I’ll be going five knots. So it’s just a matter of reducing all my sail early, slowing the boat right down and then unfortunately, technology hasn’t caught up with solo sailors and their demands. So our infrared camera doesn’t actually have an alarm system. So I can’t set it to have an alarm system for ice detection but I am trying to find someone at the moment who could help me develop a widget or some software that would integrate with the existing software that would allow it to detect ice or a certain ice area of water which show up as a certain shade of black.

So when that shade comes up on the screen, it triggers the alarm. At least then I’d be able to get some sleep. But failing that, I’d have to go into my 20 minute watches of just constantly looking at the computer screen and getting naps as I’m making my way through that body of water. Or alternatively stop the boat dead in the water. Have a sleep, get the rest and then start again and sail for another five or six hours and then have another rest.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Because how far ahead can your infrared actually see? The reason I ask is because if you’re doing even 10 knots, you’re still covering a lot of ground quite quickly aren’t you?

Lisa Blair: Yeah. So one and a half to two nautical miles on average but for me to be able to then spot something at that distance is probably pretty slim, which is why I want to minimise my boat speed down to five knots or below. Because then it gives me reaction time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: The idea is that this is all relayed to the screen on deck as well so that when I’m like really getting in congested areas, I’m taking the helm, monitoring the screen and I’m physically steering through the ice flows.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a pity you can’t use satellite to relay what you can see on the screen back to a control centre and then have a team of volunteers sitting there 24/7 looking at it for you, waking you up every time they see something, human alarms.

Lisa Blair: That would be great if they just wake me up.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. It’s like, “We see something.” Yeah, okay. Wow, you’ve got some interesting challenges to deal with, and then also I read that you’ve got a boundary that you can’t, from a seven boundary point of view, you’ve got a ring that you can’t go past that you have to sail around.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, I can’t go above 45 degrees south or below 60 south once you’re in the gate.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh so you’ve actually got an upper and a lower limit, that’s interesting.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, you can’t go up any higher than 45 and you can’t get below 60. Yeah, so it means that after Cape Horn, that’s the highest ice risk is that part of the ocean and pretty much you have to go right up to the 45 limit and I’ll be slowly making my way around on the 45 limit because you don’t want to be any further south because there’s often lots of bergs around there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so this will be a fascinating episode and I’m sure we’ll have lots and lots interested in what you’re doing and your story and the challenge and so the next question someone’s going to ask me is how will we be able to stay abreast of the trip? Will there be progress updates? Will your website give updates of your location and what have you got planned media was?

Lisa Blair: Yeah, so obviously it’s budget constraints. So the more money I have the more I want to share with the audience. But for me, a large part of doing this trip is about inspiring people to go and follow their dreams, whatever their dream may be. To do that, you need to share your story as you’re going. I think there’s not a lot of solo sailors out there that really bring the audience along for the whole trip. You get these little updates like once a week, there will be a photo and there will be a blog but you’re not really there with the sailor.

What I’d really like to see is, I’m in a storm and I’m able to beam that data back and it’s online while I’m still in the same storm. So people are experiencing what I’m experiencing as it happens rather than a week later.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That would be fantastic. I’d stay up and watch that, that would be really good.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and being able to do updates. I can really see it being a great potential for something like Facebook live. Interfacing there and doing live broadcast from the middle of the southern ocean and people can sign in and just follow with the journey and the hardships and stuff as they happen. That all does take an immense amount of money, which I don’t have. So that would be the wish list. 

But my minimum requirements that I can fulfil at this point is a two minute video once a week and then we get into a daily photo and a daily blog as well. So people will be able to get those updates as they’re happening. Obviously as anything changes, I will be doing additional, when there’s something conditional that’s super exciting or super dangerous or, you know, traumatic that needs to be shared. Also, I’ll have the live tracker so people can track me around the world on the tracker. So yeah, that will be really fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That would be great. Hopefully you find like a media type of sponsor who wants to help you with that so that they can get access to the content because certainly being able to do a live broadcast and live sharing of video and photo updates and that kind of stuff really will get people engaged and following it.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and it’s such a, you know, it’s the 21st century. We live on the Internet. Like people don’t really watch TV a lot anymore, especially the kids. They sit on YouTube all day and watch YouTube or Facebook live and those sorts of social media platforms. It is something that could really be focusing in on even as a web TV series kind of thing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, absolutely.

Lisa Blair: There’s a lot of scope and potential, we just have to find the right partner. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Look at the appetite now for people who want to watch reality TV shows and contests and elimination shows and that kind of stuff. This is the ultimate reality show, right? Very few of the population will ever get to Antarctica but to be able to be there and see somebody traveling through it and all the challenges as they sail around it would be incredible, wouldn’t it? A good experience. I’m sure that would get a lot of interest and a big following.

Lisa Blair: Yes, definitely, that’s exactly, yeah. Being able to bring it to your audience on such a real level is yeah. It’d have a lot of potential and be so important.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Absolutely, well that’s excellent Lisa. It’s been really, really fascinating talking to you about your story and your challenge. When I first heard about it, Steve Humphrey’s told me and he said, “You must talk to Lisa,” and then when you sent me your back…

Lisa Blair: Steve sailed to Hobart with me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. He races with me these days. He’s a really, really good sailor. But once you sent me the background information and I read your background and all the things you’ve done and how you’ve worked towards this with your training and your previous sailing with the Clipper and the Tasman and then the fact that you’ve got a number of sponsors on board already and a good team behind you then I truly wish you all of the success. 

Because I think it’s a fantastic project and I certainly encourage any of our listeners who are sailors or part of the industry or have got some level of sponsorship interest or know of somebody who might to share Lisa’s story, share the podcast and go to her website and contact her. Because it really is a fascinating story and it’s an amazing personal challenge for any human being with all the elements you’re facing with weather and cold and being on your own and the isolation as well. So it really is an amazing story.

Lisa Blair: Thank you. Yeah, I think for me, the biggest challenge is always getting to the start line, the rest is just sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, so much for sailing is really about the preparation and training isn’t it? The fun starts once you stop preparing.

Lisa Blair: Exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great. well what I would do is simply if you, I’ll have a look on what’s on your site. If you’ve got any other links, any other videos or images, anything else you want me to share in the show notes then I’ll put them online at the oceansailingpodcast.com website and then obviously I’ll link to your contact details and your website through there as well. So if you’re listening to the podcast and you want to find out more about Lisa, either go directly to her site, which is lisablairsailstheworld.com, is that correct?

Lisa Blair: Yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Or you can click through via the Ocean Sailing podcast site as well and hopefully I can share a whole lot of extra information as well to help people stay abreast of what you’re doing and then certainly be great to be able to follow your journey. So will you have satellite phone access while you’re away as well? 

Lisa Blair: Yes I will, yes, that’s on me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well if it all pans out, hopefully we can give you a call, partway through your trip and maybe do an episode on the sail. It might be a shorter one than this so we don’t use all your phone credit.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, it’s quite expensive I have to say. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s much more like the old mobile phone rates, isn’t it? In terms of the cost per minute.

Lisa Blair: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: But maybe we can do a couple of quick updates and get a couple of chats along the way if it all works out, if you have some time. Well that’s fantastic Lisa. Well thank you for appearing on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and this is going to be a great episode and it’s going to be closer to a couple of hours so it’s going to be the bigger the episode appears to be, the more that people seem to listen. So more is more as they say, and it’s a fascinating story so thank you so much for sharing it.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me on the show, it’s been a pleasure and yeah, I’d love to come back again and give you guys all the updates as they happen.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That will be fantastic, so that’s cool. I will just press the pause button on this, that’s all done. That is awesome, that was great. You’re the ultimate person to interview because you got lots to talk about, I don’t have to say much at all. That’s great when people have got a great story and they just get up and tell it.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. No, it’s good. I mean it’s got a lot of challenges but that’s why we do these things. If it were easy everyone would do them, right? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right. It’s just about getting the more that people tell people you’ll be amazed at how far the word can spread with these things so.

Lisa Blair: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’ve done a lot of work to get to where you are with your story and how you’ve packaged and presented it from a marketing point of view and the boat you’ve put together, I think it’s fantastic. I’ve actually registered to the solo Tasman race in 2018.

Lisa Blair: Oh awesome. Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I sailed across the Tasman three years ago because I bought my boat in Auckland and sailed it to the Gold Coast and it was an awesome trip, but yeah, I’d love to do that. I haven’t done any solo racing before but I love being out on the ocean and away from the land so…

Lisa Blair: The way I see solo is if you can sail a boat, you can sail solo.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Lisa Blair: Because at the end of the day, you’ve got a second crew member, which is your auto-helm.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right and they really, that’s actually like three because they run 24/7, unless the course the weather gets to the point where it won’t operated properly.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, but that’s just like the additional hardships that you’ve got to endure. But you still have hardships when you sell a crew, it’s just as exhausting in sailing crewed as it is solo.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right and I just did, I took my boat up to the Hamilton Island Race week and so we did a nonstop three day, a 50 miles off shore, did a nonstop three day trip out there with a couple of riggings that have never been offshore before. It’s kind of like solo with a couple of ring-ins where they haven’t even done much sailing. So you realise actually, by the time you have the [inaudible], you end up doing three quarters of everything. “Oh, they’re far off solo sailing.”

Lisa Blair: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If anything, you’re actually cooking for more people and looking after more people because you’re worried about them hurting themselves, being spectators.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, and you just tend to do a lot of running around like back and forth because you’ll set the boat up and you’ll dart forward and start hoisting then something’s getting caught on the lazy jacks or something. You’ve got to dart back and reset the boat on another course and dart forwards. It’s just a lot of that backwards and forwards. What type of boat do you have?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I’ve got a Beneteau 445.

Lisa Blair: Okay, yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s actually 25 years old, but we’ve got, we’re IRC rated and we’ve got full carbon sail, water code zero sails and we’ve done a lot to really I guess, trick it up you’d say. It’s actually the very first Beneteau, first hull that was every produced of that series. So it goes all right actually and it’s really a lot of fun, we got a really good bunch of people and Steve sails with us as well but I envy you because we’ve done Sydney to Gold Coast recently that was hard because it was really low winds. Like you said, you’d have a sleep for two hours and you’d wake up and the boat had moved or you’ve gone backwards in the current and it was tough.

Then you realise, “Gosh, have we just had another 10 feet and we don’t weigh anymore because we had 10.3 tons, you just see all these carbon boats just gliding past you and we kind of need four to five knots to really move along. At two to three we just struggle to get, actually any boat speed. You just see them gliding on by and you just think, “I thought we were good but now I realise that we’re only good if it’s seven knots plus, below that it’s horrendous. So yeah, we do about 80 races a year all together between club racing and twilight racing, go to Morton Bay a couple of times and so I love it. I could do more of it if I had time.

Lisa Blair: Yeah. It’s fantastic. I mean, it’s just such a great sport and like I said, I didn’t even discover it until I was 20. But it’s a sport you can do at any age I think and that’s something that, I’m a sailing instructor now, one of the ladies I was teaching, she was 74 years old and she had sailed her whole life with her husband but she’d never been the skipper in charge. So she never had to make those decisions. She just needed the confidence more than anything. But yeah, so she was doing a sailing course to learn it. Andnow she races her own little SNS 34 all the time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great little boat.

Lisa Blair: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s great and to that point, we’ve got about 18 crew together, which means we need, which means we have seven to eight at any one time. But our crew are mostly 50’s and 60’s and most of them have got into sailing out of neighbours, friends, friends of friends who said, “Ah, I’d like to go sailing.” I’m like, “Cool, come on down, come and have a race, before you know is, you’re with the man and they’ve all mostly come to the sailing later in life and it’s just, that’s any age, any gender, any physicality you can become a good sailor and you can actually do really well. It’s such a great sport, our crew have, I think our range is 17 to 60’s. Most of our guys are older and it’s awesome.

Lisa Blair: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: A lot of them wouldn’t be sailing if I hadn’t talked them into it and then they’ve actually become really good sailors and digested anything I give them to read any books, any tarps.

Lisa Blair: Yeah, got right into it, it’s addictive.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah it is very addictive. 

Interviewer: David Hows

 

 

Episode 22: Hamilton Island Race Week Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks and welcome to episode 22 of the Ocean Sailing Podcast. A little bit of a gap between episode 21 and 22, I apologise for the unexpected break there. I spent the best part of six weeks covering about 2,000 nautical miles, heading down to Sydney up to Hamilton Island and then home and that ended up being a larger, more demanding exercise than I expected having to do all of the delivery trips to and from the various races as well.

Not only that, I had great intentions at Hamilton Island of capturing podcast footage while I was there and publishing it while I was there but unfortunately between dropping my iPhone on the ground and smashing it, which rendered it kind of useless and then spilling bear onto my MacBook Pro keyboard, I ended up with all sorts of technology issues and unable to do anything at all while I was away at the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Regatta for the first time.

So this week’s episode is a bit of a debrief we did just yesterday with some of the crew that did race week. It was a really challenging week for us. I’ve got a number of interviews lined up this week and next week as well, which will get me back into weekly publishing cycle. So you can be assured, despite having a two and a half week break there, we’re back into a weekly cycle and I’m back now, back on board, back on deck and up to date, business and family wise as well, along with a bit of a list of repairs I had to work through after a bit of damage with some of the racing we did. 

So enjoy this week’s episode with the Ocean Gem racing crew, doing a debrief on Hamilton Island Race Week, what went well and what didn’t? And what we’d look to do differently next time around. See you next week.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So folks, this week we’re going to join some of the crew members of the Ocean Gem racing team. We competed in Hamilton Island Race Week for the very first time at the end of August. So a couple of weeks ago now and a bit of a background, we’ve done the Sydney to Gold Coast Race previous to that. We had a long, frustrating race due to lack of wind and then we had to sort of high tail it after a short break here from Gold Coast up to Hamilton Island, which I did with a couple of delivery crew. 

We sailed 570 nautical miles and three days and four hours and fortunately on the way up, against current, we had 20 to 30 knots southerlies or south easterlies, three to five meter swells and we were able to average over six knots and hit 16 knots with two reefs in the main, and a jib. So it was fun sailing up there. 

Got to Hamilton Island the day before the regatta started. We spent a day we didn’t plan to spend taking about 12 golf buggy loads of gear off the boat and from all of our offshore racing and transferring to our hotel unit to line of the boat. Then what unfolded over the next six days was a reasonably challenging week. We had the first race we finished, we had a couple of races, and we didn’t finish within the time limit. We had to race where we went around clearing back the wrong way and were protested by the race committee. We had a race abandoned and then we had our final race where we had to retire due to a bit of gear damage and heavy winds.

So we had a mixed bag for the week, first week competing in IIC Passage and we probably realised that in strong currents and against some pretty good race boats and some challenging weather conditions that maybe IIC isn’t best for us versus some of our colleagues from the Southport Yacht Club who competed in some of the cruising divisions and had a lot of luck and a lot of fun and lot of success and a great week. 

So part of our challenge for the week was our crew was a mixture of some that had done a lot of off shore racing with us, some that had done not us much and a couple of ring ins as well and it’s quite amazing where you change some of the people in the team, how then under pressures, we had 252 yachts competing across 14 divisions, we had some very busy times prior to starts in pretty narrow channels and you combine that with the pressure of racing and some of the personalities that can then really change the team culture and crew dynamic. 

And so this is an interesting episode to debrief even though three weeks ago I didn’t really feel like it. I guess by the end of this week, despite the expectations I personally felt quite dejected for a whole lot of reasons. Then unfortunately my delivery skipper had fallen through a month prior, so then I had a 517 nautical mile trip home to do with two, again, reasonably inexperienced delivery crew and that turned into sort of closer to 700 miles with a couple of days of upwind sailing to get home. 

So I thought it was quite a good episode to do a bit of a debrief on the highs and lows and talk about what we can do differently. There were certainly lots of positives but there were some challenges as well. So four of our team members are here. We’ve got Rod, Alex, Alan and Steve, a couple of those people you remember from the earlier Sydney to Gold Coast debrief and we’re just going to have a conversation about what we liked, what we didn’t like and what we could do differently next time. So we’ll just kick it off guys and just say hello to the listeners out there.

Alex: Hey everyone.

Rod: Hello.

Alan: Hello.

Steve: Hi everybody.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So let’s just open up the conversation with I guess. Given we spent months talking about it, months paying for it. Well, what were you most looking forward to before race week? What were you most looking forward to about race week itself?

Steve: Probably for me, Steve here, it’s not my first time I’ve done it but probably my favorite event on the whole calendar just an awesome location in the Whitsundays there which is probably the best area in the world to sail around and then on top of that, there’s 250 odd boats all doing the same thing and quite often they coverage at the same time and we’ll started at similar times so you get heaps of boats and a small amount of area and it’s just great racing.

Rod: And Steve, I think to add to that, this is Rod, my expectation was my first time and my expectation was probably pretty high because there’s lots of stories during the course of the year, when you’re outside and you hear a lot of stories about Hamo and the week and the restaurants and the food and the sailing and not being away for nine days with a group of people, it’s pretty challenging around with the currents and the wind and also spectacular. I was really looking forward to it for probably six months, couldn’t wait for it to come. I was really expecting the most from the week.

Steve: I’d very much have to agree because the Whitsundays is that premier sailing area and knowing that they were going to be a record fleet of 250 boats, whatever it was there, just to be in that location with that number of boats and it was the Australian sailing championships after all. So it was just like yeah, if you’re going to be sailing or anything to do with sailing that was the place to be.

Alan: This is Alan, I’ve done a couple of Hamo’s previously, I was aboard on the sailing, just love the sailing and I love the big fleets and the spinnaker runs and probably downwind starts, a bit special but you’re not getting around the Cairns and that sort of thing. You’re out there with the big boats as well. Really was looking forward to it for a long time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So in terms of what I was most looking forward to before race week, the amazing backdrop, the photos and the scenery, the videos from previous years, really does a quite spectacular and we’ve had some great regattas on Morton Bay. I just imagined that on a bigger, more interesting scale. That was really what I was looking forward to, just the sheer scale and spectacle and the islands and all the wildlife and then also just the ability to hang out at shore for a week with the team because mostly we race wherever we are and go home at night and got to bed and you don’t really get to hang out for a few days and a few nights. So that’s what I was most looking forward to.

Okay, so given we had all these expectations, what was different about race week in terms of the way it unfolded to what you expected?

Alex: For me it was quite interesting, just to see the actual number of classes that they had setup for the race week. Anything from those maxis down to little small bay cruisers and trail sailors almost. Just to have that many classes of boats out there and then that first day that I arrived, I was able to sort of see what races were going on and literally, one end of Hamilton Island, you’ve got the passage race starting at the other end you’ve got the cruising division starting and there was just boats and races happening everywhere. It was just unbelievable.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Alan: I think from my perspective, it was the beginning of the week was really, I was really impressed with the setup with how well organised it was, everything was done really professional. There were a few things during the week, which perhaps we’ll come to later; that I didn’t think necessarily was great. But at the beginning of the week I thought it was absolutely fantastic and being amongst all of those boats, certainly, my expectations were met in those first couple of days except for the 12 loads of taking stuff off the boat on the first day was, I suppose I hadn’t thought too much about that and that maybe wasn’t part of what I thought about.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Some kind of social plan?

Alan: Yeah.

Steve: For me, it was probably expected us to be a bit more competitive in the IRC stakes, we are a cruising boat but thought we had the right sort of goods to at least be mid fleet. But as you probably hear, actually coming up, we did struggle a lot and even on a good day, we were still down the back of the fleet, which was a bit painful but we sort of didn’t have the high winds that we needed to actually perform with a heavier boat. So that was a bit of a letdown but that’s sailing I suppose.

Alex: To Steve, I think our expectation was we probably were going to be towards the back of the fleet based on our handicap, right? It’s just when we got the handicap results…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Our corrected time?

Alex: Our corrected time, yeah. We didn’t come up, but those first couple of days we had a lighter wind so we thought, “Oh well, maybe it’s just not right conditions for us.” So I was still in there, “We’re going to do okay.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yup. I thought we’d spare our drop on the first day, then from there turn it around and get results.

Alex: First race, sail to drop.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So yeah, in terms of what was different to me, I was completely in awe of the facility and the backdrop and the way that it was run. They exceeded my expectations, the yacht club, you know, all the social activity ashore, that was fantastic. The results, IRC passage, I thought, “Yup, we’ll get a mixture of wind, we’ll get a mixture of results, we’ll end up, if we can have mid fleet, division of 12, 13, if we end up fifth or six that would be a good result and we couldn’t, we had a couple of light days at the back end of the fleet, second to the last from corrected time.

Then we had a great race where I thought, “This is awesome,” and we still ended up second to the last on corrected time by 20 minutes. 20 minutes off the pace on a three hour race, we couldn’t find another 20 minutes a day and then that happened to be the race where I think we were probably going the wrong way around the clear marking. So one of our better results become a bad result with the point’s adjustment.

So that was different, it’s a different caliber of boats that go out there to what we see locally. There are some really good sailors, some really good boats and it was just a whole different level. However, in the cruising division, where we probably should have been, one, two, three or four, there are some great basic boats who sailed well, didn’t have the same challenges, had a great week and some great sails from the club here who had a great time. So I think the challenge you guys have got expectations around, the reality is the results when you don’t do so well, sometimes you can almost take too seriously and cloud your week but that was definitely different. 

And then the other thing that was probably a big difference for me was we had a couple of people that were just riggins’ that hadn’t sailed much at all that we had on board and then we had some of then that did a lot of sailing on board and just some of the differences in terms of the culture and communication side of things.

I think that had been a quite a big impact on us and to the point where you started question, what was the balance between taking racing seriously but not taking life too seriously? I think we had a bit of a wake when we took a racing quite seriously but we started taking life too seriously as well and for me, the enjoyment starts to go out of it if everyone on board’s not having a having a good time and gas of our challenges. That was unlike any other, we’ve obviously had. Okay, which leads to the next sort of question. What aspects of the week did you find the most challenging?

Alex: So I supposed to lay on from what you’ve just said David was from my perspective, the only thing that stayed constant was that every day, something changed and the biggest thing for me was we had a lot of crew changes. When we had our best crew, our most experienced crew, which included Alex coming up for those four or five days, which we weren’t sure whether you were going to come up or not. But when you’re around and we had that extra bit of experience and Steve was there obviously and we were sailing pretty seriously, it was okay. It was when some of that dropped off and Raja dropped off and then Alex went, we still have enough crew but we lost a lot of the experience but we’re still sailing pretty seriously.

I think with the amount of change that we had, I think that that was quite hard because we were taking it so seriously. Normally we probably would have eased things back a little bit but we didn’t and that was hard especially, we changed the setup of the boat, we changed them whether we were trimming, we changed a lot of things including the crew. And that’s really where the challenges came because of the seriousness, the way that we were sailing.

Alan: This is Alan, I thought we really sailed the boat hard, we really sailed it very seriously, we had to run very experienced set on board who was sort of pushing us along and yeah, we had a mixed crew but we got a lot of experience out of that but we really did push the boat pretty hard and there were long days because we had light winds so we were out there for a long time. That was pretty challenging but quite rewarding, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, I think the last I was probably the biggest anticlimax because we had, we were down to seven people, we had some robust experience wise. We hear a strong breeze and we just pushed the boat unnecessary hard till we broke stuff and stuff was going to break and it could have been avoided, we just broke stuff.

Alan: You could see no one was enjoying it at the time either.

Steve: At that point it was just silly and then our race was over and we talked about, you shouldn’t do this because this is going to happen and we did do that and that happened to them, we snapped a tubing lift, we rip the tubing lift, we rip the spinnaker, how you block of the base of the mast, we just sailed stupidly in the end in terms of the risk we took and we’re just lucky that nobody else got hurt actually.

That could have ended in tears with the spinnaker with the way that that unfolded, we could have ended up with the spinnaker going on the front of the boat and the pole coming down on someone’s head and putting the mast down and ultimately by the time we got it under control, we went there far off the rocks really. That was silly sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You get to the last out of the regatta and you’re sitting second to the last, you’re not sailing for six stations here. Just breaking stuff that I know a lot of the other boats actually went out there to have a bit of fun that day, some of the other guys who weren’t in the race, let’s just go and have a bit of fun because the wind was up and the rest of it, we weren’t having any fun.

Steve: No.

Rod: I guess it was sort of like a frustration like you’ve had a frustrating week and you’re really looking forward to getting it resulted a race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, you want to finish on a high note, right?

Alex: Of course. It would have been better if you guys, you two had more experienced guys were both there because we would have coped probably better but because we had an inexperienced crew at that time…

Rod: It was worst case scenario, it was wind and not the crew that we had. 

Alan: For single strength of the bow and we jammed and the track and couldn’t get it up or down.

Steve: I think obviously I wasn’t there for the last day. My take on the whole week is probably different because I ended on a high. So I had to catch an earlier flight which meant I couldn’t do the IRC race because it was too long so I went with a self-built boat that was doing the cruising division and we had a very short race, I still had to run to my plane but we had a pretty short race and we were just second over the line here, we were only a half minute off first so it was all like a highlight.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, what a great finish.

Steve: I finished on a high, which is probably where we should have been as a boat but I think it’s safe to say that our division we’re in versus where we’re at or where the boat was at, just didn’t align. So we were in a racing division, we had our racing faces on and trying to actually hit that level but with different crew on different days and all of that sort of stuff, we were just not there.

We’re up against IRC optimised or IRC built boats that are just built to be optimised and we’re an old cruising boat with some nice sails and a whole lot less weight on it thanks to the first day. But it just showed the difference between being an IRC division and being an IRC optimised boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s a real reality check, right? But you would expect then the last 25 years, since the boat was built, they’ve made strides in terms of development, they clearly have right? Because look at the gap. Even with the IRC adjustment, there’s a big gap with those optimised boats.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The currents just exacerbated it further if you turn out slower and then you’ve got to current factor and percentage.

Steve: And I’m sure like on the IRC boats, they didn’t have crew coming on and off every day and different stuff like that. That’s just the difference between a racing program that’s a lot more professional and casual sailors going for a sail in a regatta. So it was just a good chance to see where we’re at, compared with others, which is what I always thought from day one. Well it’s a good chance to rate. You can’t rate yourself at Southport against eight other boats on PHS. You really have to rate yourself against the best and then see where you sit and then from that point on, then you can choose to go into the cruising division, a PHS, an IRC because you know where you’re at.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Steve: We probably had worst case scenario because we had all of that plus we didn’t have a lot of wind, which the boat doesn’t like under five knots. So that made it even harder, but it was just good to find out where we’re at.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yup. Yeah, and I think it was positive; the lesson definitely was you can optimise a cruising boat so far but, what do they say? You put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.” So you’ve got to pick the races, PHS versus IRC, and you’ve got to pick the conditions and even when you think you might go IRC, if the conditions look really light then don’t go IRC if it just doesn’t make sense. At least you don’t care about the result but it’s hard to race and not seriously care about the result.

Steve: If you don’t have the same crew on the boat every week, then go, “Well this probably not going to happen so let’s do a quieter style of racing and enjoy it a bit more. So you’re not so serious, you’re not taking all the chances 

Alex: Steve, or you can say, it’s something that I’ve thought about is if you’re going out to Hamilton Island, do you get the crew to commit for the six days of racing? Because one of the things that I think we also suffered was because we had that extra sailor on board, you know, we were changing some of the ways that we’re doing things because we had some people stand down or not be available certain days. Some of those changes took place and then when they came back on, we were doing some things differently. 

That just adds an extra dimension to making it difficult and if you’ve got experienced sailors on there, you can cope with that, but if you haven’t got experienced sailors on there or if the sailors are changing, the crew is changing, it makes it even that much harder or better reason to just take it easy. So one of the things that you probably get to later is that concept of do you do something on Hamilton Island that’s a bit different where you try and get a constant crew or the same crew for the whole week? Which is a big commitment because you know, I was away for nine days, two weekends and the week of sailing. It’s hard to do but maybe that’s one way to look at that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah I mean that’s definitely a couple of things there. Definitely when you think about it, sailing is about reducing a number of variables and we have a different course every day, you start changing how you do things. You have a different mix of people, we have a different mix of wind strength then when you got too many variables too often, and not everything’s going to work. In three, three and a half hours you can find 20 minutes if you don’t give up. A minute here and 20 seconds there and two minutes there but you can easily give all that stuff up. 

Then the other thing is, going south to Sydney then going north to Hamilton Island and then coming home is a 2,000 nautical round trip. Unless you’ve got people who do the deliveries who don’t race, at least you can set it up so that you have your core team doing one thing really well, spreading people across three or four events is just nuts when you are having to be fair to other people, bringing in people with limited experience who haven’t raced with you at all and then you try that kind of environment. It kind of doesn’t make sense. 

So part of it is you know, maybe a change that even how the week is in. The cruising guys, all those guys are smart. They spent three or four weeks getting there and took your time. Well they spent three or four week getting home, while all their crew when up and their families went up the whole day beforehand or Saturday the week afterwards so they had a much better balance. Just going up there, racing, coming all the way home.

Rod: I think also because it’s the first time that the boat has raced at Hamilton and it’s the first time most of the crew have been up there in that race week that it was a bit of an eye opener and you know, this discussion now is very quickly highlighting what we should do differently to number one, be competitive next year if it’s going to happen and number two, make sure that we’re all setup as a crew and that we know. I’m sure that doing this again, it will be a completely, completely different result.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, definitely. There’s lots of things we’ve done twice, where the first time we’ve had a lot of lessons to learn and next time, if anything, this had second time you go so many reasons and challenges but yeah.

Rod: And Dave, would you put it into context the other week when you actually just mentioned now that the distance covered like going down to Sydney then back up to Hamo, and then back down to here was literally a double crossing of the Tasman.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Rod: So, you know, crossing the Tasman one way is a big deal but to do it that distance, that’s a lot of water. That’s a lot of water, so it’s a lot of sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. People doing the deliveries, not actually racing is definitely going to be part of the solution ideally. Or at least not doing all three deliveries. Okay, anything else about what you found most challenging?

Rod: Look, I thought the current, because everybody talks about the current up around Hamilton Island and in that, down the passage and all the rest of it and until you come across it yourself and look, you know, you got your sails trimmed, everything’s happening and then you realise you’ve got four knots or five knots of current under you, it’s a real eye opener. It’s like you’re doing it all right but you’re in the wrong part of the channel at the wrong time and there’s nothing you can do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just to add to that, it’s a rocky area as well and one of the little discoveries on the way back when we ran aground coming down the side of Frazer Island, is we ran aground with 1.4 meters showing on the depth sounder because when the BNG gear was upgraded at the start of year, they didn’t recalibrate at the bottom of the keel. They re-calibrated to sea level. So here’s us sailing around Hamilton Island saying, “Ah, it’s all right. We’ve got a lot, we’ve got another meter and a half more than we thought,” and we didn’t. So we’re just lucky we didn’t push it to below two meters because we wouldn’t have been far off touching the rocks, just to add to the trouble for the week.

Rod: Wow. Yeah, that’s exciting.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Samson was most perplexed when we ran aground doing 7 knots on the way back in the middle of the night going, “I still see1.4 meters on the depth founder.”

Rod: It would be.

Alan: I was too.

Steve: It didn’t make sense.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so was there anything that really started to get on your nerves? Have an open, candid conversation?

Alex: Oh I think, I can’t remember which day it was, the second day or third day? I was helming the boat and we all just gave it absolutely everything and like I know how I felt that night. I went straight to bed and I was exhausted and we actually ended up catching the fleet that day from behind because we’re the second slowest boat in the fleet. So we’re always behind, but we caught the whole fleet and I think it was a combined fleet then too. 

So we caught probably 40 plus boats, went past most of them and we were high fiving each other and then did well for the rest of the race or at least did okay down wind. We were underpowered with a small kite, but did okay. And, come back to a bar and have a beer or two and then there are the results, we’d come second last. I think that was the day that we got protested as well. So, was that the same day? That was the next day.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That wasn’t that the day we finished 90 seconds past the cut off?

Alex: Past the cut off, yeah, that’s right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So we raced for six hours and we were 90 seconds pas the cut off.

Alex: Yeah we were a minute and a half after the cut off.

Rod: We thought aw had actually made it because it was before sunset.

Alex: Yeah, sunset. And I don’t think the races were really designed for our speed of boat. So we shouldn’t have been after the cut off in that time because the cut off should have been further out because we did everything we could and still we didn’t get a score. Even if you allowed us to finish at that point, we were still not even mid-fleet

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Still going to be ninth or 10th out of 12.

Alex: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right, on the time.

Alex: So, you know, probably what got on my nerves was effort versus reward.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Alex: The result on board was actually quite good. We were doing real well. We were doing some great tacks, great jives, good tactics, ticking quite a few boxes and then you get home, you check the results and you’re down the bottom still. That was either because we didn’t finish or just handicap on all the rest of it. So effort versus reward was just painful.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yup. We’ve sailed worse in the past and won stuff.

Alex: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right when you think, “We didn’t leave anything else on the table today.”

Alex: I don’t think whilst everyone was pushed or learned heaps. I actually think we probably sailed the best that we have on days there. There were some good skills shown there, particularly sort of mid-week and you know, results that like Dave just said, we’ve sailed a whole lot worse and won stuff and this time we sailed a lot better and right up the back of the fleet. So yeah, that was pretty painful.

Rod: I’ve got to mention that horrible W word, the wind. You know, up there this time of year, you’re expecting 20, 25 knots in those south easterly trade winds and you know, we had what was it? Tuesday ended up being a no race day because of lack of wind and like you correctly said David, where we strive was with the lighter winds and that boat needs to perform in slightly stronger winds. That’s what we were expecting and up there, you’re thinking, “Well, it’s going to happen,” and despite all the predictions the wind just didn’t come through.

Alex: It came a week early with the Airlie Beach Race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It did indeed. Brisbane to Keppel, heaps of wind with Airlie Beach, heaps of wind. With the stuff that we did do.

 Alex: Yeah, but having said all of that, was there anything that got on my nerves? I mean it was fantastic. Some of those starts where the big guys were on the same start line as us, that was awesome, other than some that sailed back across the start line, which, coming back on one of the races, which I was a bit surprised at, we were all surprised at. But it was fantastic and great setting and there were frustrations around the sailing for six and a half hours, missing the cut off time by 90 seconds. 

It still was fantastic and that day when we caught the fleet and then sailed pretty well down wind. We got past a bit, so we should have. But we sailed well that day, you know we still had great fun and if you did have a chance to look up and have a bit of a look around, it’s absolutely spectacular. Everyone’s kite’s up and away you go and you know, just fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean, that’s where I thought a few times, you think we’ve had a tough day, you mentioned talking to someone on the phone who is back at the office at work and you say, “Ah we had a very tough day sailing around the Whitsundays in the sun, because we didn’t quite finish but we saw whales and dolphins and there’s 250 boats here, it’s been a really hard day.”

Alex: I’m going out for dinner.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Like a bad day, it’s not really a bad day.

Alex: That’s right, in fact it’s exactly that, happened to be on a Monday. You know, you’re back to work on Monday and absolutely stuffed for the week. People say, “Oh, how was it, how’d it go?” Start showing them some photos and say, “Oh you know, it was a pretty tough week and god, we had to do this and this and this didn’t work and broke this and this happened,” and they just look at you and like, “Are you dreaming? That’s sounds fantastic. It sounds like you had an enormous week. That’s fantastic.”

Alan: I think sitting behind that start line on that day where we’re next race to start and we’re sitting behind all the big boats and there’s Wild Oats and the old hundred foot Raga Muffin and Ichiban and they’re all at it and you could hear the screaming and it’s almost, they had a false start in there but there was almost boats crashing into each other for the top IRC boat. A bit of mayhem and here we are, you’ve got a front row seat, you’re just cruising around behind and waiting for your start and then they had another go at it. So that was fabulous. You can’t go anywhere and see that, you know?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, that’s right, you can’t. And sitting 100 meters below their start line, just watching them, coming in with the start of that, it was just, that was stunning. I was the bugger taking heaps of photos and…

Alan: Yeah, we noticed.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Alex, you have anything else? What you found challenging?

Alex: That was pretty much it, just that W word that… everything else was like Rod said, it was an eye opener and it was just a lot of fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I think the people part was, I found a bit challenging. I think the listeners, when you have a group of people that get on pretty well together, and one person comes to the mix, they just kind of like, you know, melt into the mix. When you have you know, two or three people come into the mix and some have got you know, different experiences, different personalities, different ways to do things, I think if you don’t take you’d always, you don’t know what you don’t know upfront but even when things start to unfold differently like you expect, if you don’t take the leadership view and sit down and say, “Here’s how we’re going to work together, here’s how I’m going to make decisions, here’s how we’re going to treat each other, here’s how we’re going to speak to each other, here’s what’s good, here’s what’s not good. If you don’t kind of do that stuff, I think you can kind of end up with like things just unfolding good, bad or otherwise. 

I think that that’s my responsibility but I think it just shows you just letting things kind of happen by osmosis isn’t always the best approach. Because people don’t know what they don’t know, they come from different crews, different boats, and different backgrounds. Sometimes you can end up with people starting to feel a bit indignant or a bit frustrated and it’s just through a lack of clouding and lack of communication. If you don’t sort of agree on what the sort of the rules of the road are then starting [inaudible] if they guest differently. 

So I think you know, in hind sight, I would have approached it differently given the impact of some people in the first part of the week, some people in the second part of the week, had never sailed with us before. They’re a local person with a ton of technical experience, again who is thrown in the deep end and maybe didn’t have the role sort of fully clarified. So I think that was really challenging in hindsight because I think, if we’re not having fun doing it then you know, there’s no point in doing it. And if you want to be a hard core racer and not care about having fun and just want to be hard core racer, that’s fine. 

But we have to find the balance because it’s a bit like listening to Clouds talking about meteorology, say “Well how can you learn to be an expert at meteorology?” He’s like, “You can’t, you’re a cruising sailor, you do it occasionally, you’re never going to be an expert.” So we have to also say, “Okay, what’s the ideal for us? And let’s have fun doing the ideal. Let’s not, not have fun trying to do something that’s not the ideal, well not realistic.” Otherwise we can take you know, we took a lot of positives out of it I think, but there’s some negatives as well that if you balance it all out, you might…

Steve: I think if you look back for the Keppel race, which was about three weeks before this, you were going to have five new people on board and you know, that call was made, which I think was the right call, for that exact reason of it’s just not going to work. And I think it’s nothing like business or whatever, if you have a whole new team, you can lay all the ground work, they’re still going to be new and it’s still not going to gel together. So, my take on it is, easy for me to say that flew out on the last day which was actually a mistake, so I plan to be there. But it is, you commit for the week, unless there’s something like big that you can’t be there for it, it’s just so much easier to have the same team. 

So it might start off a bit rough, but at the end of the week, you’re well oiled, you’re enjoying it you know? And I think that’s something to take out of it that you choose to do Airlie, you choose to do Hamo, make sure you're there the whole week and even if there’s a couple of new people then you can lay all the ground rules down on day one, it’s not going to be perfect for a couple of days but then we’ll all gel after that

Alex: Steve, we learned a lot on those first couple of days and I really, you know, I loved that. That was great because we started doing things quite differently and you started to get good at them, which was fantastic. I think one of the differences, which you just eluded to was, when there were the three senior guys on the boat together, you sort of fell into your leadership roles and that worked pretty well. But when that reduced to two, I don’t know if you had any discussions about how that was going to work, but that’s when it didn’t work as well.

Steve: No, and we were down to seven overall so…

Alex: That’s right. And we changed the crew and we were doing things differently and we’re trimming to 25 knots. I think it was all of those things compacted. It’s like anything that happens, you’re get a compounding factor, really affects you. But if you had the constant crew as Steve was just saying and you know what those senior roles are.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Alex: It doesn’t matter how much you actually change and do the rest of this stuff, yes it should be rough at the beginning because you’ve changed some things. But by the end of it, you’d be you know, be doing a great job. I still enjoyed all of that anyway. I learned heaps. I learned heaps those first couple of days from the Sydney guys when we did things differently. It was great.

Steve: I think too with the experienced crew, that’s where you got either a float or everyone floats. So I know if I’m doing [inaudible] or something like that and I can see the bowman’s having trouble or something happened, you’ve got a couple of people that can actually pull from to jump up there and help out. As soon as you get down to less experience then there’s always someone on the helm that’s generally experienced so he can’t jump up the front and then, you know, once you get to handle one other person, they’re probably going to be doing a role that they can’t leave. 

When, if you have three that are experience, you can actually float in that. So you can look after each other’s role and then someone else can go help out on bow or trim or something like that if there’s a weak point. So it makes that weak point not so weak and it’s easy to float but the less and less experience on board, it just becomes and it just so happened that the least amount of experience on board was on the last day with the most amount of wind and that’s when it all goes foul. 

So, it’s unfortunate that it happened that way, it’d been nice if it happened midweek and then you had a chance to enjoy the last day because I think you’re soured by the last result or the last day compared with, just like what I said, I was having a ball. I had to run for my plane but I still had a great day because at the front of the fleet, you know, it was a spectacle, it was great racing and it was in Cruising Division 4, yeah. It was a great race. So probably where we should have been but it was a good chance to pair ourselves again to the big boys anyway.

Alan: I think also what it highlighted was that a lot of our racing that we do is every second, you know, Sunday for the offshore stuff. One twilight a week where the crew doesn’t come together very often. But in something like Hamo where you’re day after day after day, doing the race and everybody’s in their roles and there is repetition happening that the crew starts to gel very quickly which is what like you had highlighted Rod that by the middle of the week, we’re pretty good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Like Sydney to Gold Coast, right? Four days together nonstop, same people.

Alan: Yeah, exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Can’t get off, even if you want to. 

Alan: Yeah, and everything was starting to flow really well and that really did make a difference and I think that’s something that we could maybe utilise for the future of that, if there’s a regatta or something like that coming up, that a couple of days of that crew being in close quarters, sailing consistently over a couple of days just to refine their skills really does make a difference.

Alex: Yeah, I think it come out on the last day, just for the background its blowing 25 knots, we had a down wind start, which is just sensational. Pulling the spinnaker over, you load the spinnaker ready to go and some of the boats actually you fly your spinnaker before the start so you’re over the line with the spinnaker up. So we fly down, I think we did the spinnaker jive and then we’re heading down about a 12, 13 mile run was it down to South Molle Island?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. A fair odd run.

Alex: So we had the spinnaker up and then, pretty exciting, we had the big IRC, the game Wild Oats with code zeros, I think they had up.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, they’re all storming through.

Alex: They’re on a broad reach and they’re doing like 20, 25 knots and they’re surfing past us within four or five moves of us. Which is just, you know, just amazing. But then we found that we have a bit of a problem with the pole, we couldn’t get the pole down. The thing had jammed and we messed around and there was a call from the helm that we’re 16 minutes before this land and we’re sort of asking to land to move and then it’s 12 minutes and then eight minutes and I’m thinking, “Well it takes us three minutes to get the spinnaker down.” 

And finally David yells, “Four minutes, four minutes,” and so I was up trimming spinnakers, so I gave a bit of a yell and a more excited yell than I would normally, saying, “Look, we’ve got four minutes.” We smoked the spinnaker, we managed to get it down without it doing any damage and so it was quite, I don’t know if it was an exciting day, but it was certainly with an inexperienced crew. We weren’t selling for cheap stations. So I think that was, by the time…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean 20 knots plus, sailing in sort of 80, 90 to a hundred degrees with this big spinnaker really loads the boat up and then that’s right, the islands provide so much excitement. However, the big downside is the islands provide obstacles that if you’re heading toward them, they’re not going to move and so it does change things a lot. As much as it creates excitement, it creates a lot of pressure as well, navigationally. So yeah, that’s right, there were some real challenges. 

Okay, is there any other highlights form the week? We’ve covered a few, but any other different highlights?

Alex: For me, the biggest highlight and I’ll just quickly set the scene, I forget it was either the Tuesday or the Thursday but we were on the downwind run and we could see this fleet slowly sailing away from us and then they had to, I think it was tack away, and they all disappeared behind an island and I think we were next to last at this stage. Then all of a sudden I remember looking up and I’m seeing all these sails coming opposite to where the fleet had just gone. I’ve had a closer look thinking, “Hang on, their sails are set for them to be going the other way,” and it was actually the current that had collected that 40 odd boats that was ahead of us and it was literally dragging them backwards behind that point. So we’d gone from a position where we were like maybe what? Mile and a half, two miles behind?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Alex: Within 20 minutes, half an hour, we are in amongst the fleet. To me, that was just so much fun and just watching while everything was going on and we’re on the inside and we actually got to the head of the fleet in no time at all. That was just so much fun.

Steve: I think what Alex meant to say was we held back because we saw the conditions were improving from behind and we took the fleet on the inside and unfortunately, they were going to shorten the race, we heard it over the radio and one boat snuck through. So that was the race that we were two minutes after the cut off. They were going to shorten the race and we were going real well at that point. Our tactic, as Alex was saying, of hanging back to ensure that we weren’t first to the current worked very well.

Alex: It was, it was nice. 

Steve: We did all right in light winds in there to take probably two thirds of the fleet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There are very few times in your life you get to re-join the fleet from behind and sail around them. It doesn’t happen very often.

Alan: It’s usually the opposite. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I’ve only done it once before, it was a very long time ago. 

Alan: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Any other highlights? 

Steve: Highlights wise probably a low light that was losing the tug of war, which was on island, at team event. We thought we were up for a cart and a beer every time we won. We won one and then lost the rest. So that was a low light that we didn’t get our beer. 

Alex: It was, but it was a good highlight because we won convincingly that first tug of war. 

Steve: That’s what I tell my car. 

Rod: And we came very close to winning the semi-final. 

Steve: And we paid for it for the next four days. 

Alex: Well you know the trouble was, that first, the first tug of war we won without the gloves and when we put those stupid gloves on, then we were starting to slide. But had we not had the gloves I’m sure we would have won that so. We would have been in the final.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I don’t think that there would be any bestselling books after Rio Olympics saying, “How I almost got bronze”. 

Rod: And no one remembers the name of the silver medallist either. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Correct, no disrespect to our local sailors. 

Rod: Exactly. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean I thought the time ashore was great, when we did have a social life after about 10 hours on the water, or packing up from being on the water, the evening stuff I think was fantastic. Just being able to hang out together and everything’s so close, our comrades were close. It was close, we were down the straight. 

Alan: [Inaudible] was close, the food was good. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Alex: I think where you managed to get a spot on the marina was fantastic because it ended up literally being, you know, on that arm that was right in the middle of all the action. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Alex: So if you wanted to go to the bar you turned left, if you wanted to get food, you turned right. We were right in the middle of it. It was fantastic. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah and in terms of professional regatta management, that’s certainly some of the best I have experienced. 

Alan: Yeah, yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It was fantastic, you know really fantastic. 

Alex: That yacht club on the point. 

Steve: Yeah, champagne. 

Alex: How swish was that? 

Steve: Champagne at the yacht club. 

Alex: Yeah champagne on the deck with that sunset. 

Steve: On the deck, yeah with sunset going down. 

Alex: That is actually nice. That was a beautiful afternoon that. 

Steve: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Whales, dolphins and like for me, I had the other highlights for me, I had a three day four hour trip up and got to do it with my 19 year old daughter who’s now just gone overseas for two years. That was really cool. We haven’t spent three days together, not just the two us, ever. So that was pretty cool and doing 15 to 16 knots, surfing with the two reefs in the main and the jib was pretty cool going out there certainly. Actually going straight lining and fast. 

And then the highlight on the way back, oh I’ve got to mention this, there’s quite a lot of shipping activity as you know inside the Whitsundays and I was downstairs on that saloon kind of just sleeping lightly, there’s lots of shipping activity and we were literally sailing down the channel, that was angled wrong. We’re doing down the channel, whether against ships, and Samson came running downstairs and woke me up and say, “We’re on a collision course for the HMAS Adelaide. 

I couldn’t think what he was talking about and he’s like, “Can you come upstairs?” And sure enough, it was an aircraft carrier and we’d be fine AIS wise but what had happened was they were, we were 50 miles still inside the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, so it’s inside the Whitsundays. They are honking along doing 17 knots directly towards us, we’re doing 7 knots towards them. They flicked their AIS on when we’re five minutes away. 

So it’s a military ship, they must just put AIS on when they need to be seen. So where we went from everything being fine, we were five minutes off collision course. So then I checked the AIS and see that we’re going to cross within half a mile and we were sailing across their bow at about 30 degrees, so the AIS doesn’t tell you are you going to be half a mile that side of the bow or half mile this side of the bow? 

So I thought I will slow down and change direction and then it still said half a mile and now I’m thinking, “Right.” So we were going to go pass, and meanwhile we’re down in two minutes and this thing is looming up and so I just luffed the boat and watched them slide past and they were like 0.7 of a mile away but they looked like they were right there and no, you could not tell. 

I swear they were coming directly towards us and it was only because the AIS showed that they were going past us, you know, parallel to us. But if I didn’t have the AIS, I would’ve been taking other actions. I swore they were coming straight towards us. That’s just three lights on this massive ship. They had them beaming alone, so I couldn’t tell. So that was a highlight but that was, you know, it was a highlight that Samson decided to come and grab you and I was thinking, “I can fix this,” because you know, crossing the bow of an aircraft carrier doing 17 knots is not very smart. So that was a highlight. Okay, any other low parts we haven’t mentioned? 

Steve: Well another highlight sorry it was actually Samson who’s probably the least experienced on board on our normal crew and he was set the challenge and he really stepped up during the week, which was great and even exactly what you just said there, it was a massive step up that anyone else may or may not have actually come in to grab you and all of that. So hats off to him. The whole week he stepped up and he was going real well by the end of it so hat’s off. 

Alan: Yeah, I agree with that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah he was great and after the week of stress and pressure and focus and exactness, I had to detune him for the delivery trip home and say, “We’re not going to push it. Take your time. There’s no urgency, any injuries. That’s all right. Have lots of sleep.” But yes, so I think he learned a lot because the delivery trip home was close to four days and he was literally adjusting the helm to the wind angle. 

He was managing traffic, he sailed down most of the way inside Frazer Island on the helm navigating the hand steering down the channels in the dark and stuff. So great crash course for him and so I think it’s great when you get something like that that comes out of that because it just gives somebody just a whole lot more experience than they plan to get. Okay so any other low points? 

Rod: It was a great week. Excellent week. Food street and tavern and the whole island, just all in close proximity with all of the boats and the atmosphere of the rest of the crews and yeah, it was just a good week. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So the Wallabies on the big screen wasn’t a low point at all? 

Rod: Yeah, it was probably a low point there. I wasn’t going to mention that.

Alan: Who are they again, who were they? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, cool. I think, yeah I think since we’ve talked about it now, I feel much better about the week than I did. There were lots of high points. So guys, what amazes you most about the week if there was one thing that amazed you the most? 

Alex: I got one. I think it was on the last night I was there, we went up to your guys unit for pizza and a beer and I walked into that unit and I couldn’t swing a cat in there. There was crap everywhere. There were anchors and chains and ropes, how do you get all that stuff into the boat? Because the unit was absolutely full. It was amazing how much stuff is actually on that boat when it’s cruising mode? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: But that’s not even cruising mode, that’s just ocean racing mode.

Alex: Yeah, that’s… 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Or a delivery trip mode, because I’ve got another two and a half meter high, six meter long shelving system at home and 90% of that gear was also on the boat when I bought it. So it’s amazing how you can… 

Alex: Yeah, it’s just amazing too like the last time I’ve been on the boat, you know, in the galley there was cups and silverware and all the rest of it, and I walk on and there’s three plastic cups and two plastic spoons and that was it. 

Steve: Yeah, we didn’t take everything off. There was everything off.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It was a lot. 

Steve: I think we took six chopping boards off of it. That’s serious cruising mode. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, no there were slices and everything. Okay, what else amazed you about the week? Anything else? 

Alan: I would say, as far as the area goes, it just never let you down. Like we didn’t have the best weather. It was pretty gloomy most of the time, rained some days and all of that sort of stuff, but it was just spectacular. You know there were whales jumping over the boat. You literally, they were calling over the radio that, “There are whales in the area, watch out.” You need to watch that don’t hit them. They were everywhere. They were like the plague of the sea. They were absolutely everywhere and then there’s dolphins and turtles and the beautiful green water and the landmarks, the current, the everything. Just every year you go out there and it’s just amazing. It’s an amazing place. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It seems a shame to go all the way there and actually not spend some time cruising or enjoying it. It almost seems a waste doesn’t it? Because it is spectacular. 

Alex: And Hamilton Island is an amazing place as well. I mean just that whole marina precinct, the way it’s set up. The way they set it up for race week, you know, they had that big stage in front of the bar. They had live music every night. You know, there was a band, they had the Heineken were doing their promotion, someone else was doing their promotion. Everything was just laid on for all the competitors and it was so welcoming, you know? You could go anywhere and it was just set up for sailors and for sailing. It was just brilliant. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: They absorb thousands of extra people in the space of the week and everything works. You know, the queues aren’t 50 people long, everything works, you know, it’s really well done. Okay, anything else for you Alan?

Alan: No, I’m good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I don’t know if it’ just the sheer spectacle of the size of the fleet, besides it’s 250 boats in a dense passage and then just seeing those big boats, the division AIIC boats the hundred footers. The TP52’s starting behind us and sailing through us in some of those races, just the noise in the backdrop and the spectacle. 

That last day, I mean when they’re doing 25 knots coming up behind you and deciding whether to go above you or below you, a couple [inaudible] went below us, one went above us and started luffing their code zero. But just the noise and you are never going to get to see that any other way. You’re not going to get to see that unless you’re in a helicopter, unless you’re in a big power boat. Most other part of the country, you’re going to be unable to get to them. So it’s pretty unique. 

Alan: We had the helicopter above us and one of the boats went above us and ran it up. You could hear the winches, hear that sound of those winches. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Groaning noise. 

Alan: Groaning noises of the winches on the big boats, those electric winches. It was amazing. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Is there anything else you want to share or comment on? 

Steve: I’d say it was a great week of training and up-skilling really because we’ve still got heaps moving forward and bigger adventures too with the Hobart. So it was just a good learning week, even though it wasn’t as enjoyable as if we were in a cruising division. I think it’s probably what we needed and it was also what we needed to gauge the boat, just to see where it was at. So I think it was actually the right thing to do, whilst it’s not as much fun, we had to know.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Learning and training often isn’t fun, is it? 

Steve: No, no, no. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It was valuable though. 

Steve: But it’s not a bad place to do it, all the same. So I don’t think there was a lot done wrong. There are always things you can improve on but a real good up-skilling event really. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and we have to acknowledge Clay. I mean he sailed with us for that week. He’s a volunteer who lives locally. He came and raced with us. He worked from sun up to sun down, past when I was ready to carry on. 

Alex: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Fine-tuning stuff, fixing stuff, training people.

Alex: Taught us a lot. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: He’s very patient, very diligent, very persistent. But his technical expertise is second to none. So he, in terms of things that we learned while being under pressure, racing isn’t always easiest learning environment. Really, that’s when you learn, when you are actually under pressure. He gave a 120%, he didn’t come for, you know, a free cruise. 

Steve: And David, added to that, I mean the basics that he went right back to the basics and taught us all on the same way of doing things and went over it and over it and over it again on those first two or three days, that was great. That was really, really valuable I think. In some ways I regretted that we didn’t have all of the crew there that we could all learn it the same way. Hopefully we can pass on a lot of that stuff, especially around trimming and the way that we did that and some of those things, that was fantastic. We’re very lucky to have that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and he was like a drill sergeant, you know? In helping you to change subconscious habits until they became new habits and that’s never easy. And Steve just says he would be like that. He was not like he didn’t say upfront, “He’s going to be anal about stuff.”

Steve: I’ve been to his school before, which was probably a steeper learning curve for me because I’d never done bow before and ended up on a boat that had a tactician, a paid skipper, a paid tactician and ended up doing bow and mast for a wind with a little bit of head. So I went through his school and it was a tough one, and particularly because I weighed 90 kilos so I wasn’t allowed past the mast to do the bow. So that adds some extra fun on board but there’s one thing like he teaches you, you do not forget and it’s really good. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Alex: I think the thing that I found fascinating about what Clay was able to pass onto us was that yeah, all the basic stuff but then there’s so much of the finesse, the little stuff that we’re just not aware off that he is just like an encyclopaedia with and when you think about it, you know the difference between a race sometimes is 30 seconds, 20 seconds and if you can shave that extra 20 seconds off, he’s the sort of guy that is going to be able to teach you how to do that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly right. So I think, definitely, I’d love to do Race Week again. I think it’s doing all everything that was learned and approaching everything I think for me part of the lesson is next time around, let’s not try and d two ocean races and two regattas in five weeks, that are spread from Sydney to the Whitsundays. Let’s pick a couple of things I really want to do that fit together better, or one thing, if that’s what our team decide. 

Let’s just plan ahead, do it well, you get the right coverage across the entire, [inaudible]. Let’s not try and spread ourselves too thin because at the end of the day, we’ve got day jobs, we’ve got families, we’ve got other distractions and part of, like if you’ve got stuff that isn’t quite right, because you’re just so busy racing that you’re preoccupied with what’s happening outside of racing at home or work or whatever, then that distracts you from the enjoyment as well. 

So I think getting the balance right with our team upfront and saying, “What should we do? What do you think?” And working out a plan rather than just changing and hoping after we’re tuned up, I think that’s a list as well. 

Alex: I think the wonderful thing about the Hamilton Island Race Week is that it’s a very nice balance of intensive racing if that’s what you want to do, or a bit more social in the other classes but then there’s also the social aspect of it. So you get to mix with your own crew and other people that you know, that you may want to meet from other crews. You get to see some fantastic boats and also do some racing and it’s almost like emersion. Because you’re there for the week and you know that it’s in that tiny environment, around the marina or around the Whitsundays, it is a fantastic week. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I think the same thing that’s why wherever level you’re at, you go try the boat, cruising boat, high sea tide boat, you can get away if you want to out of that week. Whatever you want you could get in terms of cruising or racing super serious just having fun. This is, there is definitely something for everybody if you go and do what you want. 

Steve: And yeah you to add to temperature and the climate up there is just sick and down isn’t it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, okay. Any last words about anything else we’d do definitely next time around? 

Steve: I made the point earlier about the crew. If you can get like a core crew for most of the days at least and if you didn’t have the rest of the sailing early maybe there’s even a chance to do some training around certain things that you’re then not going to change up there. Again, that constant change of all of everything was one of the hard things. So the less you have of that constant change. You’re still refining things up there but that’d probably make it a bit more enjoyable and then you can work out, “Okay, are we really going to go hard for the first couple of days and then see where we are and ease off a bit?” I think that would be really good.

Rod: Yeah, I think the same team for most of the week would be a big plus and then also probably just being in a PHS division so that we’re with like boats and probably doing races that are more setup for our speed of boat Then the other thing is, a delivery skipper for Dave so he’s not having to sail halfway around the world every time we do a race. I think that’s something we should be on the lookout for or someone step up, someone retire or someone lose their job so they can actually you know, help out with the deliveries because that’s a massive thing for Dave.

Alex: Yeah, and don’t spill the beer on to your laptop and smash your mobile phone as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right and part of, you know, I haven’t publishing, it’s still a couple of weeks but yeah, spilling beer into my Mac Book computer in Hamilton Island as I was working and then dropping my iPhone and smashing the screen and then having delivery chips to get stuff done. Or I couldn’t because the conditions and I wasn’t in range because we’re 50 miles off the coast. Yeah, technology installed I keep them apart, it’s just keeping the concrete and the beer away from my technology.

Alan: But the high point in that is the fact you were drinking beer. So it’s not water, it’s not coffee, you were drinking beer at the time so life wasn’t too bad when you’re doing that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Sitting on the deck at a yacht club.

Alan: Yeah, that’s right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So yeah, it’s good and yeah, I think it’s a good summer end. Like I was going to say, in hind sight you could probably actually have two more people that you needed because definitely across the course of six days some people get stretches and strains. Some people just get overloaded with work and they’re happy to take a day off, you have light weather you can afford to sit out

Having two more than you need, so your core team’s actually bigger than you need rather than suddenly you lose a couple of people for whatever reason and now you’ve suddenly gone from ideal to too thin. I think that that’s good planning. And then if people then are tired or something and they decide to take a day off because just because they do, then you can weight that stuff and a bit more flexibly as well. Especially if you’ve got some longer days, you’re not getting back to your loved ones until after seven or eight o’clock at night. Its hard for them if they’re waiting for you to come home from racing.

So okay, good stuff guys. Well, and then thank you to the Southport Yacht Club for making this room available to us again for recording at no cost. So, we appreciate their support in helping us by making it available. And thanks guys for getting together tonight and fitting this debrief in, it’s actually been really valuable, I’ve learned a lot out of it and it just reinforces that if you are keen in taking the learning’s out of these things and fine tuning then saying it’s a bit it gets better and better.

Alex: Yeah, and thank you to you David, you’ve done a lot of work over this last six weeks, I remember listening to a couple of podcasts where you were saying this is what’s going to happen over the next six weeks and now we’re at the title end of it, it has been a big commitment, it has been a lot of work and we’ve learned a few things and we’ve gotten through it. So look, thanks for you for all your efforts and for even organising it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Pleasure, thanks guys. And yeah, certainly, hence there’s been a bit of a break in the podcast because I ran, everything got so far behind and is so but so be it. I ran out of steam so we’ve got three, maybe four interviews lined up this week, this is the first one so we’re back into the week cycle from now on so that will be good.

Rod: Good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So, great stuff, thanks guys and new season kicks off this week and first race is the, well for us it does, and first race in the new season is tomorrow. Tomorrow racing.

Alex: Great, fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Through the Southport Yacht Club. Thank you, excellent. We’ll wrap up.

Interviewer: David Hows

Episode 21: Ian MacKenzie Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hey folks welcome back to the Ocean Sailing Podcast. This week we are with Ian MacKenzie, he is joining us to share some expertise on a couple of topics that a lot of who have lots of questions about, particularly if they’re buying a boat for, whether it’s the first time or the second time. So we’re with Ian MacKenzie from Ian MacKenzie International and the Catamaran company, welcome along Ian.

Ian MacKenzie: Thank you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So Ian’s agreed to join us and so we can drill down into a couple of areas that really can be quite technical, and can be quite costly and full of all sorts of pitfalls if you don’t really know what you're doing. So, before we get started Ian, just tell us about your business, what do you, how long have you been doing what you do and what are your sort of core areas of expertise, what’s you sort of core focuses of business?

Ian MacKenzie: Well I’ve been a broker, I started as a broker in 1990 so 26 years ago and worked for a brokerage at the yacht club, Southport Yacht Club board yacht club for 14 years. And then in 2003, or 13 years, 2003 started my own business. So we basically sell, specialise in cruising yachts, monohulls and then that’s the Ian MacKenzie International and Catamaran Company does catamarans pair and sail. I also am a customs valuer and insurance valuer. As well as an insurance agent for marine insurance, Club marine and Pantaenius. So that’s like a total package you know. So we can deal with boats that are coming in from overseas and help with the import process. We sell boats overseas, we’ve sold boats in Barcelona and Spain and Locos Del Toro and Panama and Thailand, you know, Phuket, Malaysia. So business is global, you know, with the Internet.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you sell boats that were based in Australia to overseas buyers or you sold overseas based boats to…

Ian MacKenzie: Overseas based boats.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Got you.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Ian MacKenzie: So, you know, those boats were either Australian boats that had ended up there…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: …and wanted us to sell them or they were overseas boats foreign owned and had being referred, we’d been referred to them so they contacted us to sell their boat because Australia, if the boat’s in Asia, Australia is the only first world country basically in the southern hemisphere. And so the money’s, form a boating point of view, the money’s here, it’s Australians that go and buy and they’re pretty adventurous so they’re quite happy to go and buy in Asia or South America or wherever. So it just panned out that way.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so today would be good to talk about the boat buying process and then maybe we’ll come back to, if you want to buy a boat but you’re thinking of importing a boat instead of buying a local boat, maybe we’ll just jump into then to some of these…

Ian MacKenzie: Sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …sort of complexities around that which you’ve got a lot of experience and so, you know, if you're talking to someone who is buying a yacht for the first time, whether it’s to do a bit of cruising or a bit of cruising and racing. You know, as a first time buyer, what are my options for what are my options or what are some of the common approaches we’ll take for finding your first yacht?

Ian MacKenzie: Okay, so first thing is to, you know, the inclination for some people have been to look overseas to buy because they’ve perceived that it’s going to be cheaper overseas. Well, with the Australian dollar being as low as it is, it’s not cheaper to buy overseas. It’s better off just buying the boat you want is likely to be next door or locally.

The things you look for, you’ve first got to sort out before you even get off your chair at home is to sort out what your requirements are. How many people are going to be using the boat, where are you going to go cruising, what your budget is and what size you want, that you feel you can manage based on your experience? So those are basically the essentials. 

So you get that sorted and then you go out and start looking at what brands deliver the layouts and all the things that you want. Not all brands are the same and it’s a good idea to stick to a brand because in terms of resale, you’re going to be able to resell the boat, always think about the out when you’re buying in. So people generally stick to the brand names, those are the boats that are turning over. 

So you should know Beneteau, Catalina, all of the production boats. That’s with monohulls, Hanse, ML, and then with catamaran just Catana and Fountaine Pajot and there’s a myriad of brands, Lagoon. And we sell them all second hand. The only new brand we deal with is Hudson Power Cat. We used to be the ML Agents and so, the second hand, the pre-owned brokerage market is vibrant. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s a buyers market. So those are basically the things that first buyer would be looking for.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And how much of a premium does a branded boat command when it comes to resale versus a non-branded, home built…

Ian MacKenzie: Custom built?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …type, custom type boat when it comes to resale? Say the boat’s 10 or 15 years old, how much of a difference does it make?

Ian MacKenzie: Well because people want to play it safe in this global and uncertain market, the reason they stick to the brands is that they know that everybody knows, the work’s been done. People know what a brand is. It’s a bit like going to McDonalds, you know, you can go to any McDonalds and the hamburgers are the same.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s that McDonalds principle is that you stick to a brand, you know what you’re getting beforehand and so when you got to sell, people know the brand. You just say, “I’ve got a Beneteau 440 for sale,” and people know it. They can just Google it, bang, yeah, they’re all the same. Beneteau 440’s are all the same. So, and that also the prices re actually virtually presetwithin certain tolerances. So you know what you’re going to pay when you buy it, you know what you’re going to sell it for, approximately, taking to account age of equipment, age of rigging, age of sales and condition of all of those. It’s all pretty safe.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: So it’s not so much that it’s worth more, the boat will sell quicker and you’ll lose less. It won’t be worth more, you will just lose less because the boat will be worth less when you go to sell it than when you bought it. But if you buy a custom boat, depending on how well it’s built and how well it’s known, it could take a long time to sell and generally you lose more money on a custom boat. Depending on the design of it, because the design is also a brand.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: So Van de Stadt, you know, Alden, all of those lovely boats, custom built and they appeal to a smaller section of the market. So it’s all about the numbers. The more people you’re selling to, the more likely you’re going to be able to sell your boat quicker and for reasonable money.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. So hence it’s easier to sell a Toyota Corolla than a Ferrari.

Ian MacKenzie: Exactly, exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wider market that you’re appealing to.

Ian MacKenzie: Wider pool of buyers, yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And also, some of that stuff you’ve got to be careful of some of the custom or one off boats. If you go to a cat two, cat one races, if you can’t get it right hull verification certificates that show the quality of construction that’s occurred, then you can end up not being eligible to do some of those things.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So that’s a factor as well.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, absolutely and so you know, the racing requirements are quite stringent and so you need stability tests and all of that. So you need those figures to match up with the minimum required in say Sydney to Hobart or whatever passage racing you want to do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: And you could miss out by 0.2 of a decimal point if the stability figures don’t match up and don’t mesh so…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: I’ve just sold a boat where it’s just 0.2 of a decimal point.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, it’s that close?

Ian MacKenzie: It’s a Gale. Yeah it’s, you know, an expensive boat and he wants to do the Hobart and stuff but, he didn’t buy it to do that, he bought it to go cruising so he’s not upset but that’s just an example.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, for sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, okay. And with the boat broker, are they primarily used by sailors, buyers or by both? I know in the US Market, people often will get themselves a broker when they want to buy a boat.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then they’ll do a conjunctive deal on a commission and there will be sellers, broker and a buyer’s broker. How is it different here in Australia?

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s, you know, what I find is that people, buyers and sellers, buyers like to these days prefer to go to a broker because their experience quite often is being when they’ve gone thinking that they’d get a better deal in a private sale, don’t have to pay a commission. But they’ve, more often than not, they get mucked around by the owner. And for an expensive boat, they’re actually giving the owner a substantial deposit and they’re not dealing with an institution.

So they can pay someone a one hundred thousand dollar deposit and then the next thing is they’re in court because the owner’s not returning their deposit and even though he hasn’t fulfilled his obligation in terms of the contract. So then they’ve got a legal expense to get their money back. None of that happens when the deal with the broker where an accredited — most brokers are accredited.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: They’re hopefully part of an accredited association. So we meet with certain standards, quality assurance standards. We run a trust account and we stick to, and we adhere to a code of practice. So we will never hold a deposit while a contract is conditional. So all of those things are quite reassuring for a buyer and for a seller it just takes the aggravation out of selling his boat. We give them expert advice in terms of preparing the boat for sale, we take care of all of that, we have the ability to just make all of that seamless.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: We just organise trades people to come in detail aboard and make everything that’s not working work, and presented as best as it can be to maximise return, the best price. And so, make a sale happen in the shortest possible period and going in at the right, you know, giving them advice at the right price point to hit the market is critical. Otherwise it just sits there for a long period if it’s too highly priced.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: For all of those reasons, both sellers and buyers, most sellers and buyers choose to deal through an accredited broker. There are still the sellers that sell privately and buyers that buy privately but that part of the market, I found, is shrinking.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: As there value guys up, the percentage must come down, right?

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The more that you’re buying and selling a boat, the less you want to take those kind of risks.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. People in the higher end, and we deal with you know, high quality boats.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: And so we’ve just found that our vendors, as a matter of fact, I’ve dealt with owners that have tried to sell their boat private and have been unsuccessful, there’s one just sitting out there, Perry 43. We just settled that yesterday. He’d been trying to sell that privately for a year and a half.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

Ian MacKenzie: And…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a long time. 

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. And you know, it’s a case and point where an owner is not the best person to sell it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No.

Ian MacKenzie: Because he’s emotionally involved with that boat, he’s attached, he’s done a lot. He’s cruised it all over Asia and around Australia; a buyer walks on board and says, “Ah man, she’s a bit run down.” He takes it as a personal insult and attacks the guy verbally and goes, “How dare you insult my boat, and this and that.” Whereas a broker is detached.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s a business and we’re not emotionally attached for the boat so, as a matter of fact, we encourage the buyer to say, “Tell me, give me honest feedback because I’ll pass it on diplomatically to the owner and we’ll work at getting the boat presenting even better.” So, there’s another advantage here. 

But anyway, that boat there, we actually sold it within two months of enlisting it with us and he’s wrecked, he’s absolutely wrecked. He’s had it for sale for a year and a half and he thought he’d get — he was reluctant to even list it with us and I said, I told him I was a Perry expert and that’s the fourth one we’ve sold in three months, fourth Perry 43. So he’s totally wrecked, you know? So that’s a good example of where an owner he thinks he knows better.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And in the end he was very grateful for the service he got from us.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and, like, typically, and I’m sure this is probably not an exact number but how many buyers would look at a boat for the number that actually buy a boat? Like what’s the conversion rate from lookers and tie kickers versus actual buyers?

Ian MacKenzie: Well, that’s another thing David that we as a broker, as a brokerage, I’ve been in this business now, this is my 26th year. Like I want to minimise that traffic over a boat because each person going on a boat is my time. I want a one inspection, one hit rate.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

 

Ian MacKenzie: That’s the aim and most often it doesn’t happen but we can work that. With experience, we know the elements that go to making that happen is the boat’s got to be presented as best as it can be, absolutely as best as it can be. Shiny as best as it can be, everything working on it. If the rigging is over 10 years old, it’s changed because insurance companies won’t, won’t ensure it. The sails are totally worn out, well, we get quotes. If the owner doesn’t want to replace the sails, we get quotes for the sails so that we have the information to hand.

So we’re presenting the board as best as it can be so the walk on experience is going to be, “Wow, this is,” — so the way we present it on the net is in a sequential format of photographs. So if someone from Perth’s flying here, the aim is for when he gets on board, he goes, “I feel like I’ve been on this boat before.” Because he’s looked at it in sequence.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Got an anticipation as well because the good wide photo is not just the photo of the toilet close-up, which is like you see with the…

Ian MacKenzie: Exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: … private sale.

Ian MacKenzie: High resolution, panoramic shots and in sequence of how he would see the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Transom, cockpit, saloon, instruments, galley, you know? That’s the sequence that a person walks through a boat, so he feels like he seen it. And so we also gave them good honest feedback and they ask us a question about the condition of the boat. If I think the boats in average condition but it’s priced accordingly, I would tell them so.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, then you get expectations that…

Ian MacKenzie: So I would rather them come and say, “It’s better than you described,” rather than, “It’s not anywhere as good as you know, described.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And so, for all of those, when you do all of those things, you know, the chances of someone walking aboard the boat and going, “Yes, this is it. It’s the right price, it presents really well, it’s what I want,” we’ve identified all of that with them before they come to the boat. It's likely that they will step aboard and just buy it. 

So that happens, that’s been happening more and more for us. Like for instance we sold a 45 foot catamaran, the owner tried to sell it for, for about five months and then eventually came to us and I actually thought he was selling it too cheaply. And so he was getting all the bargain hunters that were screwing him even further.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: I put a higher price on it, got a $40,000 higher than he was asking and I sold it for $10,000 less than that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

Ian MacKenzie: He was absolutely wrapped and we sold it, we got the first inquiry within 15 minutes of putting on the web and within 36 hours, we had a contract on it. He had it for sale for five months. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I’m just thinking about that, there are so many parallels with real estate. You know, under pricing real estate is just as bad as overpricing it sometimes because…

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: ….you just attract the wrong group of people and…

Ian MacKenzie: Well people think there’s something wrong with it. People think that the seller’s desperate.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: So they just offer him like 30% less, and he actually accepted an offer 30% less then the guy didn’t think he would and didn’t have the money.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: So he couldn’t proceed.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

Ian MacKenzie: So it wrapped him around you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and how many, so if you’ve got like inventory locally, how many of your buyers are local buyers or versus coming from further afield, out of interstate and that kind of thing?

Ian MacKenzie: I think most of our buyers come from further afield. They’re either further afield within the state or further afield within Australia, sort of interstate. We sell very few boats to Cold Coasters generally, because of the type of boats that we sell.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: They’re ocean going catamarans, ocean going yachts, cruising yachts, people from all over Australia are looking for them. Because of information technology, we can present a boat with video and high res photos and facilitate. The Internet has sped up the whole sales process, fast-tracked it. So it makes it seamless for a buyer from Melbourne or Perth or whoever to come and air travel is cheap.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: You know, $70 to come from or $20 to come from Sydney or, you know, $150 to come from Perth.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like it costs you sometimes less to fly to Sydney then it does you the taxi from the airport into the city.

Ian MacKenzie: Exactly. So yeah. So with all of those elements, people are more than happy to come and deal with us also because we’ve been in business for a long time, we get people coming back to us for the fourth and fifth time to resell their boats through us and buy another one because we’re a known factor. They know what they’re getting when they’re dealing with us. So yeah, we sell mainly to people not on the Gold Coast.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. And do you provide like a sourcing service? If someone says, “These are my needs and I don’t want to look at 10 different websites and deal with 20 different brokers.”

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Do you work like that?

Ian MacKenzie: So a buyer’s broker, definitely. It doesn’t happen often, it’s just happened yesterday on the settlement of that Perry, their friend who came with them said, “I’m looking at a boat in French Polynesia, what do you think?” And I said, “Well this looks good.” He showed me the specs and he said, “Well I’d rather make an offer through you, at least you’re locally based, I can put my deposit with you, you can sort out all the broke to broker stuff and make sure that…”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: He made an offer, instantly. Just out of the blue, he made an offer on a 42 foot sailing cat. So it happens, but it doesn’t often.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And in that instance is the buyer paying you for the service or are you doing conjunction type arrangement with the owner of the other boat?

Ian MacKenzie: Correct, it makes no difference to the seller because the seller is just paying a brokerage fee.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: And that just gets split between the two brokers.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, you go, “I’ve got a buyer, you’ve got a boat.” You work together from an agent to agent point of view, boat direct point of view and…

Ian MacKenzie: On some occasions, if the buyer wants the broker to come with them to an overseas, to accompany them to the boat in French Polynesia or wherever, Fiji.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That would be a tough trip to have to make.

Ian MacKenzie: Then to buyer pays for the expenses.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes, yes.

Ian MacKenzie:  But generally it’s just a split commission.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Yeah, so there’s kind of no downside if you’re a buyer?

Ian MacKenzie: There’s no downside, the buyer’s not paying anymore.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay cool. And so if you’re thinking of buying a yacht and knowing that not all yachts are, well they’re might have been created equal but they’re certainly not maintained equally.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How do you go about, you see three Beneteau’s and say they’re 40 footers and they’re all 10 years old, how do you really go about working at the value difference between them? What’s the approach you take to that when one’s in the market for one price and one’s in the market for another? Because at the end of the day it’s about value for money relative to what you’re buying.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s not about the highest and lowest price.

Ian MacKenzie: No.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And you can buy a cheap disaster that costs you more than the purchase price to get it in working order the first 12 months if you’re not careful.

Ian MacKenzie: No, absolutely, yeah. So basically I have a mental checklist. So, you know, the age of the equipment or the outward appearance of the boat, condition of the gel coat. So it comes back to the point that you raise, how well is the boat being maintained by the owner, or the previous owners? You know, if they’ve had a number of them. So what condition is the gel coat in? Because if the boat needs a total repaint on the hull, that’s like $20,000 to $30,000; a deal breaker. What is the age of the standing rigging? How old are the electronics? We know electronics get out dated within six months but hell, if it’s 10 years old.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: If the electronics are 10 years old…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: it’s a dinosaur.

Ian MacKenzie: They’re ready for the bin, so really, they have no value…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: …whatsoever. And if so if one of them has got 10 year old electronics and the other’s got six month electronics and the rigging has just been changed and the sails are in beautiful condition, they’re only three years old or in really good condition, those are value add, or not value add but those are major costs. So adds value for that boat as opposed to the boat that needs all of that done.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: You might have to spend $50 grand on the boat if it’s priced the same, of course the buyer’s going to migrate to the boat that’s had all that regular maintenance and upgrades done. So those are the sorts of things that we look at. The engine is the other thing, is how well has it been maintained? How many hours has it done and is there a service schedule records you know, of the servicing done? So those are the major ticket items.

Engines, rigging, condition of/age of electronics, everything else is you know, appearance of upholstery and stuff, it’s minor expenses and you know, people like to make those changes anyway, regardless of the condition of the upholstery. The wife might want to change it anyway.

So that’s how we differentiate and that’s what, those are the things we take into account you know? Whether the boat’s got osmosis as well? One might and one may not. So that’s another huge cost, potential cost. So those are the elements that I take into account when I’m valuing a boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. I listened to something recently where somebody said there’s this age old view you know you buy a boat and you’re better off buying a boat cheap and putting the time into doing it up and. But the opposing view now is “you’re nuts”, because the hours you pour into it that you don’t put a value on and then when you pay for the things you do will far outweigh, not only the time it’s going to take you but the overall cost that of buying a boat where those things have been done the last 12, 24 months.

Because they’re not getting retail value for what they’ve done in terms of improvements so they’re already depreciated in terms of the in value of the boat. So the argument may be that you know, for $50,000 worth of extra value, you’re probably going to pay extra $20,000 for the boat and you’re going to end up miles ahead of you know, just trying to…

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …buy cheap and do it yourself.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, yeah. No absolutely. Like I have a saying that you know it’s hard to, it’s almost impossible to take a poorly maintained boat, a boat that’s been historically poorly maintained by one owner to the next, and work on it and present it and get it to the point where it’s beautifully presented and fully functional because that lack of maintenance, the boat is in an active environment and an active corrosive environment. 

 

And so, for instance, if there’s been a leak that the owner hasn’t fixed and he’s just ignored it’s got salt water leak, down into the electronics, it’s corroded the wiring, the wiring’s gone green right throughout, it’s stained the timber, he hasn’t fixed that and over a period of time, there’s delamination, there’s heavy staining, the wiring’s gone green, things start to malfunction. I would much rather buy a boat from someone that’s fixed a leak in the first place.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And the problem’s never gone beyond that. So it’s a bit like buying a taxi really. You can never buy a taxi and present if it was a private car.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. It’s good analogy with heavy use or neglected of use or both.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, absolutely. So I always recommend buying a well maintained boat or I give my owners, all my buyers the advice to maintain their boats. Be right on to it, fix it as soon as you know that something needs fixing, do it. Because it’s going to get worse.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. And sets of a chain of events.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then you get to the point…

Ian MacKenzie: And it’s going to let them down at a critical time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And, Neptune out there, you know, things go wrong at 2 o’clock in the morning when it’s blowing 45 knots, it’s dark, there’s a rock up ahead that you’ve been looking out for, that you want to sail around and the GPS goes down because your wiring’s gone green and you knew it but didn’t fix it all that time ago. So, things go wrong dramatically.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and my boat’s 25 years old and I’ve had her for five years but in the first 12 months, you know, exactly, the GPS was seven years old. That failed at the wrong time, the anchor windlass failed and I couldn’t get the anchor up or down. The water maker failed, the generator that charged the main battery banks failed. Two or other three things failed. All the while on holiday with the family, all over public holiday periods or when service people were out of reach.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it really does have the ability to ruin your trip and become a real safety issue as well.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. So it’s all about preventative maintenance really.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: As well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Keeping that discretion, keeping it up to scratch.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Otherwise, stuff just keeps happening. You never get ahead of it. Even if you maintain it well, there’s always new stuff that arise.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If you don’t maintain it well, you’re just a disaster.

Ian MacKenzie: You know they say, you know one of my sayings is, cruising’s all about finding exotic places to maintain your boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right.

Ian MacKenzie: Right?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right.

Ian MacKenzie: So you might, like, you know when I was cruising, I’ve done 35,000 miles of sailing and cruising, racing and cruising but when we were cruising around the Pacific Islands and so on, you know, you start off with a zero amount of jobs on your list. And by the time you get to New Caledonia, there’s 20 there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Things had gone wrong at sea and you’ve put it on the list.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Then once you’ve settled in to your new anchorage and checked the place up, you start working, chipping away at your list of fixing those things and on it goes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then you’re ready to leave again.

Ian MacKenzie: You’re ready to leave again and generate a new list.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s exactly what happens.

Ian MacKenzie: And it’s an active environment. Things are working; you know your boat’s under stress. Things work; work meaning they wear and you just don’t know what you don’t know as well. You don’t know that something’s wearing out, about to wear out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Everything has it’s, has its lifespan. And they reach the end of their lifespan at different points. But it’s fun, it’s all part of the experience.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right, it’s funny that even to this day, the Beneteau brochure doesn’t say, “Be aware as a new cruising sailor, you need to be a plumber and an electrician and a builder and an all-around handy guy.”

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. A master of all trades.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Not just a jack of all trades.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And carrier all those spares as well. Okay. So, you know, post GFC a few things changed with the marine industry and then the boating market and where we’re now at in 2016, what finance options are available to boat buyers where the finances are able to be secured, solely against the boat as opposed to an extension of a property mortgage or that kind of thing if you’re looking to buy a boat?

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah most, well every finance company that I’ve dealt with, that we deal with, who will not lend with only the boldest collateral. Especially the boats that we deal with because they, you can get into the boat and sail away from Australia.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Ian MacKenzie: So, if you’re selling a Riviera or if you’re buying Riviera, they may lend money against the Riviera because it would run out of fuel. Basically within sigh of land. So, you can’t actually physically go out of, you know…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah right.

Ian MacKenzie: …go wherever.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I never thought of that from that angle.

Ian MacKenzie: You’re just going from one fuel pump to the next.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: So, these big power boats. But generally, short answer is, the finance companies want some other collateral in real estate or commercial property or yeah, you know, equity rather than using the boldest 100% equity.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. And is a new yacht buyer guaranteed to get insurance? The reason I ask is obviously boating… 

Ian MacKenzie: The buyer, first time boat buyer or?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The boat needs to be of standard, but also the buyer’s got to have some sort of experience right before they go and turn the keys on a half million dollar boat.

Ian MacKenzie: No, no, insurance companies will ensure basically anybody unless they’ve got a history of claims.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Ian MacKenzie: Right. So if they’ve had a history of claims with car insurance and with previous boats or they’ve got a criminal record, you know, the usual things.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes, yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Provided you haven’t got a criminal record and you haven’t had a history of accidental, you know, of accidents. Club marine and Pantaenius and most insurance companies will ensure you. You have to start somewhere, they have to take a risk you know? And you know, basically, if you’re a first boat buyer they are banking on the fact that you’re going to take it one step at a time and not just buy a boat and head off to New Caledonia with no experience. You’re going to…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yes.

Ian MacKenzie: …walk before you run. So you’re going to learn everything there is to know about navigation and all the skills that you need for your, for the purpose for which you want to use the boat for and use the boat in a safe way because you’re — it’s not like driving a car where you can just go and hoon it around and it’s okay. When you go out in the ocean in the boat, it might only go out still within sight of land but you could die if you take…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right.

Ian MacKenzie: …unnecessary risks. There’s reefs out there, if you don’t keep a watch out, you could run into another boat. So it’s life threatening stuff. If you don’t have a life jacket, if you don’t take proper precautions you could fall overboard. You know, it’s all of those things that you really have to practice safe boating and take it one step at a time. So, definitely you know, I’ve sold boats to first boat owners and they were ensured.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I mean, it’s probably things where the insurance company knows you’ve got a vested interest in staying afloat. If you burn your house down, you can walk out the front door, can’t you? But if you burn your boat to the waterline…

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …if you’re off shore, you’ve got all sorts of problems.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So, okay. And so, what steps would you recommend a buyer takes to thoroughly check a boat from end to end if you’re looking to buy a second hand boat.

Ian MacKenzie: Well I always recommend, as an accredited broker that a buyer engage a surveyor to check a boat out. But that’s the second stage, the first stage is the buyer, after they’ve clarified what they want in their mind, right now, just take the trouble to write down the things that you want from a boat as a buyer. So the, you know, the layout whether the galley’s up or down for catamarans, you know, that’s a factor. Full cabin layout or honor layout like three cabin layout in a catamaran. In a monohull, there’s different centre cockpit or aft cockpit.

 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Draft issues whether you know, in what draft don’t you want to exceed. So once a buyer’s clarified, in their minds, what they want and that clarification process becomes clearer and more distilled as s they look at more and more boats. They get to realise what they don’t like and by that very nature, they get to know what they do like. And so that sort of hones it down to the do’s and don’ts quickly become fairly clear.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And so you know have good conversations with the brokers that they’re dealing with, ask pointed questions about things that matter for you. Like, if you want a boat that will sail really well, so ask about the boat’s performance. Ask about how easy the boat’s sailing systems are to manage shorthanded, if you are shorthanded. Meaning, on your own or if your wife doesn’t really want to get involved with the sailing part of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Those are the sort of questions you can actually ask them and visually check.  And ask for the maintenance records of the boat and, you know, once you’ve honed in on a boat you can then move to the stage of getting it checked out by a surveyor. Because those guys are specialists, they can check below the surface because what you’re looking at as a buyer is only the surface.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Or cosmetic stuff.

Ian MacKenzie: Everything that you can see.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: You want a surveyor to check out the things you can’t see and can’t determine just by a visual inspection.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So will the boat have to come out of the water for a survey?

Ian MacKenzie: Definitely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Is that common?

Ian MacKenzie: An out of water inspection is what an insurance company will want anyway.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Ian MacKenzie: But regardless of that, buyers will get told, “Well this is a two year old boat so, there will be no problems with it. You don’t need to get it surveyed because you don’t need a survey for insurance,” which is true for a two year old production boat. But, I’ve had situations where I’ve sold a one year old boat and the buyer said to me, “There’s no need to get it surveyed is it? It’s only a year old.” I said, “Well, I wouldn’t spend $600,000 on a boat even if it’s one year’s old, you know, one year old and not get it surveyed.” Because, who knows what’s happened to it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: They could have run into something.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: They could have collided with something. Manufacturing issues.

Ian MacKenzie: And you know, quite often an owner doesn’t know. Like the owner may not know that the engines or the gearbox is about to fail.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Or an engine’s about to throw a ring or whatever. And that’s easy for a mechanic to check out. Or the owner may not have noticed that there’s a wire strand loose in the standing rigging on the cap shroud right at the masthead, which is not obvious from the deck. But a surveyor’s going to check it out. So those are the things that come to life. So I always recommend using a surveyor, regardless.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. And, if somebody comes to you and says, “I want to sell my boat.” Do you have like a threshold that you have to set where you say, “Actually, your boat’s not really sellable and if it’s, if it’s going to be sold, it’s not going to be me because hand on heart, I wouldn’t sell that to a buyer.” Or how do you decide?

Ian MacKenzie: It does happen.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How do you decide?

Ian MacKenzie: As a matter of fact, it’s just happened three weeks ago. Look it’s more about, there’s a couple of points there. We as a brokerage have made a business decision to deal with boats within, not lower than a certain threshold. Because my experience has shown me that you know, the cheaper boats, the $50,000 boat or $100,000 boat generally isn’t as well maintained and I don’t want to offend the people, the owners of $100,000 boats but I’m talking on, there’s been a number of instances where, I mean, probably more for them…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Especially bigger boats in that price range, right?

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, yeah. Most owners probably look after their boats, there’s enough owners that don’t look after their boats in that price range and they use selling the boat as an excuse to get rid of it and not do the maintenance.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. 

Ian MacKenzie: Because the maintenance has caught up with them.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It catches up with them.

Ian MacKenzie: The engine’s just about to fail and the rigging is due to be replaced or overdue, the sail, they’ve had the best use of the sails, sails are naked. So for all those reasons, I don’t deal with boats that are below a certain threshold and I will still look at even the more expensive boats to look at their condition and give advice on what needs to be fixed but having said that, there are still $50,000 boats that are in beautiful condition, I just choose not to sell them from a commercial point of view because there simply isn’t enough for it for me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, plus your time, right?

Ian MacKenzie: My time is…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: A business broker once told me it often takes more money to sell a $200,000 business than a two million dollar business.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. That’s exactly…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Because they don’t have the systems in place, they don’t have the reporting in place, a it’s more fragile business. All that kind of stuff.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. We could spend you know, four times long as selling a $50,000 boat for a $5,000 double commission than selling a $700,000 boat for an $8,000, 8% commission so yeah, it’s just a business decision so.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay. And you talk about catamarans and your focus going back more than a decade ago on catamarans as an evolving sort of area from a leisure cruiser’s point of view. What are the trends you are seeing with yacht buyers today versus 10 to 20 years ago?

Ian MacKenzie: Well as the population ages, people get older, they become less physically able and agile, you know, we get plenty of monohull sailors come and see us, we sell their monos and we put them into a cat, we sell them a cat and they’re happy as becauseyou know, it’s single level living virtually. The cockpit and the saloon, which is where they spend most of the eight hours of the day in, is on the one level, the same level. So it’s very easy to make that transition and 9.9 times out of 10 they never go back to a monohull…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

Ian MacKenzie: …after having owned a catamaran, and there are more and more catamarans. The Queensland Coast, the East Coast really from Queensland cruising where this is where most of Australian cruising boats end up cruising. If not end up leaving their boats to go cruising.   You’ve got shallow bars to go over, you’ve got river systems and so, cats have a shallow draft and so, you know, they can anchor in shallow water, they can put it on the sand and check to clean the bottom, get it to shallower points. So the more areas that monohull sailors can’t get into. 

 

So the trend is being you know, for a burgeoning catamaran market, pair and sail. There’s more and more cats. You can go to the Whitsunday and you see 10 years ago you might see 20 mono’s and two cats in say Nara inlet. Now you see more than 50% of them are catamarans.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Ian MacKenzie: And quite often there’s…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Ian MacKenzie: …the other way around. 18 catamarans and two mono’s. So it's that’s the way it’s trending. That’s not to say that mono’s are going out of phase. They’re still, you know, monohull yachts are incredibly popular and will always have their place, they have that romantic appeal as well and, so there’s a strong racing fraternity in monohulls and so on. It’s just the catamaran market’s growing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it will grow, it will help grow the market, right?

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Because it’s just growing. The vista and the living space and sitting flat in Anchorages and…

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The catamaran’s got so many positives for a cruising sailor, the draft issues and being able to park on the beach.

Ian MacKenzie: And as catamaran design evolves, we’ve got catamarans now, like I did Airlie Beach Race Week on a Schionning 46 G-Force called Bullet Proof. We passed Condor of Bermuda, the Maxi…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Ian MacKenzie:  …windward. And we were just walking around the cat and they had 17 guys on the rail and we past them to windward.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s pretty impressive when you start going well up wind in catamarans and still sitting flat.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s really nice.

Ian MacKenzie: And then off the wind we’ve been in 24 knots of boat speed in 24 knots of wind.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s magic.

Ian MacKenzie: So it’s fun. Now, that’s not an out and out cruising boat, that’s a cruiser racer cat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: But for the performance orientated monohull sail…

 

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …it’s got both benefits, cruise and race.

Ian MacKenzie: Yes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then the speed becomes a big plus.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. And that’s, that’s a huge market now in the big performance catamarans. HH Catamarans are selling, they’ve got five cats on the go and they’re all going to American buyers that want a high performance, 70 foot catamaran that will sail at an excessive wind speed.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then some of the longer passage issues become less of an issue because you started to have the ability to outrun weather systems ahead of time instead of being stuck in bad weather on the cat and worrying.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. You can sail around where the systems. You can get in one good weather system from here to New Caledonia, that’s around 800 miles. In a performance cat, or a performance mono, but the mono would have to be big.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: But in a 44 foot performance cat you’ll get there in under three days.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is just unreal.

Ian MacKenzie: 800 miles with one weather system. So that’s amazing. Like I actually did it in a range of 55, we got there in three days. We were sitting on 14 knots consistently. It’s fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And it’s effortless.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well that’s right. That makes the journey really enjoyable, not just the destination.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. Yeah, you can have fun. Puts a smile on the dial.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Ah yeah, and speed’s exhilarating you know?

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s just always far more satisfying going in the right direction.

Ian MacKenzie: Well and you see that rooster tail behind you, it’s like you go, “What’s going on here? We don’t have any motor going or anything and we’ve got power boat performance in a sailing vessel.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And you’re not trying to brace yourself in the galley at 30 degrees of heel and…

Ian MacKenzie: Exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So, okay. So that’s an interesting trend. Any trends that you’re seeing? Are production boats growing as a percentage of the overall market versus custom?

 

Ian MacKenzie: Always has been anyway. I think you know, the big names I think, the people that produce the production brands have put a lot into their marketing. I mean, a lot of them are French built because they are the largest producers of production boats in the world come out of France. But you’ve got the American brands and German brands coming out of Germany. But definitely more people stick with production boats and there’s a lot of marketing goes into it. So the stories that get told about their products are believed, you know. They study their target market very cleverly and do their research and they know how to market their products. So what people see in brochures, they believe as the truth, as gospel. But it’s got nothing to do with it really. But at the end of the day, I think no producer of production boats wants for a buyer to have a bad experience with their boats. That doesn’t sell boats. So from a long term point of view, they want buyers to come back to them and keep on buying boats. So I think production boats will always sell over a custom boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Especially the economy’s of scale you start to see now.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And I heard recently that there’s big growth now in yacht racing in China and production of yachts in China and Australian management and direction design. Do you see — have you seen much done in terms of yachts coming out of China and Taiwan? I know there’s been a lot of power stuff coming out of…

Ian MacKenzie: Well, it’s…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …Taiwan but.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah, well I’m flying to China, I’m flying to Xiamen first week of September to do a sail of a boat but it’s in its infancy stage. The Chinese I sold the Catalina 42 to a Chinese buyer about, at the Southport Yacht Club on biam. It’s, he’s an experienced sailor but he was telling me that sailing is new to China; it’s still in its infancy stage. But the Chinese have a different mentality and approach to sailing. For them, or to boating. For most of them, it's a status thing. It’s a western status system.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a new golf club.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s a new BMW or Rolls Royce you know? So for them if you have a boat, it’s a sign that you’re wealthy and affluent and the Chinese believe in signs and symbols and all of that, you know? So definitely it’s a status for them. There is that, there is a small core of them that are really into sailing and are experienced sailors but mainly, they’re into buying a boat because it’s a symbol of their success.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so the development of the…

Ian MacKenzie: It’s at its infancy stage.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The cruiser side of… 

Ian MacKenzie: It’s a huge market.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Especially with their culture and their work ethic and family time.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Like the average Chinese family is not going to go away sailing for five or six weeks out on a cruising yacht.

Ian MacKenzie: No, no, absolutely not. There’s a lot said about inferior products coming out of china in terms of boats and so on. But you know, we have to remember that some of the best products in the world and I’m looking at one right there, your Apple computer.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: Comes out of China.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right.

Ian MacKenzie: Right?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It says, it’s designed in California, made in China.

Ian MacKenzie: Made in China.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: So, it’s all about quality assurance. So they’re capable of making the best things in the world. It really is all comes down to QA, Quality assurance so. If you don’t you know, if it’s not quality assured, you know, if there is someone, they’re making sure the product is built as per designer’s specs. They have a mentality of substituting cheaper components and so on because the workers are quite under paid or not that well paid, and not that well off, and they’ll substitute cheap stainless fittings for high quality stainless fittings and use substitute cheap resin and cheap paint for to sell off the other stuff. It’s been known to happen. I’m not saying that happens all the time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: But it’s got some…

Ian MacKenzie: it’s definitely has been known to happen.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …big consequences if you’re the buyer of a…

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …boat not well made.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah. But, like on the whole, I think that’s an issue that westerners have recognised and once they take the responsibility to actually get involved and be involved.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Then, in the whole process, then they get to deliver their high quality goods.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So I guess continuing the theme of overseas boats. There was something around the GFC with, post GFC with high exchange rates and, a glut of boats to just dispose of and the US and Europe and Mediterranean and it appeared that there was growing, growing demand for people buying offshore and importing into Australia and even today, you can look at a 10 year old 50 foot Beneteau with a $99,000 on the US price tag and then you can look at the same boat in Australia with a $229,000 price tag and think, “How could it not be half priced but there’s a whole other hidden cost aren’t there in terms of…

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely, yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …exchange rate, getting it from A to B, taxes and duties. Do you want to, do you want us to talk about the, the, bend at the end of the pitfalls of buying off shore and then the process in terms of what you need to be aware of that would be a cost?

Ian MacKenzie: Sure, sure. So one of the primary things that primary motivators for Australians to go overseas and buy is the exchange rate. So when the dollar was virtually on par or better than the US and the US is a huge boating market at 340 million people there that are, that are consumers. They have a throw away mentality; they buy a boat and three years later they buy a new boat because this one’s three years old.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Ian MacKenzie: Or five years old, you know? So, there was a glut of boats in the US, huge amount of boats for sale and with the dollar being on par, I would do it myself. I don’t blame them, an Australian, for going and buying overseas but with the dollar now being you know, 20, 27% less than the US dollar plus the 10% GST, plus the 5% duty and then the costs of actually flying there and flying around and having a look at it and then there’s the other element of the US boats are generally wired for 110, so they generators are 110 volt, the whole AC wiring is 110.  So if you’ve got all of those with the generator and air conditioning and the AC system is, the, meaning the electrical system, not the air conditioning system is 110 that’s another huge cost for conversion when the boat comes back here. Although it was fine when the dollar was equal to theirs or even better.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: But it’s not okay now. So you’ve got something like between 40 and 50% on top of your purchase price plus the delivery. So if you’re going to sail it back, fine. If you’re going to ship it back, that’s another huge cost. So those are all deal breakers basically. But the things to look for basically when there are still some Australians that will go and buy overseas because they can afford to and the boat they want is not available here so they’re quite happy to go there and buy there and cruise there for a period of number of years and then make their way gradually back to Australia. 

But that’s only a very, very small percentage of people compared to the amount of people that used to, that previously did. But as I said, you know, those are all the things that you got to look out for is, is, which amount to real dollars. You can virtually more than double, you just, to make it easy for yourself, just double the — if it’s for sale for $99 and for saleUS in the states and it’s for sale for $200,000 here. You’re no better off going there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s probably on a par.

Ian MacKenzie: And you’re going to spend a whole lot of time and energy to actually end up with the same result. But worse really because you’ll have put so much effort into it. And you’ll have to redo the boat, you’ll have toyou know, for all that work, get a boat the same boat here with all the work done, for exactly the same price that, you know, the end user price, for the price of what it what it cost you to get it to that stuff.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it’s already here, you don’t have to get it from there to here.

Ian MacKenzie: Correct.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is you know, months, and…

Ian MacKenzie: Months, I mean, sure, that could be enjoyable if you want to do that cruise and if certainly if you want to do that cruise and if it financially makes sense for you, do it. It’s great. It’s a downwind sail and definitely do it. Some people, it’s their dream and I think they should do it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s fun. You know, doing that. The longest ocean passage in the world is between Galapagos and Marquesas; 3,200 nautical miles, that’s of nonstop sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Ian MacKenzie: There’s no land in between. And some, you know, for some people, they want to do that, it’s their challenge. It’s fun. And it's fair wind sailing really, it’s all downwind and it’s, and you end up in an exotic place. You start off at an exotic place and you end up in an exotic place, French Polynesia. So why not?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Island hop your way around the pacific for a while.

Ian MacKenzie: But not everyone’s that courageous or has those aspirations.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, it’s a big piece of water to cross, that’s for sure.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then there are some other issues too, regardless of what you pay for the boat, when you’re bringing the country in duty and tax is assessable on market value, not purchase price right? So…

Ian MacKenzie: Well…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …you may think you’ve got a bargain but if the customs decide, or customs strike the value is a whole lot more than you paid and that’s where your duty…

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. Absolutely. Customs will actually look at it and go, as you say.  The example you used David was, you see a boat for $99 US there, you see it for $220 here. Well customs will just say, “Hey, I’m sorry but it’s for sale for $220 here, let’s just take off the margin for negotiation,” they’re going to tax you on $190. So you go, “Well, why did I bother? I could have just done it here.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So suddenly you have almost $30,000 in tax and dues too.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely. So I am a customs valuer and I’m doing one at the moment and yeah, I have to take into account if you’re bringing the boat into the country within 12 months of buying it, then there’s a good chance customs will take it on the transaction value, on the invoice value, provided you bought it through a broker and all of that. They won’t take private receipts.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s something they can check on. They’ll just phone that broker and go, “Is this really happened at this?” Then they’ll verify and chances are, they will, but don’t bank on it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: My experience with customs is that you can speak to one official at customs and get one story, you call back, you’ll get someone else answering the phone, you’ll get another version. And you call back the third person in Sydney, you’ll get another version. So really, they can do what they like and so there’s no real certainty as to how it’s going to go but the general rule of thumb is, if you bring the boat back within 12 months, it’s likely to go on transaction value, or verifiable transaction value. Over that, you just get it valued at the time of entry.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Ian MacKenzie: By someone like me or other customs valuers.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And if you just turn up here with a boat and think you’ll sort it out when you get here, you’ve got a timeframe once you arrive, right? You can’t just bring a boat and without sorting out the importation side of it, before you actually have to leave the country with that boat.

Ian MacKenzie: Oh, absolutely. If you rock up with a boat and as an Australian resident, then you’ve got to pay the duty on the spot. You’ve got a few days.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: Right? Or they’ll just put your boat in the bond. They’ll confiscate it, put it in the bond until you pay it and then you can have it back. So, that’s not advisable

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: You’ve got to, it’s best to let them know that you’re coming in anyway as part of the customs protocol, regardless of whether you want to sell it or not.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: But certainly, it would help, there are instances where people rock up where people come in, not intending to sell and a circumstances change along the way between New Caledonia and here and they go, “I’ve had such a horrendous sail, I think I’ll sell it when I get there.” Well that’s fine, you just rock up and you go, “Well, I’ve decided to sell.” They’ll go, “That’s fine, here’s the process, and you’ve got to pay for it.” Basically, you got to pay for it within virtually seven to 14 days.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. And then, are there other non-compliance issues? I know I bought my boat and that if I wanted to get it certified and registered locally then you’ve got issues with older refrigeration systems, gas systems, and they’re not compliant from an environmental point of view and if you're not careful, you have to end up replacing those to become compliant.

Ian MacKenzie: Correct, you know, there are the R12 gasses were environmentally unfriendly, had ozone like, they affected the ozone layer. But generally these days it’s pretty rare to see boats with R12 and they generally have the ozone friendly gasses. But even then, customs, you know Australian customs look on — they treat a private sailing yacht as, you know, with a small, like a couple of table spoons of caster refrigerant in their fridge compressor as someone importing fridges.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Ian MacKenzie: And someone imports that gas, on a commercial basis. So you’ve go to apply for an exemption from importing that gas commercially. It’s just silly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Red tape.

Ian MacKenzie: It’s just red tape, it’s just silly. So we’ve created, as a marine industry, have brought it to the custom’s attention that they can treat cruising yachties as though they’re commercial importers of refrigerators when in fact they’re just cruising through with their little fridge.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: And so, they don’t’ want to incur cost of, like you go to get a gas importer’s license for $3,000 and the fridge cost $800.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s kind of nuts isn’t it?

Ian MacKenzie: It makes no sense. So you go to apply for an exemption but that’s why I recommend dealing with a customs broker. Like I’m a customs valuer and we deal with a customs broker, we’re in tandem with them and between the two of us, we expedite the sale and they take care of everything. You don’t need to worry about it. Just, basically you’re handing your keys to them so to speak, symbolically. And they’ll, they’ll smooth the waters and take care of those things. Quarantine again, AQIS is another issue. If you’re bringing your boat in, make sure it’s totally, totally clean, whether you want to sell it or not. Very clean because they’re looking for woodworm and so on, insects, drugs as well. 

So make sure that the boat is spotless you know, behind drawers and so on. You may not know that there might be bugs in your boat, ants can fly in, white ants can fly in and shed their wings and start eating your timber wood, well you’ve got a problem, it’s going to be expensive because they’ll have dogs, sniffer dogs come in and that will all cost you heaps. But if you clean your boat out and become aware of it, you can fumigate it, before it gets to that stage, it's seamless for you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay. So yeah, and when I went for the process I used a customs broker and to that point, I had run customs for advice on something. I can’t remember what it was now and I ended up speaking to two or three people on different days on the same issue and only because I could quote the other person’s name previously that I know there were conflicting situation where I said I’ve done X and they said, “But you should have done Y.” 

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So, having a broker makes it money well spent and then obviously having a valuer helps a lot too…

Ian MacKenzie: Well it just helps you — it saves you money.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: …when they’re in tune with what you’re trying to do.

Ian MacKenzie: It saves you heaps potentially.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Self-funding shall we say.

Ian MacKenzie: Well yeah, we charge $500 for a valuation. But we could save you $25,000 on a value, on tax.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: On duty and GST.

Ian MacKenzie: Duty and GST.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian MacKenzie: So $525,000?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian MacKenzie: No brainer.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And you’ve got somebody guiding you through the processes that’s on your side as well.

Ian MacKenzie: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: As opposed to some of the conflicting advice you can get so, good.

Ian MacKenzie: Yes, absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Well Ian, thanks for putting aside an hour of your precious time today.

Ian MacKenzie: Not a problem.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s actually been really interesting drilling into the brokerage side of what you do and how that, all of that works and it’s given me a deeper appreciation but also touching on this import side of boat buying. It gives a much deeper appreciation as well as some of the pitfalls you’ve got to think about, some of the costs, some of the complexities involved. So what I’ll do is when I publish this episode on the Ocean Sailing Podcast site.

Ian MacKenzie: Right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I’ll publish a show notes and I’ll link to your website as well so if our listeners have got more they want to know and why they want to check you out, check out your services then they can 

Ian MacKenzie: Sure. No, absolutely. Thanks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So thanks for appearing.

Ian MacKenzie: Thanks David. It’s been great.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s been fantastic.

Ian MacKenzie: Yeah. No, good. It’s the first time I’ve done this.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Excellent. Well you’ve done well. Okay, thank you. 

Interviewer: David Hows

Episode 20: Roger "Clouds" Badham Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, welcome to another Ocean Sailing Podcast episode. Thanks Roger for appearing on the Ocean Sailing Podcast. So I read a bit about your background. So you spent 10 years at university, which is a bloody long time studying meteorology and you did a PhD and you’ve now spent I guess more than 40 years as a meteorologist and most of the time in the marine side of meteorology and you’ve been known for a long time, from what I can gather, as clouds in the yachting world and it’s amazing how your name pops up all over the place. 

Now, I haven’t done a lot of racing but even in the short time I’ve been racing, it’s popped up a few times and I read on the New Zealand yachting site, late last year where you were awarded an award for weather forecasting seven system yachting at the Volvo Yachting Excellent awards that you’ve been a forecaster for nine America’s Cups, seven Olympic games, 30 around the world races, Callisto Yacht races and Regattas, 35 Sydney to Hobart races and I’ve read somewhere else, more than 500 Tasman crossings. You’ve got an incredible background in meteorology. 

Roger Badham: Yes, yeah, time I’ve got out, isn’t it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well when you start adding up the numbers, you must be passionate about it because you’ve had an… 

Roger Badham: The passion’s wearing out I think. I’m getting tired of it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: After half a century, it’s a long time. 

Roger Badham: Just flat out at the moment just doing Rio with the New Zealand team. That’s taking up all my nights at the moment, from six until 10 o’clock at night just trying to get all those damn courses that have all over the place and they’re all different. So that’s, that’s a challenge. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so how’s that going? Like that’s all an online and research base now with your weather forecasting and modelling tools? Is that, right?

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah. I’ve got some good models for there. It’s, I mean this is the fourth year now. I did four Olympics with Australia, in ’96 until 2000 and now this is the fourth one from New Zealand. I went to a few them and then the last one in England I did from the outside and this one I’m doing up in the galleria and I’m doing a bit of — yeah, I mean, it just gives a team sort of continuity because I do all their forecasting no matter where they sail around the world. So you know, particularly in Europe, you know, they’re there all summer, European summer. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yep. 

Roger Badham: And no matter where they are, be it in Weymouth or in France or in Spain or Italy or wherever they are, I do their daily forecast so they have the same person doing the forecast or what time and they’ve been in Rio. This will be their fourth year in Rio and so yeah, it’s continuity. They know what they get with me, they know sort of how much to use. Like last night when it was blowing there was a front going through in Rio. 

A lot of wind and then rain coming with no wind underneath it. You know, I tell them in the end it’s a nice having a boat day. They can’t rely on the forecast because it’s going to go from everything to nothing and they’ve just, you know, you give them a full background and you’ve given as good a forecast as you can but in the end it’s them and I mean in the Olympics, that’s changed a lot in the Olympic side of it. Eight Olympic games I’ve been involved in where, you’re fooling yourself if you think that you’re winning a medal, you know. All you’re doing is just you’re getting a little bit of psychological comfort and you’re doing the best you can. It should be more an education process than it is, the forecasting process. You’re trying to explain why the win is doing what it’s doing and the A-symmetry of the course, weather sailing and whatever and that’s why it’s difficult in Rio, because it’s just quite a diverse set of courses, well inside to well outside. 

The bay breeze, the sea breeze or the ocean breeze and the radiant breezes are all very different across the courses but they’ve been there enough now to understand those things and yeah, you give them a forecast on top of what they understand and what they know. So that’s what it’s about.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I read in the yachting overnight that the conditions are extremely changeable with big wind shifts and clearly wind that’s going to… 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah, I mean I haven’t gotten any feedback from them yet. They’re just coming in now but I haven’t seen how it was today. I mean I looked at the observations, but the reports are coming over the next day or two. And yeah, it would have been a difficult day on the water today for that sure because the, you know, any day when you got a front coming true with a lot of wind and then a lot of rain with no wind. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: That’s difficult you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and if you’re on the wrong side of a big shift, it’s just, it’s all over isn’t it? And they’re racing.

Roger Badham: Yeah and the courses are so short and there’s a lot of pressure to get the races done that they short course racing. It’s not like in the old days they were three-mile feats and you could do well by understanding the weather and you could, you know, get your leverage out to the left or the right or whatever. These new courses that are so short and the races are over so quickly, it’s a different ball game and it’s more about technical ability than sailing a boat and then putting a the weather on top of that. Although, not just the weather, the environment has it’s way in that current. You’ve got to put them all on top of that but the courses are short. Especially if they’re televising one of the course then of course they bang off no matter what they’re doing every course, and it’s just a bit of a dog’s breakfast in here. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s more and more made for television formula isn’t it? At all levels of yachting it seems. 

Roger Badham: Well, it’s the same in the cup you know? It’s lost the pure at the maturation you know of the America’s talents is exactly the same; it’s a spectacle now. It’s not necessarily pure sailing; it’s just a spectacle.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, well especially when you get some of the race tracks like New York where the cruising distance is just absolutely hopeless for racing. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, I was there in New York on the tone. Like no one sails in the Hudson River. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, no you land in plain sea right? But you do not sail in those kinds of currents. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, well that’s crazy. That’s all those days in the Liberty Cup; they’re not going to sail on the river. They’ll sail right in the corner where the breeze if crazy doing that you know but saw that today. It’s in the Liberty Cup, they were,, open sailing up river. They sail around the court. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: A little bit of breeze is going mini-prone sailing in the river with the breeze coming north of the buildings. It’s at,, a 150 buildings that are 150, a thousand stories high. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And the breeze, breeze is just every which way, you know? It’s just,, be getting gust and props and huge ships and it’s,, and those courses are so short again. You know, once again, it’s become a, it’s a, it’s a spectator sport not a sailing. If you were sailing sport. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well right. If you’re not off the start, cleaning around the first mark cleanly, it’s just, it’s,, harder and harder to play catch up and they see it and there are a lot of situations like New York which doesn’t really give you a you a fore race. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, I know over, over to say that the,, that that short course racing that needs, it needs strength audience to some extent and particularly the America’s Cup won., it’s almost random you know and there are some teams that are technically probably notice the boat and need down the bottom but even with the results that the rest of the teams, it’s, it’s almost, almost random. Everyone, has a turn up meeting and everyone of kind of loses because it’s so short and it’s so, surviving to, to just tiny, you know tiny little areas or,, or good luck could magnify into,, into you know, into a,, huge win or huge loss. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well especially the speed differentials. It’s not like its eight and a half knots versus nine knots anymore isn’t it? So, I don’t know. 

Roger Badham: No, no exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I’m reading your background that you first got involved in sail boat racing in 1977 with Iain Murray and aiding for the skiffs and then it was only six years later that you were,  you started providing weather advice to America’s Cup teams. How did all that I guess come about within Iain Murray and how did you, I guess, step so quickly into weather advice at that top level? 

Roger Badham: I sailed when I was young too. I sailed skiffs, but I’m an average sailor, not a top level sailor. I was with a colleague, we had a consulting company in the weather and stuff and one of the companies we had, one of the clients we had was with Channel 7 in Sydney and the then boss at the station, Ted Thomas who is still with us, he helped me out. I keep some good contact with Ted. He called me in one day and said that, “I’ve just signed this young guy up to sail skiffs.” And he said, “I don’t know how good he is”. 

Because in those days they had four rigs and it was the big rig actually, I think they went to nine knots with it. Then there was a second rig that went to about 14 or 15. The third rig went to the high 10’s and then the small rig was blowing. So I work with Iain the whole time he was in 18 footers and through to the 80’s. But my research work at university, I got my PhD and then I did post-doctoral work, was on low-level wind sheers and the way in which the boundary layer works. In fact, all of my research work was exactly the same sort of stuff but it was about performance, understanding the nature of the wind and the temperature profiles in the first 100 meters of the atmosphere. 

So it was about how sailboats have to sail in wind. So it’s very nature if I was involved in any sort of forecasting work, that I’d be involved in that sort of micro scale work and that was exactly what good sail boat racing is all about and the only people that can employ you for long periods of time in that sort of work doing that sort of level of work is America’s Cup. They’ve a long program that’s three year and they’re well funded. So it would be natural that that’s where I ended up really.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well in reading some comments from a previous interviews back here, you know, as they said in the early days for you, it was sort of jump between famine and feast in terms of work flows and income and I guess to that point, have you seeing that has what you do has become more mainstream at a grand prix level that your services are now required on retainer for long periods of time with things like the Olympics and with the America’s Cup and with the Volvo Ocean Race teams?

Roger Badham: Oh for sure. I mean, you know it’s changed so much and it’s changed so much because of the professionalism in the sport but it’s also changed because of the improvement in weather forecasting particularly because of the computer models. And, you know, it won’t be impacting ocean racing now in terms of Volvo’s and around the world type racing. The human element is very much going from it. I just lost my lasted world speed record when Kamenshi broke the Atlantic record. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. 

Roger Badham: And I was talking to Stan the other day by email about the fact that he’d taken my last record and you know he said the same thing. I said, “The meteorologist is sort of being excused out of a job in terms of that sort of stuff.” And he’d said, “Oh, the navigators going the same way really.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Roger Badham: You know I mean when I started and certainly back in the sort of people that I worked with, you know Hammond’s and all those sorts of people, the old style navigators, they basically 95% of their time just figuring out where they were and 5% of the time thinking about where they should go to. And now, it’s the other way around and so things have changed hugely because of the improved, and particularly from my point of view, in terms of computer forecasting and that’s very much on a broad scale in the global sense. 

And it’s coming now, you know that the meso scale models are getting good but in terms of micro scale, in other words, the difference between the top and bottom of the course and the left and right of the course, the asymmetry of the course, the way in which the ships are moving on the course and they don’t generally go more down wind. They usually move some angle to the breeze. I’ve spent years in Valencia where the big shifts worked their way up the course and in San Francisco they used to come from the side of the course. So there’s still a lot of, you know, real meteorology work to be able to sustain in a short period of forecasting to forecast the next 30 minutes. 

And that’s all dominated by the human intervention but those days are, I think they’re probably numbered like all the meteorologists. The computer are just going to get better and better. So yeah, things are changing and they’re changing rapidly and during my forecasting period. I started with no computer forecasting and I’m ending with a huge amount of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well yes it’s probably, I guess if you’re going to map your career over any 50 year period if you look at the last three centuries is probably been, almost been the idea of timing hasn’t it? In terms of the evolution of what you do and to have been in high demand at this elite level of racing but where it starts to now becomes superseded to some degree by some of the automation and computing power that’s now putting stuff at the fingertips of cruising races in terms of what they can put in their cockpits with chart plotters and downloadable weather and all that kind of stuff. 

Roger Badham: That’s right. But I mean if you look at any of the typical ocean racing you know, which is you know a good ocean race around the Caribbean, the Caribbean 600 or the Fast net Race or the Hobart Race, they’re usually the order of five 600 miles long, which is these days you know, two days to three day even for a big boat or a medium size boat. There’s still a lot of human input that can be had there, and if you look at the last race that we just had, the Southport Race…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I was just thinking about that one. 

Roger Badham: …which is extremely light as they can be and you’ve got adverse current, but you’ve got the wind which is turning on and off. There’s a lot of manual input that you can do there and generally most of it and I used to have some classes where I’d go through some of the rules with the navigators about the distance between, the difference between sailing one mile, or another and one mile, half a mile off the beach, two miles off the beach, four miles off the beach, six miles, eight miles, 10 miles and the way in which the wind turns on and turns off. 

And I haven’t done that for a long time these days but that’s the sort of stuff I did in my PhD and then and it’s fundamental and most sailors just don’t know. So the sailors don’t know and the forecast has got nothing to do with that sort of stuff. The forecast is a blanket forecast and the computer models, yes, they’re getting better and better at that but they’re still probably at least 10 to 20 years away before the computer model is going to be that. 

You know when you get models down to a couple of hundred litre resolution then they’ll start showing all sorts of interesting things because it’s a function of the water temperature, which you can vary specially over the distance of hundreds of meters, let alone a kilometre. So yeah there’s still a lot of input that can be had there, but things will change there in the medium term.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well I have to say, I mean I use your services for the first time from a racing point of view for the Coffs to Southport Race in January. It was a, you know, 20 hour race and we followed the route and you know, we did extremely well. We followed the route, the weather was as predicted and we got a great result and then the contrast with the Sydney Gold Coast Race last week where you know it turned into a four day race for us. We followed the route for the first 24 hours. 

We were leading both of our IRC and IRC divisions. We thought we were heroes, and then we had no ability to adapt to all of the localised issues that were happening with breeze holes and we ended up back of the pack three days later and so, I mean to your point, I mean how, how do you equip your boat and your team with the ability to actually take what happens two days into it and start to adapt the route to the changing conditions at sea?

Roger Badham: Well, you’ve got to carry a meteorologist on board or a clever person that’s up with exactly the nature and how the wind is going or you’ll have the same result that most people have and that’s good luck and bad luck. They have the boat in the right place at the right time or at the wrong place at the wrong time and that’s the nature of yacht racing really. They, if you happen to get good luck, then its never good luck. It’s the skill of the navigator and particularly the helmsman and if you have bad luck then it’s just bad luck, you know, you’re down there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Not a lack of skills and a lack of knowledge. 

Roger Badham: Yes, so luck is blamed always for loosing but it’s never taken for winning because that’s skill. Funny thing about that When you think about that. That’s sort of the nature I guess. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: But that’s very true and I mean particularly you know in like if the breeze is solid and particularly if it’s on shore, you know you’re basically on shore and it’s a solid breeze then the models again would be very good. You know 24, 48 maybe 72 in advance and you can rely on them very well. But when it’s a fickle wind and it’s off shore and really soft and turns on and off, almost at the what seems to be random. They can be really random and you can get on a very weak little sea breezes and not so weak, that sort of racing, particularly going north up in New South Wales Coast. 

One of the most amazing races in the world, the same thing happens at the start of the Fastnet sometimes. We have to sail along the South Coast of England, and you have to make this decision whether you go into Lion Bay and Start Bay. You know, do you go into the bay; how far into the bay do you go? Or do you go out? Now you’ve got current but you know, then it’s extra distance. It’s, it’s exactly the same situation if you’ve got the light wings in a coastal, basically a coastal situation, there’s a huge amount of weather and understanding to put you know a good race together. And yeah, I mean that was over nine or ten Admiral’s Cups. It was great sailing on the South Coast of England.

But yeah, there were times where January blows your socks off and you don’t have to think much at all, often getting bashed and there are, you know, times there where it’s just like the last Southport Race where it’s the most breeze you’ll ever see is about 10 knots and mostly it’s under that and there’s huge decisions to be made virtually at every head land and every bay, “Where do I go?” And you’re trying to do it, the same strategies in place; you’re trying to race the fleet of course. But at the same time you’re racing the environment. 

And you’re trying to say, “Where are my best places to stay in the next three hours given that I want to satisfy my long term six, nine, 12 and 24 hour things?” So you can’t just pick the boat up and suddenly move it 80 knots off shore. Into port. You’ve got to blend them all together and know which is the down time to take, minimise the down time and maximise where you think of the breeze is going to be the best and it’s a difficult thing. I mean you, it’s with you against the environment and the environment is a, it’s a difficult game of chess. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, so and along those lines what on board technology or systems are boats using? I’ve read a bit about the expedition software but do you see common solutions off shore racing boats are using to try and blend that evolving weather pattern with their kind of initial weather routing plans and to adapt outside of onward observations. 

Roger Badham: No, I mean in any whether it’s an Expedition, which is you know probably the most commonly used routing system at the moment but that’s whether it’s there or some of the other ones the algorithms aren’t much different. It’s then the computer models, you know the forecast, wind models and current models that you put into it. But then it just comes down to the skill and the experience of the navigator and you get good navigators, you know that have a lot of hours under their belt and they have good sound knowledge. 

And I mean if you look at the top flight navigators that are used in Volvo Races or the ocean racing, you know the Will Oxley’s and the Wayne Veelers and these guys, they’re very experienced guys. I have worked with those guys over long periods of time and they have good knowledge and they do understand quite a degree of the way in which the environment works and the way in which the wind works. 

So they’re good and they’re full time guys, you know they are doing it all the time and they’re doing it all the time for the last 20 and 30 years. Now you can’t do that if you’re just on a boat that does three races a year and the rest of the time you’ve got a job selling cars or working in the bank. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yep. 

Roger Badham: So you know, it’s you know it’s a totally different situation, you know one’s a hobby and one’s a profession, really. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know in terms of what there is to learn. It really is quite vast. 

Roger Badham: Exactly. Yeah, yeah and this it’s the same in all the sailing. You know you’ve got whether it’s small boat sailing in the Olympics or whatever but they’re still basically professional sailors because that’s what they have been doing for the last four years or eight years or 12 years. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s that 10,000 hour concept, you know you do anything but 10,000 hours and it becomes intuitive but… 

Roger Badham: Well you should become good at it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. You… 

Roger Badham: You will but you should if you do it for that amount of time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If you do it well. That’s right, keep learning. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah exactly. That, that’s so true you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I read, so I’ve read back in 2003 with Emirates and Team New Zealand, you had a six member weather team that you led and if you look at the work you’ve been doing recently in Bermuda in preparation for the next cup, how is what you’re doing now changed to even sort of 10 or 15 years ago from the America’s Cup point of view? 

Roger Badham: It’s back to where we started. It’s a team of one, which is me. If you go back in the Bondi days and it was a team of one and gradually it sort of built up from there. It became a — there was an arms race going on in terms of weather and it culminated probably in Auckland in 2003 where we had some big change on not just our team but in a number of all the top performing teams and you’re trying to cover all, you know, you are trying to really get into it. 

We, I mean, it was easy for us with Team New Zealand because I’ve grown local fellas and co-opted some around. But I had a good team, a bunch of guys there, both there and also in Valencia to some extent, young engineers, all good sailors and some good guys right there. [Grant Heft] was New Zealand’s best board catch, great pair of eyes in terms of understanding what’s happening but we used this, I mean in the old days, it would just be me on a little weather boat somewhere on the top of the course, the top mark or whatever and you’ve got to look at it every day.

When you go out, if it’s only me on a racetrack, you’ve got to look at the day that’s in question. Where do I place myself that’s best to report to the guys at the start for how they’re going to get leverage in the best in the first 20 minutes, you know as they work their way up to me? Should you be at the top mark, should you be outside the top mark, should you be inside the course? And that depends on the time of the day. 

Whether you should be, you know, all you’re trying to do is understand the asymmetry of the course again, in terms of wind speed, wind direction and how it’s likely to change over that 15 and 30 minute period. Where are my best positions to about to look at that asymmetry, observe it, and report on it and then do a short term forecast on it? And if you’ve got buoys or data around the course that can help, but in the old days, you didn’t have anything and these days there’s not a lot. 

So in between times we had a situation in Auckland where there were some buoys on the course and in Valencia there are a lot on the course and we had a number of weather boats, you know I’d be in the middle of the course and then I’d have a going out on the, where I wanted him on the right hand side and a guy out on the left hand side and maybe some way out the weather or whatever so that we can all then pool their information and you’re understanding exactly the symmetry of the course. But they’ve tried to cut down the, you know the arms race. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And so the weather teams are now much smaller and the game has changed hugely after the exit of mono hulls where I mean the Valencia was the last mono hull in America’s Cup and you know I had a big input into the race you know? I would call the side and call the way in which they started. You know, “Do you want a wide right? Or do you want to tight [inaudible]. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And that was a big input in terms of the nature of the race. The racing has now changed with the multi hulls. It’s more a spectacle. It’s a faster race, it’s often a shorter race and particularly shorter in term of the back of the boats are going a thousand miles and hour. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: You know they’re not just blade minds, they’re looking for 1,000 of a knot difference. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: Chugging out on start of tech you know trying to get some leverage out of the guy over the next 10 or 15 minutes and the 10 or 15 minutes they’ve gone down to the bottom mark and half way back up to the top mark again. So it’s changed a lot and weather is less important. You’ve still got to understand the race track and you’re still trying to, you know obviously hold better pressure particularly after the offset mark and you’re shooting down to the bottom mark.

You’re trying to hold the best line of pressure, whether you put in you know, one jive or three jives, but it’s a different game and in actual fact, probably the most important forecast that I was doing in San Francisco is actually setting a boat up but the night before for measuring, the tech that’s going to be used and the foils and was the bow sprit on or off for the code zero and all those sorts of things.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: You know that could win or lose a race. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And that will be the same in Bermuda, trying to get the forecast exactly right so that you go out and have the right racing gear on. You know you put the wrong tip on, especially if you’re in a light wind situation that’s only seven knots, you go out and you go out without it tip… 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: …or not. That’ll be a huge cause. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah but the windage become a factor, doesn’t it on those boats? Particularly in lighter breezes, the windage with what you put on and don’t put on is quite important.

Roger Badham: Yeah. So yeah, the game has changed, and I feel like a dinosaur. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s the benefit of looking back in your career isn’t it? As opposed to looking forward. I guess everyone gets that perspective at some point. 

Roger Badham: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So with, like with Bermuda, how much of like, you’ve recently been in Bermuda, how much of your research goes into sail planning and foil planning and planning for the boat based on conditions versus you building a, I guess a knowledge based of the winds that they are likely to have come race time in 12 months time and then how they configure the boats from how can they configure them versus the actual design work itself that goes into some of the variations that they do have the ability to vary? 

Roger Badham: Yeah I mean we’ve got a wind climate for the place and, and the boat is built around that and that’s pretty much set in concrete. I mean everyone in the design team pretty much understands what they’re designing to do. So it’s more than just understanding the racetrack and then in Bermuda it’s quite different than San Francisco. In San Francisco there’s only one racetrack and there was pretty much only one wind. 

But the wind wasn’t coming down the racecourse. It was caught in [inaudible], looking upwind as a result; it wasn’t quite on the hour with the course. So the current was always pretty much the same. With Bermuda there’s not much current but there’s at least seven different racecourses that they can have because the wind comes from…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Roger Badham: …every angle. But it’s predominantly south westerly, but it can also be westerly and northwest and north and northeast and east and south eastern. I mean there’s a lot of different wind angles and have a lot of different racecourses, and there’s certainly quite differences and I spend the two months just trying to understand the differences in the race courses. Clouds can be important there. More so than would seem in quite a number of America’s Cups, we can get cloud lines. 

Not on many days but a number of different wind angles. You can get cloud streaks but you know, you’ve enhanced lifting at some points. So yeah there’s a lot to learn there which I’ve sort of got the fundamentals now and you run a good model and yeah it’s just then a matter of calling it on the day but yeah, the biggest call of the night before and when you’re moving the boat really, and then just calling the race. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And do you feel positive about Bermuda as a venue with the differences to San Francisco? 

Roger Badham: Oh yeah, no I think in fact the venue will be pretty good and hopefully, I’m not overall too confident that the race courses will be truly into the breeze. You know in other words, they set them up so that they’re biased on the dock yard side of the course and they always try and finish up with the Friday, where the America’s Cup to base is again with the ability. 

So it tends to sort of buy us the course then so that it’s not what you could call pure, you know into the wind to the point that you’d like it. You know, if you had a true windward leeward it would be three miles… 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: …pointing directly up breeze because it’s in the sand and yet, you’re constrained by a bit of geography and a bit strained by whether they want to finish the course and you’re con by the offset mark and yeah there’s a number of limitations here and everywhere that the race committee have to get around but they’ll do it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Roger Badham: Yeah it’s all, you can’t wish for anything. You work within the limitations that they’ve set you and that’s it. There’s no use belly aching about it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No. Well and speaking of limitations and class rules, do you see Bermuda being a, sort of an Even Stevens in terms of reasonably even opportunity for a number of teams to win versus 2013 where in towards the end of the cup, you know where their computer based stabilising system that magically appeared that sort of left a bad taste in a few mouths after pushing the class boundaries a bit far? Are we past that or is that just another typical check on the America’s Cup? 

Roger Badham: Yeah but hat’s just where they left off. So I mean therefore everyone gone that way now and it’s a whole new ball game. It’s a, in terms of the class, it’s well and truly out there. But yeah I think the teams that are sailing there all the time, that’s Oracle and Softbank and Artemis, they probably have a slight advantage because if they’ve been sailing there now a long time. Ben Ainsley’s team will be there shortly. I think that does play a little bit but not enough. It’s a first time boat. You know, I mean it’s a new class. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And no one is going to have the boat in the water until January next year, although they’ve had sort of, you know, surrogates in the 45’s. So the new class, they’re very, very complex boats with the hydraulics systems. They’re enormously complex. It’s just mind blogging, you know? So I can only presume that someone will have a better boat, you would think? Maybe more reliable because they’re extremely complex, and you’d think that someone would either, by design or by lack, come up with a boat that might be slightly better. 

But then that might only be slightly better in certain range of wind speed. So it will be interesting when you do get to true racing. It will come up pretty quickly. It’s not like, you know, you’d have a lot of time. There’s only four months basically between January and the end of April and come May when racing starts. So it’s not a long time. So yeah, it’s certainly going to be an interesting event, but yeah. Well, I’ll leave it at that I guess. We’ll just have to see. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yep. 

Roger Badham: Someone should have a better boat than someone else and I don’t know whether that will be through speed or reliability but through some factor and, I mean, yeah, the teams are all, there’s not many teams. But the sailors are all good enough, if they have a perfect reliable boat that was perfectly noted of the situation; they’re all good enough to win the event. That’s a bit like the Formula One Motor racing. Any of the top eight drivers would win if they were all driving a Mercedes car. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well that’s right. No skippers can win with a less reliable or slower boat can they? Regardless of how good the skipper is these days. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, no it’s generally the case with those boats in America’s Cup. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and so, I mean I read that, speaking of Formula One, that at one stage you were engaged by Ferrari, Ferrari’s Formula One racing team. You did some work for them. 

Roger Badham: I still do. I still do, I’ve done it for the last seven or eight years. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. So how does that differ from yachting? Because that’s… 

Roger Badham: Well, first of all, I don’t know anything about mother racing, so that is easy. I just do the weather. Although I’ve had to learn something over those eight years. But I was at the track for a year and a half with them and then since then after the GFC, the financial crisis, the Ferrari cut back on their things and I put my hand up and said, “Look, I can to most of this from being absent,” and they started their virtual garage in Maranello then so they could reduce the number of the people by the track. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And so I do it from off site. There’s a few probably a few races a year I’d like to be on site because you need your eyes, but the rest of the time I just do it with the data on the regular time network with them. So I can see all the data that’s going on in terms of weather data or whatever. So yeah I just do forecasts for them. Basically, looking at wind and wind is important at some situations. Temperature is important, track temperature is important, air temperature is important for the motor and of course rain. I’m trying to forecast the rain, the onset of rain. 

And about setting up from the day before, or X number of days out. But during the actual event, you know trying to forecast at 30 minutes in advance and then 20 minutes and trying to give them an actual time down to one or two minutes when the onset of rain will occur. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and so I mean on one hand it’s great to be able to work from home and not travel as much but on the other hand, that must play havoc with your sleep patterns at times when you are helping provide advice for these northern hemisphere events. How does that all of that work? 

Roger Badham: Yeah, it’s a pain. The northern hemisphere, yeah, I mean from here and in Australia, America’s the worst one and like Rio. Yeah well it’s all right for Rio because you’re just setting them up and then they go out on course so that they’re doing it at night here and they go out on the course and sail, and you’re asleep. But the motor racing goes on all the four days. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, but that’s only a three day weekend. So it’s not too bad. The America’s are bad. I mean, when it’s in Europe. It’s only 6 o’clock at night until midnight usually. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and I read that on your website you provide services to racing, cruising, delivery sailors and working vessels. I mean how does a scope differ for each of those and where would you primarily spend your time?

Roger Badham: Just what’s in front of me. I have a book and I tick off what I have to do every day. So yeah, I mean I’ve got a few vessels that are looked after for many years as they move different places around the world. I do ocean tailored sometimes. I’m trying these days to do less exactly no more. But and people that are assisted, moving a lot of the racing yachts when they have to leave them, I look after them or just you know, bit boats there and sailing boats that move around the world. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: I do some of those. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so how do people find out about your services? If they’re listening to this podcast and they’re think about using your services to help them with a trans Tasman delivery or some weather routing for a multi-day race, what’s the best way for them to find out about your services or contact you? 

Roger Badham: I try not to advertise. I try to hide. So yeah, that’s what I do. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. They have to work really hard to find the details, okay. 

Roger Badham: Yeah. It’s just one of those things. I mean I always feel sorry for not the big guys but the small cruising guy. You know that wants to get from here to there, and they want to do it yesterday and they, it’s hard and then you’ve just got to say, “Look, you know, you can’t do it.” I had a guy in a multi hull, that’s when I was in Bermuda I think. And he was going from Brisbane to Nelson in New Zealand. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And it just wasn’t appropriate but he had a delivery skipper and the skipper just said, “I’m going to do it,” you know? So I just felt like I really had to send him a lot of information all the time because of he was in a situation that 99 people out of a hundred wouldn’t have done it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. Putting him in harm’s way unnecessarily. 

Roger Badham: Yeah. Yeah. He’s a tough guy. He did all right. So that was good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, I mean I first used your services in 2013 with sailing my boat from Auckland to the Gold Coast and a friend of mine, Greg Louis who had worked for Team New Zealand said, “I’ll get Clouds to help you with the weather routing,” and I’d never heard of weather routing and I’d never heard of anyone called Clouds and I think you gave me your e-mail address and I e-mailed you and asked for help and you said, “Yep this is what I’ll do,” and I said, “How do I pay you?” And you said, “Just send me a bag full of money if you make it.” 

Roger Badham: That’s right. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And I thought, “Oh, cash on delivery. I suppose that should give me some confidence other than pay upfront and good luck.” 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah. No arrival, no pay. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and you suggested, you strongly suggested that we wait three days. We were impatient to depart and we did and then we crossed and you routed us 400 nautical miles north of our track to go around on top of the storm and keep us in comfortable weather and it was a great crossing and so, you know, it’s from a technology research routing point of view, I’m recommend anybody use that kind of service or research to get from A to B because there’s no point putting yourselves through hard stuff and damaging your boat and injuring people if you can avoid it. 

And the irony is, I had some sleepless nights leading up to that trip. But we had five days of motoring or motor sailing due to lack of wind. It was almost an anticlimax the trip was so good. So there you go. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah it’s a fine line but it’s good to balance it out, that’s for sure. It’s hard to get it perfect you know in terms of just getting at 5th but Peter Kurtz, the famous old sailor, though not that long ago, but he always use to, even when he was 80 he used to like to take his boat out and do a quick trip to Lord Howe and back. He’d give me a call and say, “Clouds I want a soldier’s breeze, you know? I want 15 to 18 knots just on the quarter just to get to Lord Howe and then back again.” But it’s not always that simple just to sort of order about, you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And, and the bugger wouldn’t wait. He’d be very impatient but, yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: That guy, all those years he was in Admiral’s Cup teams long ago. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well I guess just one final question I guess I have for you, Roger. I read and article, it was published a few years ago now but I’ve said, at the time that it was published it said, “In the last 15 years of Hobart Races, Badham has provided forecasting for line honours and or handicap winners in 14 of those races.” I mean it’s, that’s a phenomenal feat. I mean how does it make you feel to see such results given the work you put into forecasting?

Roger Badham: Yeah but that’s not hard in the Hobart because everyone wants a forecast you know? I’m almost guaranteed the winner, because all the top navigators have used me somewhere around the world, you know in the last X number of years or whatever. So when they come in here, they all know to contact me so you tend to find that all the big boats, you know anyone that’s going to do Line Honours and most of the Handicap, not always, but sometimes the race is great and the Handicap is an S & S 34 or something.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah. 

Roger Badham: But most of it it’s not, you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Roger Badham: Mostly it’s a, you know, it’s a TP 52 or some sort of crap boat you know in the middle of the fleet. Now remember Hobart is as peculiar race and the fact that it’s got the dual at the end and the weather basically dictates who’s going to win on handicap because, you know, you’re so dominated by arriving at Storm Bay at the right time of the day. If you arrive at Storm Bay at 9’clock at night…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: …then you’ve probably got another six or eight hours to get to Hobart. Whereas if you arrive at 9 o’clock in the morning or 11 o’clock in the morning, you can get there in three hours or four hours. And that’s a huge difference. So the handicap winner is very much determined by the timing and therefore the class can vary quite significantly. It’s not just the passage. It’s the last bit and so that makes it interesting but yeah, that lot in terms of Line Honours, most of the top 15 boats have all had something from me in terms of how to navigate Handicap then yeah, all the performance based boats would probably have something from me. 

So it’s a bit unfair but I don’t do as many of the, you know, I used to do a lot of fast knit stuff but I don’t do these, you know, I only do a few boats these days. But in the old days I used to do a lot of fast knits and in the old days there were Cape Town Rio races and you know, Caribbean 600’s and the Newport to Bermuda races and all those things. I just tend to do a bit less these days, which is good. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s probably good right?

Roger Badham: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s probably good to have a little bit of time to yourself?

Roger Badham: Oh, I don’t get much time for myself really. That’s one. I think this Cup will be my last one. I think I won’t do it anymore. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Well, thank you so much for putting aside an hour this morning Roger to talk to me. Thanks for squeezing me in between your Olympics work and your team New Zealand work. I really, really appreciate that. It’s been fascinating and it’s just reinforced to me that as little as I know there’s so much more to learn about weather and the more I do in terms of off shore racing, the more you realise it’s such a factor that if you don’t understand it then you’re just playing lady luck really in terms of your opportunities and your results. 

Roger Badham: Yep, yep and that’s why good navigators are, they’re so hard to find you know? Really good top flight navigators and or you know strategists. You know the really good technician or strategist on the boat. You know the — and there’s a few of these guys around. They’re really, they do have a really good understanding of the weather to some degree but if you scratch them hard enough, you’ll find that they don’t understand some things. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. 

Roger Badham: But they, you know, they have a good understanding but also they’ve got a huge amount of experience. You know they’ve been doing it for so long and that’s you know with good skippers you know John Kostecki is a great example you know? He just had great feeling for the breeze. You know he doesn’t understand it in terms of a scientist but he has a huge understanding in terms of the way that the breeze feels. And has a really good feel for how things would go. But that doesn’t mean that he’s very good looking just over the horizon, which is the navigator tactician. You know he’s trying to look just that three to six hours ahead, not just what’s happening now.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: That’s the difference between a passage race and around the buoys a bit. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Okay, well thank you. Thanks for putting aside the time. I’m conscious your time is pretty precious so again thanks for taking the interview and for the Ocean Sailing Podcast site. 

Roger Badham: Okay, all right. Great to talk. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thank you and make sure you send me an invoice for the Sydney Gold Coast Race. 

Roger Badham: All right, will do. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, thanks Roger. Catch you later. 

Interviewer: David Hows


Episode 19: Ocean Gem Crew Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks and welcome to this week’s episode, episode 19 of the Ocean Sailing Podcast. This week I decided to do something different again, we’ve just done quite a bit of racing recently, so I thought I would take the opportunity to do a bit of a race debrief with five of my six crew who sailed the Sydney to Gold Coast race with me. So for this session, we are at the Southport Yacht Club. They’ve graciously supplied me with a room free of charge to be able to sit down and do a bit of an interview and recording session and do a debrief on the race and share that with you and since I last put together an intro, we’ve been north and south and probably done right about a thousand nautical miles.

We sailed at the XXXX Gold Cup, which also the IRC Queensland championships a couple of weekends ago and unfortunately for us, the forecast 15 knot winds ended up being 20 to 30 and in the first race of the championship we dropped number one kite into the water while the bow was doing nine knots down wind and prominently destroyed it and ended up having to finish the series race two, three and four somewhat under powered without our number one spinnaker and had a reasonably good run, we’ve had a few accidents with it and it’s been repaired a few times.

It was due for replacement but ultimately we finished that series of our first IRC series, 10th out of 15 entries I think it was. On the Sunday night we then left Manly, which is east of Brisbane, travelled the 60 miles back to South Port on the Gold Coast. I got in about 1:30 in the morning, Home at about 2:30, back up at six AM and then back at the boat at seven for departure for Sydney. We had a really tight window to then get down to Sydney for the Sydney to Gold Coast race, a 384 mile race north up Australia’s east coast.

Second biggest ocean race of the year behind the Sydney Hobart in terms of the competitor numbers and for me, it was our first multi-day race as a crew. We’ve done quite a bit of sort of 12 to 24 hour stuff, but we’ve never actually done any multi day racing. I’ve done plenty of cruising that way, but it was the first real test and for us given we got our IRC and ORCI ratings just before Christmas about nine months ago. It was our first real big fleet test as well on those ratings to see how we go, and just a reminder, I’ve got a 25 year old Beneteau, 44.5 foot long yacht. Beneteau 445 it’s called Ocean Gem. 

So, as you can imagine, today’s IRC racing, we’re racing a lot of high performance boats, a lot of carbon hulls, carbon masts, carbon gear, carbon sails, and so we rank quite low against the rest of the fleet. Our rating is 1.016 and we’re racing against boats that have got 1.1, 1.2, 1.5 as much as 1.98. That’s why they literally have to sail at almost twice our speed on average to beat us on handicap.

So that’s our first real test and it was a race that was supposed to be about two and a half days and ultimately it took four days, just over four days for us to go the 383 miles. It’s a race north against the prevailing southerly current and what it means, in all breeze conditions you’ve got to factor the current into account. But in light to no breeze the current becomes a real challenge and a real test.

So my thought is a bit of a debrief would be quite good. If you’ve done some racing then seeing how we go about debrief might give you some thoughts with your crew. If you haven’t done any racing or any sailing at all, getting the perspectives of crew that some of them had done their first multi day race, sleep on the boat overnight type races ever. Some of them had only done day racing before that. So I thought it would be good to see how they reflected on the race. 

Some of my crew, Shaya, Sean, Eli, Alex and Steve and Rick and me. That’s seven. So all but Sean were at the session. Sean couldn’t make it unfortunately because of some family sickness issues. So I thought it would be good to have a bit of a debrief and this is the race, I think the race that we had was a real test of character and it really showed up tenacity and determination in our team, which is really encouraging with what lies ahead. 

We also had a journalist from the local newspaper, News Limited owned Gold Coast bulletin who had contacted the yacht club about three months ago and said, “I want to do the Sydney to Gold Coast race onboard a yacht and write a story. A bit of a day in the life of an off shore sailor.” So I volunteered to take her on my boat.

Shaya was her name and she was excellent. She’d done a little bit sailing with us before that but really I got stuck and then wrote a bit of a feature piece in the local newspaper which is all good for helping to promote sailing as well. So for us, the four days or four days and one hour is a pretty long race. Only because our expectations were almost half that. But four days isn’t that long if that’s what you expect and so it was a real test of character with the change of weather we dealt with. 

And so this episode is about hearing it from a crew’s perspective, hearing how they saw things, their highs and lows. Are there things that they thought we should do differently and it was great having the session at the Southport Yacht Club where we based, fantastic yacht club and again if you live in the Gold Coast, don’t hesitate to stop and if you’re thinking of trying some sailing, come down on a Thursday afternoon and join one of the twilight racing crews and go out on the broad water.

So for us, because of the length of the race and we finished late on the Wednesday then we had to pull out of Brisbane to Keppel race which was due to be starting on a Friday. We just couldn’t turn the boat around in six hours with damage we had to repair to sails, re-provision the boat and get it back out to Brisbane ready to go again. So we pulled out of the next race unfortunately. Unfortunately that race, unlike the Gold Coast race, was 20 to 30 knots from the south, southeast. It would have been a fantastic one and a half day, 350 mile race but that’s how it goes.

So that’s a session that you’ll hear shortly with my crew, some of the crew who did the race and doing a bit of a debrief and then the next week I’m now heading away north again 580 nautical miles to Hamilton Island, for Hamilton Island Race Week for the very first time. If you want to check that out, audihamiltonislandraceweek.com.au. 250 entries, biggest fleet ever I understand, should be spectacular racing around the Whitsunday Islands. So we’re in the passage, IRC passage division so each day will be, I imagine, sort of four to five hour race around different islands and different courses and stuff which is pretty cool.

So again, I’ve had a really busy couple of weeks so a little bit behind in show notes for the last couple of episodes. So they will follow and with those again some great videos, I’ll include some great videos as well. Make sure you check out the show notes at Oceansailingpodcast.com. In the show notes for this episode, got a great two minute video that is a good listen and not being overly aggressive whether you’re in the right or in the wrong off the start line of a 383 mile race.

The videos show a dozen to 15 boats, literally pulling out, spinnaker poles out, they didn’t give themselves enough room, they got tangled up leaving Sydney heads, one ran aground, see if we needed up facing the wrong way, boat’s bowsprits, four or five out of the race within 20 minutes of starting and we managed to veer 20 degrees to the left and go around a sort of messes to start had sort of unfold. Again, I’ll put a video in the show notes page in YouTube.

But it’s just a good listen and staying out of trouble because it’s pretty sad when you see the crew who have prepared for weeks, maybe months, have their race ended just through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and being a little bit too aggressive. So I will share that as well. Enjoy this week’s episode of the Ocean Sailing Podcast with some of the Ocean Gem racing crew. Great episode to get crew perspective on things and certainly if you’re thinking of getting into sailing, your local yacht club, have a chat of somebody, I’m sure they’ll be able to get you on the boat and get you a taste of what it’s all about. So folks, enjoy.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, welcome back to the Ocean Sailing Podcast. This week we’ve got something different we’re doing. I’m with some of the crew of Ocean Gem, my yacht that recently competed and they XXXX Gold Cup up in Manly in Brisbane and then we had to finish it on the Sunday get back to the Southport on the Sunday night around one AM and then head off to Sydney on the Monday morning first thing for this Sydney to Gold Coast race. 

We have three delivery crew, a couple of our regular crew and a ringer that we got from the yacht club at the last moment and we had a great sail to Sydney, it took us two days and four hours, so a nice quick trip down 390 odd nautical miles and then we started the Sydney to Gold Coast race on the Saturday morning.

Ocean Gem Crew: Afternoon.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Saturday afternoon, I forgot. Despite all of our expectations and intentions, we participated in the slowest Sydney to Gold Coast race in history and so we thought it would take us about two and a half days, it took us four days and one hour to complete and unfortunately for us, the race was a bit of a roller coaster ride. We started with a fleet of 75 boats, started out at Sydney Harbour which is pretty awesome and quite a spectacle.

On the show notes page I’ll post a couple of videos which show 10 or 15 yachts piling up as they lift the Heads. One running aground and several running into each other. So it was quite an exciting start. We’ve got some good breeze overnight the first night, going into day two we, to our surprise, we’d gone from back of the pack to leading our respective IRC and ORCI divisions. Then by the end of the race, some four odd days later, we were at the back of the fleet after really staying quite a stop start race where we were becalmed several times from anywhere between three and six hours at a time and we probably spent at least 24 hours of the four days at a standstill.

Unfortunately with the East Coast of Australia, if you’re heading north, you’ve got south bound current that’s running between sort of half a knot and three knots depending where you are. When you’re becalmed, you’re not actually standing still, you’re going backwards, so it really can be quite a test. So I’ve got the six of us here today for this session, six of our seven crew and we’re going to run through a little bit of a debrief really as we would normally talk about the race, talk about what we experienced, what we learned and then with some other racing we’ve got coming up later this year, just do a debrief around what can we do differently or what could we do better next time around.

So on Skype we’ve got Shaya who is currently on holiday in Cairns, which is a couple of thousand kilometres from here. Say hello Shaya.

Shaya: Hello.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, welcome along. Then in the room with me at the Southport Yacht Club, they’ve kindly lent us a room we can use, we’ve got Rick, we’ve got Alex, we’ve got Steve and we’ve got Eli. So say hello guys.

Ocean Gem Crew: Hi everyone.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Welcome along. Hopefully the rest of the podcast is at high level of excitement.

Ocean Gem Crew: Because it started off yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so we’ll get started, we’ve got a few questions to ask you guys really, as a bit of a debrief and we’ll start with you Shaya seeing as you recently joined us, you’re a journalist for the local Gold Coast bulletin, you joined us maybe 10, 12 weeks before the race with the intention of doing the race and writing the story on a day in the life or four days in a life as it turned out on the race course.

So from your point of view, what were you most, I guess, anxious or worried about before the race started? What things were on your mind the most prior of the start of the race.

Shaya: It’s definitely sea sickness to be honest. Yeah, I was just really worried about it because I know I do get quite sea sick out there and that once you’re on the boat you can’t really get off. So I was worried that I’d get sea sick and then be sort of stuck on there and yeah, that was my biggest worry.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, Alex, what about you? What was something you were concerned or anxious about before the race and just drag that mic right up towards you guys. Pull it a little closer.

Alex: I guess the only thing I was really concerned about was not making the start line because we’d all put in so much effort and everyone was on such a high to actually get down there and race, that’s my concern was that was something going to happen with the boat? We had that issue with the HF radio where we’re getting replies back from Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue. If we didn’t have an operating HF radio we couldn’t race. Those sort of things were concerning. It was just, we wanted to make the start line and we wanted to race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, this is a good point and a bit of background, we did have issues passing our radio test which in the end turned out perfectly fine throughout the race and then we had other issues, which we’ll come back to later with our model safety checks, and we’ll come back to that. Okay, Rick, what about you?

Rick: Well, contrary to Alex’s idea, I had full confidence in making it there and getting into the start line, the only thing that I’m really sort of I suppose worried about was sleep. Personally I don’t sleep well in strange beds but I realized that if I got tired enough I would sleep. It’s just a matter of making sure I did sleep and get the most out of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you sleep?

Rick: Sometimes, not very often. Just lying there looking.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Now Steve, you’re done quite a lot of off shore racing, Sydney to Hobart races. I guess this is a bit of a dawdle up the coast really. Was there anything at all that you had sort of concerns or worries about and just pull that microphone even close to you guys. Pick the whole stand up because your sound here is a little bit low.

Alex: Probably the basically just the unknown. So we’ve got a crew that hasn’t really done a lot of off shore racing for any great length and we’re throwing it all together whilst we’ve trained on off shore races. It’s just the unknown of what was going to be two or three nights, which turned into over four days of how everyone would react to that, who was going to get sick and who could cope with be it, be it high winds, low winds or anything like that?

Probably the other thing, the concern was the race start. It’s probably the biggest fleet of off shore race yachts in Australia on a quite a short line and like what happened, you really got to get away well and not retire. Just before the Heads like I think four boat steed. That was probably the main thing and the same race last year, it was very light wind start, it was very tight start and made a big difference on the overall result. So they are probably the two things for me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good point because you think about the Sydney to Hobart having a 110, 115 boats but it’s spread over three start lines isn’t it? So 75 on one actually is busy. Also, there’s no control of the spectators, so they just go anywhere they like.

Alex: Yeah, it’s very lose where as a Sydney to Hobart, you’ve got three lines, you’ve got spectators behind their own buoys, they’re out of the way and you’re allowed to go around them but then they’ll actually go around you. All the big boats that are absolutely smoking through at three times the speed, miles away, you don’t even see them. It’s always a pretty tight line and which we did great on. So that was a highlight.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, because it’s quite unique to have big boats get a bad start and have to come up through the fleet past you as opposed to being ahead of you on their own line and off and gone.

Alex: It looked great for us, that’s for sure and embarrassing for them I’m sure so that’s good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Cool, what about you Eli? What were your anxieties or concerns?

Eli: Yeah, popping spinnakers in front of 74 other boats, two thirds of them professionals, some of the best boats in Australia, dropping spinnakers in front of those boats and trying to get a clean start. It all felt like I was on, or we were all on show a bit and I wondered how it was going to go. I was confident.

Ocean Gem Crew: We had confidence in you.

Eli: Now, we did really well. We did great actually. Great start

Alex: We actually ran the line on port for a while, which was a bit concerning at times.

Eli: A little bit. 

Alex: It worked well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think part of the challenge is there’s so much going on around you, there’s so much to look at if you don’t keep an eye on your own game at the same time because you’re a spectator as much as you’re a participant. So it’s easy to just get distracted with what’s going on around you and lose sight of what’s in front of you.

Eli: Yeah, there’s a lot of nice boats to look at. I had to keep my mind on the job.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s good. Shaya, back to you. What aspects of the race did you find most challenging from a personal point of view?

Shaya: Well I got pretty sea sick in the first few days because the tablets just weren’t working. So I was sort of trying to put on a brave face so you guys wouldn’t notice, to then pull my weight and then I found that really challenging. But then as soon as Steve gave me his tablets from, I think you said they were from England or something, they worked wonders. So it all came together then.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what brand of tablets were they Steve?

Ocean Gem Crew: Stugeron.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh Stugeron?

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, they’re the good stuff.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, better drugs.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Highly recommended. That’s good, you certainly did put on a brave face for the first couple of days because it’s not nice when you’re feeling green.

Shaya: Yeah. The rest was all right I think. When there was no wind, of course that was challenging because you get up from your four hours sleep and you haven’t sort of moved, that can be a bit disheartening.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The same rock that’s there when you go to sleep, is still there four hours later when you get up.

Shaya: Yeah.

Ocean Gem Crew: In fact, further in front of you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, or the rock’s further ahead than it was last time you saw it. That’s even worse. Okay, cool. Alex, what about you? What aspects of the race did you find the most challenging?

Alex: I guess because we’re all at a race, we want to sort of pumping on a bit of adrenaline and you want to get moving and you want the bike to go fast and you want to be up there with the fleet and I guess the most challenging parts for me were when we will becalmed. When we just couldn’t get the boat speed that we wanted and particularly, because a lot of the racing that we do here is against other keel boats that are fairly cruiser sailors. To see that fleet of high performance racing yachts and just a little whiff of a breeze, off they go and eight, nine 10 knots.

That was challenging to be so slow in those light breezes. Start to catch up to them, the way we did on the first night and then to be becalmed and then to see them maybe a mile or two ahead get a breeze, and then just take off and we don’t get that breeze. So to me, that was just frustrating. You just wanted to get moving, you wanted to race, not sit there waiting to race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think it felt worse the time than it actually was. After we finished I looked back for the results and I think IRC rating wise, we have a second lowest rating in the fleet and that’s pretty much about where we finished up. It was nice to be ahead of 15 or 16 or 20 boats, whatever it was at one stage, we needed wind to keep that up. Having a low rating is one thing, it’s never motivating to see a whole fleet in front of you. It doesn’t matter what your rating is, it’s just psychologically it feels wrong, isn’t it?

Alex: But we were doing so well. If we’d been able to keep up that speed, we were with the fleet and it was just frustrating to see that wind die out continuously. What did we have? Four or five holes that we fell in to on the way up?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, quite big ones.

Alex: It would have been just favour to not find those holes. Keep moving.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, exactly. Okay. Thank you. Rick, what about you? What did you find?

Rick: I agree with Alex on that one and this is challenging, his words were frustrating and I think that’s correct. It was frustrating just watching people being able to move with no wind and we just stopped or went backwards with the currents. Otherwise, I think it was a pretty smooth run, the whole thing, enjoyed it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good. And when we were moving, we were moving okay but that’s right, when you’ve got wind of less than four knots, you’ve got carbon hulls that will just drift along.

Rick: Yeah, and just leave us fore dead.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Literally stopped dead. Yeah. It’s quite a difference, over four days.

Ocean Gem Crew: Rick.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Steve?

Steve: I’m exactly the same, heavy boat, light winds, a sub three knots…

Rick: Heavy crew.

Steve: Yeah.

Alex: Heavy everything, heavy absolutely everything. No matter what you do in sub three knots in a heavy boat, it’s just not going to go as well as a light boat, which as everyone was saying, we were right up with. If not ahead and frustrating that we just park up and just couldn’t get going like they could. I suppose like what you’re saying, if we were second last the whole race, that wouldn’t have been a problem because they would have been ahead and we probably would have been encouraged because we were catching them and then we’d slow down and then we’d catch them and slow down being a downwind star race that you catch the boats that are in the holes.

Because we’re so far ahead and we’re first in our division and ahead of boats that are a whole lot lighter and a whole lot faster than this. It’s just so frustrating going backwards through any fleet. So that was the main challenge that I saw like everyone I expect.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Fortunately it eventually came to an end and didn’t last another 30 days or something silly. 

Ocean Gem Crew: It felt like 30 days.

Ocean Gem Crew: Just that last day.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, especially the last day, that cruel. Eli, what about you?

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, well I’m just going to repeat the same thing, lack of wind was really frustrating and then to throw into it a million sail changes.

Ocean Gem Crew: I knew that was coming because there was no wind.

Eli: Then, you know. Still not to happen. From a number one to another three to a code zero back to a one, down to a three again. And still we’ve only gone two miles and that doesn’t sound like every bowman in Australia right now. Complaining about sail changes. Yeah, just no wind.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, you want to be able to sail more than 500 meters if we change sails again, don’t you?

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, preferably.

Ocean Gem Crew: Preferably in the right way too, not backwards.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, that two miles, that could have been any direction.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, Shaya, back to you.

Shaya: Yup.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Were there any times you sort of felt scared or unsafe or just wish you’d stayed home?

Shaya: Yeah. I did think a few times, “I wonder how long it would take me to swim to shore?” Yeah, I don’t know why I thought it was so tough when there was no wind. You’d think that’s it’s not hard on you physically or anything, but mentally it’s just I found it really tough. Especially when we got deadlines and stuff coming back home and I just didn’t know when exactly we’d be back home, I found that a bit challenging. Then I started wondering, “Oh was it the right decision?” Of course it was but at the time, it plays with the mind a little bit.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and to put into context, I think the last couple of days you had your editor calling you, more than once a day saying, “Are you back, have you written your story because you’re past your deadline?”

Shaya: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Added to the stress right?

Shaya: It ended up turning even, like publication wise for us, it was even better that we came back closer to the weekend but at the time I didn’t know that, yeah that part was a bit stressful.

Ocean Gem Crew: Exams.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right, you miss an exam, right? You had an exam to be back for it.

Shaya: Yeah, but I sort of laughed at it in the end, it all turned out but yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you ever feel scared at all?

Shaya: I think there was only once when it was dark and there was thunder storm and there was a fair bit of wind for once and I think the boat was leaning a little bit and I just got a little bit scared for maybe 10 minutes but you said, “Oh don’t worry, you’ll be okay.” It was fine after that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then wind died and you wish the storm came back so we could get going?

Shaya: It was sort of like, “Come back.” Yeah, it was fine then.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what about you Alex? Any scary moments or what the hell am I doing here? 

Alex: No.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I could have been at home reading a book or doing the gardening.

Alex: No point that any of that occur. I mean I committed to the team, to the race, to basically get out there and experience as much as I possibly can and it was more of a case of like bring it on, let’s give ourselves a good test and I guess the time where it started to happen, like the sort of weather we wanted was that thunder storm on that last night. Started to get 20 knots over, apparently it was the boat was healing, it was cooking, and that was fun. That was a lot of fun but the rest of it, no was just pretty much as I expected.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, unfortunately that only lasted maybe six, seven hours at the most?

Alex: Yeah, it was very short.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: By the time it build and faded out. Good ride.

Alex: Can you imagine that ride all the way up from Sydney? How good would that have been? I think it would’ve been awesome. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think that’s called the Keppel race.

Alex: Yes, exactly. That’s 30 knots, 30 knots, 30 knots. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It changes everything when it’s got pressure all the time. Okay, what about you Rick?

Rick: I was never scared or felt unsafe or anything. I had full confidence in the crew or you as a helmsman. But I’ve been off shore with enough of you and we’ve been up to things like Mooloolaba or whatever. Okay, they’re not as long but everyone knows their job and gets to it and does it. So yeah, I was never scared or unsafe there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I think the boat bangs and crashes off stuff, the more you realize that’s just the norm and it can handle it. If you haven’t heard for a while, it can be a bit unnerving to start with when you start falling off the odd wave and crashing along and the funny thing is there’s plenty of noise downstairs, and you think, “What is going on upstairs?” But you go upstairs and it’s just a tack. But downstairs you’d swear that somebody’s ripping the bows out of the boat when you tack. That noise is horrendous.

Ocean Gem Crew: That’s a very quiet boat. Anything above five knots of speed, it just sounds like a cyclone above.

Ocean Gem Crew: It’s crazy. I actually made a comment of how quiet this boat downstairs.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s called a thick heavy hull.

Ocean Gem Crew: It’s like the hot shower. Very enjoyable.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: When was the time you did an ocean race where you had a hot shower two or three days and ate fine dining the whole way? Okay, so given your background, I’m sure there wasn’t any sort of scary moments for you? But at some point did you just wish you had stayed home and given the race a miss?

Ocean Gem Crew: It was hard to get through a few moments, like I just hate going slow and we went slow and then we went ultra-slow and then we went backwards and then we actually past a rock and then it past us. So that’s how ultra-slow we were going. Only fear that I had was more about how much food we had because on the last day we’re just eating biscuits because we’d run out of food. You just weren’t sure why someone was actually staring you down.

If your arm looked quite tasty or what? So no great fear on sailing but yeah. I’m glad we had just enough food to get us home and no more holes in breeze because that could have been easily an extra night.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, I did suggest to Eli that he starts holding up his arm.

Eli: That’s about the only time I thought, “Oh today, I wished I’d stayed home.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, we have plenty of gas to cook whatever we were able to acquire, no fishhooks. Okay, so Eli, what about you?

Eli: Yeah, other from trying to eat my arm, it was pretty good.

Ocean Gem Crew: When we got overtaken by Fish Rock, kind of wish I stayed home.

Eli: Yeah, that was a bit disheartening but as for unsafe, not really, everything was pretty good, we didn’t really have much wind so I couldn’t really get too out of control. It was all pretty good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Fish Rock was probably the pinnacle of whoever was on the helm was really unlucky because he’s just sailing these lines that are going up and down the same line, everyone else is giving him advice. He’s trying to get the boat moving and in three knots with a strong current, there’s nowhere to go except for back to the foresail on the main line, just not to go backwards.

Eli: Three knots was a gust.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then other boats somehow came through.

Eli: Well I went to sleep for four hours, praying that when I woke up, we’d be somewhere further up the coast. We were further back than when I went to sleep and that was pretty bad.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You need to sleep for eight hours. Okay. Cool, Shaya, what was different about the race to what you expected. I’m on a recurring theme here.

Shaya: Well, like I’d done it a little bit of sailing at night before and I’m new, I think I knew what to expect in terms of sleep and that it’s not always comfortable and that for sort of thing. I just didn’t think that sometimes we wouldn’t move. I thought surely we’re sailing along the coast, there will be wind all the time but there wasn’t. That was the most surprising part. The rest I think I just went with an open mind thinking whatever happens, happens and I’ll try and get used to it. Yeah, that was pretty much it, the wind 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s clear this podcast is about answering all these different question with the same answer all the way. The lack of it.

Shaya: Sorry.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s all right.

Shaya: Like the journal in me sort of came out a few times when something was a bit hard, it was like, “Oh, this is good for the story or by far overboard,” I have a better story. Sometimes it worried me but at the same time yeah, not too much.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, cool. Alex, what was different to your expectations. 

Alex: Look I suppose being exposed to the calibre of racing yachts out of the CYC just the boats, like the TP 52’s, those DK 46’s, whatever they were just seeing that racing hull with all the carbon. Just the speed of those boats that was just wow. That really blew me away and I wasn’t expecting to see such acceleration and such movement in open water from boats like that in light winds. That really blew me away.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, good. Rick, what about you? What was different of what you expected?

Rick: The timeframe. Literally how long it actually took for such a short distance and how long it took to get down.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Especially the trip down, two days and four hours.

Rick: We killed it, turned around, and stopped. Yeah, that’s the only thing that really I suppose was really unexpected.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, Steve?

Steve: Mine’s a little bit different. The unexpected was having a hot shower, day two I think it was and I think I led the charge on that one then because we actually used a fair bit of water, we just made or own water. So I’m not used to the luxuries of a cruising, a star race boat and took full advantage of it. I must say, having a comfy bed, having a dry bed, having a dry boat, it was just great. It would be great if we could have all of those experiences and did it in two days but I’m sure we had a much better race than some of the guys on this ultra-fast boats that were expecting it to be over in a day because I did hear that those guys ran out of food. That was after one night. At least we had enough for three nights. Yeah, mine was the other way of how good is this. Great food, comfortable, happy days.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s a good point, because when you say that, “I think I’m going to have a shower.” I thought you were joking. We’re sitting there, we’ve got hot water because we have to run to use the radio to use the radio and so then to suddenly go, “Why not?” Then everyone followed I think. “Are we having a hot shower? Who is next?”

Ocean Gem Crew: You’re welcome.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So yeah, that’s good. Okay what about you Eli, what was different to what you expected?

Eli: Yeah, the food was way better than I expected. I don’t know what I expected but it was pretty good. I was like, fine dining, calm water, you know. It was pretty relaxed, it was good. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: We were just was thinking like the red wine or…

Ocean Gem Crew: I was going to say, you expected wine.

Eli: Yeah, it wasn’t that. I didn’t expect no alcohol on the boat at all. I don’t know if I should say that on the podcast, blasted around the world but it’s easy, semi-cruising boat.

Ocean Gem Crew: Even on the way down, when we’re in such a hurry to get out of there because we had four hour turnaround from Sunday night to Monday morning. Same thing on the way down, we didn’t even think about it to run away, that was two days. But yeah, coming back, we normally would have a bit of a sun downer or something, especially in fine weather. 

Ocean Gem Crew: I suppose we expected it to last a lot shorter than that. When you’re sitting there looking at the same rock, it might be nice to have a beer.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If we had beer on board, we would have quickly made a rule that as long as we becalmed it’s okay to have beer, it would been gone. So good point. Okay. Shaya, how did you enjoy your 24/7 life on board while you were racing?

Shaya: I really liked it to be honest. I don’t know, it was just really different to what you get at home, you come out on deck and like millions of stars and there’s whales and there’s dolphins and it’s just so different, but it’s so enjoyable at the same time. Yeah, I was surprised by how much I liked it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Had you done anything like that before?

Shaya: I did, we were on a sail boat for three weeks in the Amazon but there wasn’t much wind so it was still life on board where you had to do watches and that sort of thing. I enjoyed that as well. So I knew that that wouldn’t be the tough part.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You kept that little adventure up your sleeve didn’t you?

Ocean Gem Crew: That was very quiet.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Up the Amazon, we’ve all done that. Okay, that’s cool. Alex, what about you?

Alex: Look, I really did enjoy the 24/7 lifestyle of the boat. It’s interesting, everything sort of compresses, it’s sort of like almost like a little society that’s compressed in time because everybody’s got their own little personalities and what was really good about our crew was that we all got on so well and everybody supported each other and because you’ve got that watch system happening and you virtually I think Steve you said at one stage, the life becomes sleep, food and sitting on the rail.

We didn’t get a chance to sit much on the rail because of the wind again, but you sort of get into that routine and everybody was out there sort of helping and supporting and rotating and doing what needed to be done that I loved every minute of that 24/7.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s good. It is an important part, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of that because I’ve been in groups, either on camps or on boats where there’s just one or two thorns in the side and people get irritated after a while if everything’s not going their way. So that sort of team spirit and ability to get along, that means a lot of as the days tick on and the frustrations start to build.

Alex: Yeah I mean there’s not a lot of room on the boat, everybody’s in very close proximity to everybody else, you know? They’ve all got to go for a piss over the rail if need be and eat and sleep and belch and burp and fart and everything else that happens then.

Ocean Gem Crew: He’s speaking for himself. 

Alex: Yeah, and no one complained.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right, that’s right. Okay, that’s good, what about you Rick?

Rick: I enjoyed it, I agree with Alex in saying that everyone got along really well and they did, they knew what was required of them but also they sort of went out of their way to make sure that everyone else was happy. If they look like they’re a bit down, take over a bit of their tasks that everyone worked together really well and I know Shaya says we’re all thrown together as strangers. Well we weren’t really that. We weren’t at the end of it, that’s for sure. Everyone I think sort of cemented their friendship and understanding of the other person.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean that’s a good point because you can work with somebody but then going to be 24, 48 hours with them and they could be a different somebody to the eight hours you spend with them occasionally.

Ocean Gem Crew: Especially without a drink, you know?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think I lost a few kilos on that trip actually. Not planned, but there you go, healthy. Okay, what about you Steve? Well you covered quite a few of your luxuries.

Steve: Yeah. As you probably heard. I enjoyed it a lot and being on a long race or what turned out to be a long race was actually quite good because it did actually gel us as a crew as well. So we had more time and we had more time to chat, more time to learn each other’s skills and how we live. Personally I sleep more on the boat in a three hour shift on and off than I do in a night on land.

So that and the Stugeron helped in that as well. But yeah, I love it. It’s even though it was a lot longer than expected, it was still a great time, it was just hanging out and we just had more time to hang out than we did in those big wind holes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Where by the end of it, it was like, “Okay, no wind. Who wants to sleep? And wake me when there’s wind.” I think some of us must have got about 12 hours a day by the end, in terms of sleep, which is great. You might as well be asleep than sort of sitting around getting frustrated waiting for wind.

Steve: Or in some cases, “Wake me when it’s time for a sail change.” It was exactly right.

Ocean Gem Crew: Then back down stairs.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, okay, that’s good. So Eli, what about you?

Eli: Yeah, with that 24/7 lifestyle, you kind of build that camaraderie and you get really close with everyone and by the end you kind of a family and that’s quite enjoyable, that’s quite amazing and you get back and you’re all more than friends. You’re all pretty solid and it was a good crew, there was no thorns or someone you’d kick off the boat if you had the chance. No, it was great.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s a good point. You normally get some time together. It’s amazing I thing just settle onto a daily routine; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bit of wind in between.

Steve: I got a lot of sleep. I slept better than I do at home as well, so you’re not the only one Steve. Yeah, maybe more.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, Shaya. So I’m going to rephrase this question, what was it that started to get on your nerves by the end of the trip, if there was one thing?

Shaya: Well initially I thought it’s like when I first heard I was the only girl in the boat, I was like, “Oh my, everything’s going to get on my nerves,” but at the end it was just the wind, everything else was fine, it was pretty good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: After you’ve been on the boat a few days, everything slows down anyway. All the day to day stuff you’ve got to [inaudible] kind of behind you really, apart from a text message. But yeah, life’s quite simple on the boat really, as long as you get along. What about you Alex?

Alex: Yeah look, the only thing that got on my nerves was lack of wind. It’s the prevailing theme, you just get moving, everything’s happening, you’ve had sail change, you’ve trimmed it up, you’re getting up to eight knots, everything’s going well and then within half an hour it’s dead and you’re back sitting around lulling around. That was like, “Ah!”.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Something different?

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah I was going to say nothing got on my nerves, I don’t think I just accepted that there’s no wind and that was life. There’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s just luck. You got bananas on board, you’ve got bananas on board.

Ocean Gem Crew: And we did, we found one.

Ocean Gem Crew: Oh there were more.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Clearly there must have been, right? Does a banana [inaudible] as well?

Ocean Gem Crew: Oh, there is a dessert.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah I think I was pretty chilled out for the whole race really. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: One thing I saw that started to get on people’s nerves, is if you try to steer the boat and know that it’s not moving and you try your best and then another comes back giving you advice, like I was going to do that. You think, “Oh maybe this — someone else do it,” and then do now better. Well maybe we go from two and a half to three and a half, you could just get the boat moving again. But it was so wind dependent. It’s just that line that’s below three and a half knots, there’s almost nothing you can do.

Ocean Gem Crew: That’s sailing for you. You’ve had that here on a twilight where we haven’t even finished a race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Several time.

Ocean Gem Crew: You just have to learn to accept it I suppose. Move ahead hopefully.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: At least the weather was 20 something degrees, it’s not like it was raining or it wasn’t really cloudy, it wasn’t cold. I’m sure there’s tougher ways to have no wind.

Ocean Gem Crew: I really thought that you showed exemplary patients when there was no wind, you’d be at the helm looking for a sail change, looking for a shift and you were just positive, pumped and we’re all sitting around and going, “Ah there’s no wind,” and you were there going, “Yes, there’s a breeze coming in, let’s get the sail done, let’s put the boat this way.” Hundred meters away and I looked at you and I thought, “All right, this guy’s got it, he’s working, he’s working.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Day four when you hear that for the 29th time you’d say this guy’s lost it.

Ocean Gem Crew: You kept going which is great, from a team point of view that was just fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think it’s important because it would be fair to say, by the time we had the last bloody hole at Coolangatta on 7 o’clock in the morning before we finished the race, I was thinking, “We’re going to vote. Surely it’s going to be unanimous. Let’s just retire.” But we did it.

Ocean Gem Crew: Well at some stage we were going to have bacon and eggs for breakfast weren’t we?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: We were going to pre-order it ahead. I think Eli said, “It doesn’t matter if we’re at it for a month, we’re going to finish this damn race.”

Ocean Gem Crew: Breakfast by 8:40 it was at one stage?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s tough. Okay, can we cover you on that one?

Ocean Gem Crew: It’s probably all the same.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Anything for anybody else?

Ocean Gem Crew: No. It was a good test of character because being sailors, you’re supposed to be able to deal with light winds, you can’t just go, “All right, throw the anchor out,” or what we prefer to do is, drink alcohol or something like that in a pretty serious race. It’s the second biggest off shore race in Australia. You can’t just give up. You have to get the boat moving and frustrating wise, it just isn’t going to happen under two knots.

So same old frustration, wind. But that’s sort of what we do, we’re sailors and its wind dependent. So it’s a good test of character to not give up, to keep actually going because in some cases, that is the difference between like moving forward a mile and not moving forward a mile. It’s easy to say, “It’s the light boats,” and in this case, it was but in other cases, it could be, you’ve just given up, you’re not on the ball, you’re not leaning the boat over, and you’ve not got the right sales up or something like that. 

So it’s a good test and what we have coming up, even though the Sydney to Hobart’s a heavier wind race. Absolutely guarantee, we will have a hull. A dead patch where we’re doing exactly what we just did and that’s when we need to go, “We’ve done this, we got two knots of speed out of three knots of wind, we know how to do it, now we know what angle to point the boat all that sort of stuff. Whilst it gets on your nerve, you have to look at it for what it is and choose to actually make it an opportunity to build character, to build skill and go from there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s a really good point because we tried lots of sail combinations and we had lots of different wind streams and there’s times we got the boat moving in a certain breeze, there’s time that we didn't. It was a really good learning exercise, you never get to test that many combinations over that many days and be able to retain it in an off shore race when it’s like five, or six hours. You just don’t. So yeah, it’s a great lesson on persistence.

The race was like 93 hours long or something, somebody said? Well even if it’s just three of those hours, if you can give two knots and others are doing nothing, six miles at the end of the day can be the difference between somewhere and nowhere or can be the difference between finishing or hitting the next wind hull because you haven’t got home yet which is pretty much what happened to us. So yeah, that’s a really good point, okay. What about you Eli?

Eli: Just refers back to no wind probably the 29th time, put the code zero up because the wind had built from zero knots to one knot, that started to get a bit tedious and get on my nerves but it was great training. Sometimes we did get the boat moving from doing that, sometimes we didn’t. Either way we tried something and I’ve put a code zero up a lot more times than when I started.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s the most we’ve done in the whole of the last 12 months..

Eli: Change sails. So it was sort of great training but it might have got a bit tedious.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think on your 49th and sail change I did it for you because I just figured it was just…

Eli: You don’t want to bring me up from my sleep again.

Ocean Gem Crew: How good are we at sail changes?

Eli: Yeah, it was great training.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Actually, by the end of it, we were like, well I know everybody when we were a third of the way through it we were like Steve said, people in the cockpit are anticipating what you need because they know it, they’re not waiting for you to holler, “Ease this, ease that, let this go.” It was starting to happen quite fluidly.

Eli: Yeah that’s true actually, at the start there was a lot of shouting back from the bow to let things off and by the end, it was all done as I’d go to grab for sheets. They were already off and free so I could do what I needed with them or have the how you tied on and you’d be going up before I called for it. Perfect. It’s good training and nice weather for it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah absolutely. Okay, Shaya, what were your key highlights?

Shaya: The finish line was pretty good. That we did it and that we got through it all but the start I found really impressive as well, with all the other boats because I had never done anything like it. So to have Wild Oats XI on the side and all these others. Yeah I found that impressive. So I’d say probably the start and the finish. Heaps of stuff in the m middle as well like the whales and the food was also really, really good but yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So to summarise, if you can start, see a whale, eat something and finish that would be the perfect race for you? 

Ocean Gem Crew: All inside one hour. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, half an hour or an hour.

Shaya: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s good, thank you. What about you Alex? What were your highlights?

Alex: Look, my highlights were the whole ocean racing experience. Pretty much the build up at the dock, at the CYC like you could see the more people arriving from the Friday to the Saturday then on Saturday there’s a big crowd, there’s TV crews, there’s helicopters starting to fly around and you could just feel the buzz and you sort of can’t help but get caught up in that buzz and like Shaya, the start was amazing, at that one stage, I looked to my left and there’s Wild Oats, you look up and there’s about 10 stories of sail going up and then at another point, I looked over my other shoulder and they’re Scallywag, it’s just a wall of black carbon sail right next to you and just watching this boats power past. It was just great. The whole thing was just fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s pretty exhilarating. Besides being in and amongst that really, it’s hard to explain.

Alex: Just the buzz on the harbour. After we started and the spinnaker was up and things settled down and I mean, everyone’s like really pumped up looking left and right, seeing where there’s a hole to move in to, where the gap is, where the congestion was, where that collision was up near Watsons Bay, we dodged that really well and just sort of being in the zone I guess, we were at the start there, it was just all happening really nice, that was fantastic. If you could relive that every weekend it would be wonderful.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Exactly. Okay, great, thank you.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, the highlights I suppose, as Alex was saying again, the buzz at the club. There’s always a buzz there in front of the big race. My brother did a Sydney to Hobart a few years ago and yeah, it was just going off. So this isn’t as big but it was still there. The start was good with all the boats calling starboard to boats that we probably shouldn’t be calling starboard to, things like that and then one night we had the kite up and we had a bit of wind and that was fun. You had everyone now on the rails at the back corner, they’re just keeping it down and we were just flying along and that was a good night sail.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that was fun. That was really thrilling. Gives you a taste of what’s possible if we just [inaudible]. But yeah, that was fun.

Ocean Gem Crew: A lot of fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, thank you. Steve.

Steve: I’ve got two things, the adrenaline on the start, I was helping Dave with the tactics and like what I said before, 75 boats, lots of coin out there and all on the one line, which was about half the size of the finish line which was ironic. But with wind that changed through about 90 degrees with about five minutes to go before the start and having to change tactics and just adrenaline pumping, calling Dave through on the line on port and there’s moments there, do we go behind or in front and then sort of jiving, in fact I think we ended up tacking around to go back on starboard and then looking back to two thirds of the fleet behind us, including boats that have a multimillion dollar check thrown at them every year to just go faster and here’s us, a little old cruising boat, out in front of them and we got a few photos. Which is great.

So having two thirds of fleet behind us and just watching them come through, which was fantastic and then we followed our routes that we planned off the weather route we got, went out wide and I think we were probably the widest boat there for a while and because we had breeze and because we had a great route, we ended up coming first at that point in time, which is probably where we should have actually gone and said, “Well we’ve done it now, a portion of the race, only had about 300 miles to go. They weren’t going to shorten the course on us unfortunately but that was nice going from a great start to then leading our division in two divisions. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I’d say maybe e12th out of 75, 24 hours in which was as good as it got.

Steve: Really cool for what was really a training exercise for us to get us to the next line and really getting a result to start with then three days later it’s slightly different. But those three days were probably more important than the first 12 hours. So yeah, they’re the highlights for me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, you did a great job at start because I never would have planned on being at the pin end, on port with a style like that. It’s not where you want to be normally.

Steve: Well it generally costs you more money than me too.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well he actually find this hole and said, “There’s a hole there.”

Steve: We’ll take that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There’s a big hole but isn’t there someone to fill it? It took maybe 10 minutes into the race then Black Jack came through and you think, “Oh shit, we did get a good start. This boat should have been off and gone.” So yeah, it was excellent. Okay.

Rick: Yeah, the start. Having spinnakers up in front of Black Jack and having them come cruising past five, 10 minutes later. That felt pretty good. The shadow of Scallywag coming over and just hearing this noise, and looking up as we were about to put the spinnaker up and there she is. Just huge, it was amazing. Highlight of my life. It was unreal. Blew me away. I never thought I’d be on a start like that with 75 other boats and boats of that caliber.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Being in the thick of it.

Ocean Gem Crew: Riding in the thick of it. I had to keep my mind on the job and not gawk too much, everything around me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to say, there must be a bit of damage caused by crew members taking photos rather than taking photos and taking selfies and everything else on the job?

Ocean Gem Crew: I’d be guilty of that, in a quiet moment I had

Ocean Sailing Podcast: We’re okay because we didn’t have any damage but you see a video footage of broken spinnaker poles and spinnakers flying out the back of the boat, you wonder how the crew had time to take the footage. Okay, cool, So Shaya. Let’s try not to meet you on the W this time but what were your low points other than wind?

Shaya: Probably where they say, yeah. Just because you know that you’ll have to pull your weight because there’s different jobs around the boat and that if everyone’s stays positive that plays a big part and then being seasick you sort of want to curl up into a little ball and sort of do nothing but you still got to do everything. Well not everything but I still played a part in a crew I guess that I found out a bit tough.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, okay. With sea sickness, it happens to most of us at some point and the best thing you can do is gear and well and best thing the crew can do is support you while you get yourself well.

Shaya: Yeah, which I was really well not surprised, but I thought you guys were awesome as well because when it wasn’t feeling too well, I was falling asleep on the spot, there was always someone to say, you know, “You go have a sleep, I’ll take over on this,” and yeah, that helped a lot.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: that’s good. Okay, Alex? Low points?

Alex: I don’t think I had any low points because like I said, I’m really keen to ocean sail and race and stuff and the whole lot was just enjoyable but if you had to say, “Well if you had to pick anything, what would you pick?” I’d probably say when we had that really good run with the storm that last night and then we got up to Cook Island and we’d already organised breakfast for 8:40. We’d already just about sent the text ahead, we’re going to be home soon, I can smell breakfast and to physically see the finish line and to sit there for those hours that we did, that was like, “Okay, this is sending a message, this is a real test of patience, how are we going to handle it?”

We handled it really well, Eli went for a swim, we got surrounded by dolphins and whales and really it wasn’t a low point in the end, you just had to sort of adjust your thinking and to me it was literally that. Change your attitude, adjust your thinking and make the most of it. Low points, no. There weren’t any.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: To put it into context, we got to the point where you could see the finish line, it’s probably an hour and a half away sailing time and we sat there becalmed for another four hours, staring at the finish line off in the distance. Realising our bacon needs weren’t going to end.

Alex: That I think was the ultimate test like you can understand being becalmed at Smokey or those other places but when we had already had the wind, there’s the finish line. Why did the wind stop?

Ocean Gem Crew: Because that’s sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay, thank you. Rick?

Rick: I didn’t have any low points, I enjoyed the whole trip, it’s as easy as that. I thrive on it, love it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good, okay.

Ocean Gem Crew: I’ll second that motion, we’re really living the dream. We’re out on the boat, showering, eating well, got dolphins and whales, we probably saw 30 or 40 whales and heaps of dolphins and people pay good money for that so I’m living the dream.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah it was pretty awesome, maybe got to steer it to rock a bit too much maybe but other than that, I enjoyed it a lot. There wasn’t really too many low points.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Was there any point which the sail changes started to become low points?

Ocean Gem Crew: No. I love it up there. It was all training and as gruelling as it can be, when you’re half asleep and you’ve just been woken up at three in the morning because the wind’s increased to three knots and they want the spinnaker, it’s all training. No it was good. No real low points other than Fish Rock.

Ocean Gem Crew: It was just repetitive, the sail changing not a low point.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, just repetitive.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’re pretty enthusiastic so it would be fair to say, I’ve sailed with lots of people that are very unenthusiastic when it comes to sail changes and you get to the point where you don’t want to ask them because their reaction but you are always 99 times out of a hundred, you're enthusiastic.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, more than one, I think that was one of those pretty… I was a bit half a sleep.

Ocean Gem Crew: We didn’t change anyway so I didn’t know that.

Ocean Gem Crew: That was it actually, that was the low point up to change.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I came to relieve you to say you can go to bed now and you just got the companion and I said, “Can you just change the sail before you go to bed?” You had to come back out, you were psyched and you were headed for bed and then suddenly, we didn’t even change sails in the end. I just had to stand around.

Ocean Gem Crew: He actually said that. He said that before you went down and it’s like, watch this, I’ll do this to him.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Five minute rule became new rule. Okay, cool. Shaya, what do you think your biggest contribution to the team was?

Shaya: I guess photos? I don’t know. I don’t think I contributed as much as everyone else.

Ocean Gem Crew: You got a cool article in the paper, that was pretty good effort.

Shaya: Yeah, I think just photos.

Ocean Gem Crew: I think your contribution grew over the four days, the last few days you were the first to jump on anything. When we said we were going to do anything, you were like, “Great, which winch, which halliard, which sheet? So your enthusiasm grew.

Ocean Gem Crew: No, it was drugs. She was running a pit by the end of it.

Ocean Gem Crew: Yeah, she was.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah you were steering the boat by the end of it, I saw that the paper. it must be true. Okay. Cool, Alex?

Alex: I guess what I think my biggest contribution was basically backing up all the other team members, if something needed to be done, I was sort of trying to be in there helping if I could, at no point did I try and sort of sit back on the rail and take it easy, it was like get in there and get it done and I think that can be said for pretty much everybody and that’s what made it such a great experience that everyone was in there committed and pitching in.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You did lunches really well and you did the radio skits really well. That helped a lot. Because sometimes there’s just jobs you do well and he’ll be like, “Okay, he’s done a great job, just leave him to it and the theory is you rotate everything but doesn’t work that way. So it’s better that na assembly do something well?

Alex: Yeah, the Scheds, that’s obviously first time I’ve ever done Scheds and I really enjoyed it, it was a good experience and because I hadn’t done it, before I was quite happy to put my hand up and say, when you said, “Can you do it?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it. Just for the experience,” and it was good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it was good, it was actually something I was worried, given some of the HF radio problems we were having with people, well being able to hear people. out of there, people we could hear vaguely okay, we ended up having voice, great calls and everything just been…

Alex: Do you remember like that, first radio call it went, I could actually, like sitting down stairs, everything went silent up in the cockpit. Everybody stopped talking and then when I did my skit and they replied, there was clapping and cheering from up in the cock pit there, yes, the HF works.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With the HF and the satellite phone, and what to do. So we need some awesome technology.

Alex: Yeah, so all the backup plans were ready but it was just some relief, we didn’t have to use them and the HF was clear as a whistle.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good. Okay, what about you?

Ocean Gem Crew: I hope I contributed just by being there for everyone, willing to do anything, any time, I even went up the front. Call you out once.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You did.

Ocean Gem Crew: Give him a break but yeah, I don’t sort of say I did anything fantastic or anything like that. I just hope I was there for anyone that needed it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Was just the fab you had with the helm for hours on end, happy to sit on the rails, Happy to leach others the route, happy to teach others.

Ocean Gem Crew: It’s part of the job.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s great having you happily do whatever’s required. Some peoples specialise in some things and some people with say, “I’m not even doing that, also, that’s my rig, get out because you don’t. There’s people that are quite protective so it’s good to have people that are willing to just do whatever it takes and change break as well so it’s good. Okay, Steve. 

Steve: Hopefully I could just share my experience and give everyone a bit of a heads up on what to expect, probably not so much in sea state and winds and all that sort of thing on this trip but even just food and sleep and sea sickness and all the stuff that I’ve been through and done on these style races and more so that the unknown becomes the known. Like what I said to Shaya who was concerned about sea sickness said, I’m assuming I’ll actually get sick for the first day or two.

I almost embrace it this days, a way to lose five kilos in three days. I think it’s more of a mind game than anything else, that if you let it get you down and it can destroy it where as if you go, you feel great afterwards and it’s good for weight loss and you can make more after it and have a bit of a drink and then you’re fine. Even those sorts of experiences hopefully that can help everyone else because it can be terrifying thing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, the stuff that you really helped with on the start line was in and around that was excellent. The tin foil trays with the food, how good was that? They just popped dinner in the oven and heat it and come back to it 45 minutes later, not standing over a pot like we historically did.

Steve: All those sorts of things will really be tested when we actually have some rough conditions and then the next step from that is, “Well we’re not eating meals like tonight because it’s too rough. Anything that fits in your hand, that’s what we’re having for dinner. It can be an apple or it could be a quiche or something that fits in the palm of your hand, to protect that from the salty spray and then that’s what you eat. It’s sort of all those things that you’ve learned from having a soggy sandwich or a bowl full of food that has sea water in it. If that could save anyone then happy days.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You need to paint a better picture if you’re going to get Shaya to come down with this.

Steve: No, she’s got the drugs now, it’s all good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what about you Eli?

Eli: Changing sails, that’s probably the biggest contribution, just getting it up there and changing sails.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s a really big contribution, it was great, just give it 100% without doing that.

Ocean Gem Crew: I’d also add to that too. And there was good times to test even though the winds weren’t as high as what we probably expected or, we did have times we were like majorly overpowered and the boat was on the land and it had to do sail changes and all that sort of thing. Both Eli and Sean were up there on a big angle. It’s not so much, “I’m able change the sail but I’m willing to go up at night time when the boat’s on a massive heel and do it, flake the sail, hold on for dear life, do all that because not everyone can do that. So the sail change sort of thing is part of it but the balls to get up there and actually do it is a big part as well. That was a good part of the crew, had that same attitude, it was great.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: To put in context, it’s 75% of the race actually did have wind. It maybe 20% of the race, 50% of the race made lots of wind. Even though the cabinets kind of dominate our thoughts, we were moving 75% of the time. That’s a long 25%. Okay, cool. Shaya, what else do you want to share or comment on in terms of something else you want to share with us? 

Shaya: I guess I just wanted to say thanks for you didn’t, you guys didn’t really know me, I hadn’t done much sailing with you guys and just let me come on the boat and sort of embrace the whole photo side of things and shed your stories and yeah, just really appreciate it. So I guess just thank you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, you’re welcome, and you’re definitely the nicest journalist we’ve ever met.

Ocean Gem Crew: I’ve only met two.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh no. I’ve met a ew. So thanks for taking such an open minded view of the whole experience because you could easily write a story and say, “This sailing life sucks. You sit there going backwards and it’s boring.

Ocean Gem Crew: I’m pretty sure we thought she was going to do that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, Alex?

Alex: I just wanted to share that ocean sailing just being on the water is such a wonderful experience. I had sort of some preconceived ideas about what spending that amount of time on the water would be like but it was just such a positive experience, particularly the nights where we had those nights where it was just stars blazing from horizon to horizon and you can actually hear the slip stream of the water against the hull and no other sound, that was just fantastic. 

For me, one of the big highlights was just the camaraderie that amongst everybody that was sitting on the rail or in the cockpit on watch during those nights. It was just — look, thoroughly enjoyed it. Anybody that ever wants to take up ocean racing, I would highly recommend it to anybody because it’s a chance to get out in nature and something that is such a beautiful place but the same time, we’ve all got a little bit of competitive spirit. You can just sort of keep that going and be out in the wild blue yonder. It’s just fantastic. I just love it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great, thank you. What about you Rick?

Rick: Yeah, I think that everyone should try something like this just the experience of, as Alex’s saying, being out there. Whether it’s sailing in the bay or whatever but just sailing full stop I think is an experience that has to be done. I suppose I’m a bit bias that being brought up next to the water but the sailing is the first step and then the racing, so you’re mixing two things together, that’s recommended to anyone and everyone.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The irony with off shore racing. It’s actually quite relaxing, probably 75% of the time and probably difficult or terrified probably 25% of the time depending on how the weather goes. But it’s not as demanding as racing in Cairns, there’s lots of long periods of quite enjoyable increasing the moment and relaxing really. Okay, thank you. Steve.

Steve: A couple of things. I’d say that one comment is we’re saying all this and we’re saying the wind was bad and woe is me, but we’re actually very blessed to actually go out on a boat with a whole lot of money and sail the seas and see whales and dolphins and we had fun, there was no doubt we had fun. My sailing passion started when I was 12 years old and it came from a dream of my dad that when he had cancer when he was in his 30’s, he said, “If I survive this I’m going to buy a boat and learn to sail.” So he actually did that, he survived and bought a boat, only problem was he realised he didn’t know how to sail.

So that’s where I came into it and he enrolled me to a yacht club and it took off from age 12 onwards and I enjoyed racing and all that sort of thing. It’s something that you can’t just buy a car and go for a drive, you actually have to have the skills and it’s something that most people don’t take on at this stage in life, they got to live it from day to day. That’s probably the first thing that we’re very lucky doing this, there’s no doubt and the fact that Dave supplies the boat and food and fixes things up when we break it and all that sort of thing. 

The second part is, this was really our ideal warm up for the Sydney to Hobart. Spending all that time together. Learning crew watches, learning how to live on a boat, doing all the sail changes all that sort of thing. We’ll probably line up one of the least experienced boat on the line for the Sydney to Hobart this year but we’ve experienced the crew work and everything we need, we don’t have the Sydney to Hobart’s under the belt like some teams have but we know that we’ll stand by each other, we know we can do stuff in heavy times and we know we can get there and we know the boat can get there, that’s the other thing. It’s a well maintained boat. 

Put all that in as well as Dave’s passion for the sport and yeah, you only need to look at what he’s doing in the next two years. He’s either very passionate or close to being insane that there’s no doubt we will be in Hobart for New Year’s Eve this year and this is what we need. I’m sure a few days of heavy wind and all that sort of thing. We’ve had that in off shore race, we just haven’t had it for a long period of time. We’ll get there. It’s great prep for us.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s really good point for a preparation point of view because you can do a one day race and virtually no sleep and there’s nothing like a multi-day race where you have to have watch systems, you can’t have one person doing one job the whole time and all this things are getting tested, that’s a really good point. Okay, thank you. Eli.

Eli: The crew work was great and everyone had each other’s backs, you’d be tired or a bit down or get moody because it’s three in the morning, you’ve been awake all night and someone would have your back, send you to bed even when you wouldn’t send yourself to bed. So it was a great test of the crew and I think we will do really well, great skipper, great helmsman, everyone chipped in, everywhere, good test to the gear as well. I found some serious flaws in some of my gear, water proof gloves that aren’t really water proof, stuff like that you know? Yeah. That’s about it, just a good test and I think we did well and it was great, a lot of fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I agree, I mean in terms of just the fact that we great supportive group and had a sense of humour all the way through and even if one person was feeling a bit down six people and get the move back up, if we’ve got that kind of attitude and we were versatile cross trained and for me to try a thing and we supported each other and then anything’s possible really and that kind of group’s going to succeed more for the a lot, kind of succeed all the time, you can’t succeed if you don’t have a good supportive group that works well together and that we are lucky to be able to get out there and great piece of ocean and great climate and sail. 

So if you can have fun and do it with who you enjoy doing it with then that just makes it perfect experience. Okay, I’m going to roll the last two questions into one because just conscious of time. Just sailing with you Shaya, what do you think we need to prepare or pack or do differently or change for the Sydney to Hobart based on anything you might have observed that wasn’t quite as operating as smoothly as it could have or gaps and things that were lacking?

Shaya: No, I think maybe an extra day of food just in case you get stuck out there. That’s pretty much it. The team work was great, I don’t know much about equipment but nothing really failed on us. So it always seemed like pretty perfect on that point. That’s the only thing I can really think of.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, maybe waterproof camera for you for Sydney to Hobart.

Shaya: Yeah, that would be great. And a water proof notebook as well.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Especially if you’re having to file your [inaudible] before you get there.

Shaya: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, that won’t. It won’t be a slow race. Okay, cool. Thank you. Alex?

Alex: I thought it was quite funny when we’re thinking about if we’re going to be out here for another night, we’re going to be start running out of food and at one stage, we were talking about fish hooks and fishing lines and someone mentioned that, “Ah there’s fish hooks and lines in the life raft. So if we go hungry, we know we won’t have to break into the life raft and get the fish hook. I’d probably take a hair line and a fish hook in those quiet moments, bring a couple of coral trout or something on board.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay, cool. Rick, what will you do differently for Sydney Hobart?

Rick: I think we are working very well together as a team at the moment. There’s no doubt about that. We got on together, I suppose the Sydney to Hobart, and we just have to be prepared for that start up the harbour. Then the finish up to Darwin because that’s the next spot.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s just a repeat actually isn’t it? This about last leg of our race if you’re doing it wrong.

Rick: I’ve got a client that’s done the Sydney to Hobart five times now and he says stick to the right, that’s what he said but we’re not saying that out to everyone else.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s what he said. But we’re not saying that out to anybody else. Yeah, okay, cool, thanks Rick. What else have we got [inaudible] wise?

Rick: I think we’d probably got to make sure we don’t take everything on board from this light, long race into the Hobart, I go a bit crazy with food and because we are going to have heavy times. Food prep, use all the things we learned from this race but also have it designed so that we can sit on the rail for two and three days, eat three meals and all that sort of thing. 

Live routes for our weather. So if we can get live data off the satellite phone because after two days of forecasts that we found on this four day race that the weather changed and our original route was probably not exactly right. So we probably need to adjust that as we go to ensure we are in the right spot. Yeah, we will definitely get the same conditions at time and to be able to do it, that’s a frustratingly slow part of the race. But we’ve learned a lot from that too. Happy days.

Ocean Gem Crew: One other thing probably we do need to pack is a bigger kite because…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’m working on that, we should have it next week. Yeah, definitely sail more conditions that would even help. Okay. Eli?

Eli: I’ll probably re-waterproof my waterproof gloves just to make sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’re quite attached to those one. 

Eli: Yeah, I’m feeling a little dry and then they’re wet and then just horrible. Nothing really, a couple of small changes with the way we run lines on the bow the knots we use, we are going to need to get the spinnaker sheets and braces spliced or using other night because it can jam in the end of the spinnaker pole and when we try to jive, I can’t get the line to drop out. I’ve looked into it and I know there’s another knot we can use.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: We just spliced them.

Eli: I think we had two spots blowing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The two part. Yeah.

Eli: I think so because they’re all bounce now which I think. Anyway, the ones on the brace are definitely by one and they get jammed every time and that’s not working, we need to get them re-spliced or is there a few other knots you can use that are a bit larger which hopefully won’t jam in the end like the bow one does?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, let’s do that, because splice pull out?

Eli: No, not really, actually be stronger.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The spinnaker part, and straight away and it’s not a good thing right?

Eli: No, they should be stronger than a knot. So if they’re done properly, done on this. They’re probably a fair bit older than the average knot wind they blew out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, at least 12 months old.

Eli: Okay, that’s good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: In fact, one of them we lost overboard and one to be replaced it’s pretty sit them on top. Yeah, splices are all fresh this time.

Eli: Yeah, they shouldn’t be blowing out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. We picked up from the safety order. We’re going to add latches to our floor boards so when we’re upside down.

Eli: “When we’re upside down.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So we don’t fall on our heads. In case we’re upside down. Saloon beds, we have to put some nets up on the bed so we got 10 foot off this so when you’re sleeping on one, take it off and leave it on the table.

Eli: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Maybe a little lower table quite a bit of sort of storage area and then we’re going to put some stretching and hitting up on the fridge freezer. You can get nearly up on top and clip it on and all that stuff up the top doesn’t come flying off if we have a bit of a knockdown.

Ocean Gem Crew: The cradle for the life raft too.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh yeah, the cradle.

Ocean Gem Crew: A cradle for the Dan boy.

Eli: Yeah, rest in peace. The other thing was more area to hang up the crew gear.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: yes.

Eli: We sort of ran out of room and have the crew gear everywhere, we’re going to have an extra four people on board for the Hobart.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: We’ll have to reorganise that. Okay, has anybody got anything else they want to add before we wrap up?

Ocean Gem Crew: I think it was just a really good experience for everyone, everyone enjoyed it and we just like to say thank you David.

Eli: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Pleasure.

Ocean Gem Crew: How about we turn it back on Dave? What’s your highs and lows of the race and what did you get out of it?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Haven’t you noticed I’ve been dodging answers? The high points were definitely the starting a fleet of boats like that and getting off to a great start and staying out of trouble, which we said we were going to stay out of trouble. It’s along race. We didn’t have to get a great start. We got a great start, just the atmosphere was amazing at the club, seeing the history of the club of all these photos of all these racing at 9h45, that’s pretty cool. Yeah, I loved it.

I’ve done lots of sailing and it wasn’t racing with lack of wind and persistence pays off and I’ve done lots of racing where you don’t win because you win because the other guys gave up. You managed to just get yourself up the front of the fleet and before you know it, it’s running away. That was high. Just the whole crew, just the way we work together and gone on well and sort of the funny side of some of the most frustrating crazy setbacks that we had, that was really enjoyable.

In terms of low points, yeah, probably the only low point really and it wasn’t really a low point. It was just we sailed really well when we had plenty of breeze and saying when it started raining that there’s lighter boats we got to be moving away and they had the same challenges as us relative to the other competitors. Not really about testing ourselves but being able to say, “We started, we finished, and we had more than our fair share of reasonable breeze, to test ourselves. The moments where we did, we were climbing up the ladder and when the wind stopped we sort of received it gain.

Here’s what we need to get out of it. The boats in good shape, we had a great race, everyone worked together extremely well. At least we know now if you tweak a few things and then we’re in good shape on the next. It was excellent. The fact that it wasn’t easy was I thought was a good thing because otherwise if everything just goes easily and everything goes to plan, it’s easy not to look for what you can do better, it’s easy to gloss over some of the cracks but usually when things aren’t going well, the cracks show up. Especially with people and personalities. Especially when people get tired and frustrated and grumpy. I was quite impressed that we didn’t really have hardly any of that at all. Virtually none, which was just a reflection of everybody’s character and commitment to what we’re doing. So yeah, I thought it was great and the food was good, that helped a lot.

Ocean Gem Crew: It was unreal.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Good food at sea when you’re racing or cruising. Good food’s a highlight or a really big low light, so having good food was good. Shaya, anything else you want to add before we wrap up?

Shaya: No, that was all.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Thanks everybody, thanks for the race, thanks for coming out tonight for a couple of hours and having a chat, thanks for appearing on the Ocean Sailing Podcast, this will be the fastest kind of in the can to live, probably sometime [inaudible]. Looking forward to all the racing we’ve got ahead together over the coming months and I’m really excited about that.

Ocean Gem Crew: Bring on Sydney to Hobart.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thanks for all of you.

Ocean Gem Crew: Thank you.

Ocean Gem Crew: Thanks David.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, thanks Shaya, Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Shaya: Thank you. See you next time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: See you next time, we’re looking forward to that

Ocean Gem Crew: You’re roped in now.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Don’t worry, if we don’t hear from you, you’ll hear from us.

Shaya: Okay, sounds good, all right. Thank you, have a good night.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thank you, you too. Take care.

Ocean Gem Crew: See you.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Cool.

Ocean Gem Crew: Unreal.

Interviewer: David Hows


Episode 18: Elise Currey Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi Elise, it’s David Hows here, how are you doing?

Elise Currey: Good, how are you?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Good, I spoke to you last week but you were in the middle of moving into your temporary office.

Elise Currey: New office.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It wasn’t a good time. Is now a good time to catch up?

Elise Currey: Sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great. Thanks for agreeing to have a chat on the Ocean Sailing Podcast, I thought it would be a good opportunity to have a chat to you given so many of our listeners sail up and down the east coast and some of them do the Pittwater to Coffs race, and more recently some did the Coffs to Paradise race and I thought I’d have a chat given all the changes that have happened and all the setbacks you’ve have to deal with as a result of the storm about five or six weeks ago.

Elise Currey: Correct.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so I’ve kicked it in to gear recording wise, is there anything you want to ask me before we start? I’ve got a basic dozen questions but the idea is you can just chat about whatever you like really, and I’m sure that it will be really interesting for our listeners.

Elise Currey: Oh, I hope so.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’ll just kick off. So do you want to just explain what your role is at Coffs Harbour Marina and how long you’ve been there?

Elise Currey: I’m the marina manager, I’m the only full time employee. We have a maintenance manager and a casual admin assistance. I’ve been you’ve coming up to 10 years. Yeah, I started off as an admin assistant and I was the “last person standing” so to speak. Yeah, we’ve had lots of Ease Cost lows over the years and the marina has sustained damage. It really is an aging facilities, about 25 years old. This one in particular was, yeah, quite a different creature all together and we’ve faced a few challenges as a result.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so how many vessels, just explained for people listening from outside of Australia, how many vessels do you have normally berthed at the marina?

Elise Currey: The marina is at 145 berths and we usually are around 95% occupancy at anytime. Between 90-95. It’s a busy little spot. We have a lot of casuals that come and go, which is fantastic, you know, we’re half way between Sydney and Brisbane. It’s a very popular halfway point, you know? So yeah, we’re a busy little spot definitely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so do you want to go back to the storm that hit you around the sixth of June. Was that an extremely unusual storm in your experience, based on what you’ve seen previously with these types of East Coast lows?

Elise Currey: It’s wasn’t anything unseen really, I think the thing that made the big difference was just the amount of water with the height and the volume of water coming over that northern break wall. I mean the worst damage was to our actual boardwalk. So as the swell breaks, well you have the concrete hand bars that make up the face of the break walls and when all that starts to get dislodged and it starts to [inaudible] in the marina. So by all accounts, it’s pretty hard to tell, but it looks like one of those has knocked over the boardwalk. So the marina is disconnected from the boardwalk at few points.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Elise Currey: Which makes it difficult. So we faced a whole new set of challenges with access and getting equipment down there, getting services down there. But we’re getting there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. I saw a photo, which almost looked, with the marina and the break wall in the foreground and what looked like a 10 or 20 meter wave in the background. What sort of height swell of wave did you have to deal with?

Elise Currey: We have a wave forecast alert system that was [inaudible], directly 14 meter waves were reported.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Elise Currey: So yeah, that’s pretty impressive and we have a wave forecast alert system with wave riders that alert us with the data through all the different agencies here, which is [inaudible], water police data, water rescue data. RNS, and we all talk and as the waves increase, we get more or these alerts, which is what we send out to our clients saying, “It’s coming, brace yourself, get ready, get all the ducks in a row so to speak.” So that recorded 14 metres.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s huge, that really is huge.

Elise Currey: It’s really hard to describe and it’s hard to imagine. I mean it’s a beautiful day here today. I mean it’s a bit overcast and it’s freezing, but it’s a lovely calm, all the fishing boats are nosing around on the [inaudible], everyone’s going about their business, and it’s hard to forget just what it’s like. When those swells come over that break wall, everything shakes and you can hear it before you see it, you know? And then suddenly there’s just this black mass. To think that it knocked over our office.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s unreal because its right at the back of the marina, isn’t it? It’s sort of two thirds the way down. The water’s got to come a long way.

Elise Currey: Yeah, it’s usually used as the sort of base where everybody, you know, we keep all our ropes and chain and everything there so when we have a weather event, everybody knows that’s where we are and that’s where we operate from. And of course this time, all those sort of systems were tested and we had to relocate, and communicating with people when there’s 60 knot winds and horizontal [inaudible] and the water and the volume of it all, communicating with people to relocate dour space and all that sort of stuff. It was certainly a challenge.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well t’s certainly state emergency material when you’ve got that kind of stuff going on and I know they mentioned people ended up and trying to secure boats.

Elise Currey: Yeah, and it’s been an interesting conversation that we’ve had this in different agencies down here, because we all work hand in hand. I mean the marinas, say there’s 145 boats here and there’s us to start. We have to work really closely with [inaudible] and RMS and Marina Rescue to get things done in a situation like that.

We’ve all done it for so many years and we all just go through the motions. We all know what to do, and can’t do it. So it’s hard sometimes when you’re having these conversations with outside agencies that understand how that all operates and it can look chaotic, it can look disorganized but it’s not on any level. The amount of people that refuse to leave their vessels and the water police are evacuating. That’s just mind boggling.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. 

Elise Currey: Yeah. I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman from work safety and I said to him, “You know, a lot of people abandoning around this duty of care,” and I said, “I’ve always been taught that duty of care is assist yourself first because then you can then go on and help other people.” If you’re compromised then that just snowballs. You have a domino effect.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: And he says, “That’s exactly right.” So it’s been a really, you know where are the lines? Do you force people to leave vessels? Do you put yourself at risk to do that? Well no, of course you don’t. Yeah, it’s been really interesting actually, dissecting the whole situation post-storm.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So question for you, how high is the wall that has to hold back 14 meter waves?

Elise Currey: It’s not a height issue. Coincidentally, the Monday that the storm basis was the day that they were supposed to start work on the break wall, rebuilding the break wall. So that is actually all on the go now but, it’s the design issues, planning, and expanding hydraulics, putting together models and testing different models and we went down and were party to the whole process. 

It’s not a matter of height, it’s a matter of [inaudible] and design. So the break wall is twice as wide but it has a burns at the toe of the north facing access, which takes the energy out of the water, out of the wave. So that design is more, better than just throwing up a massive straight wall, it doesn’t work. So yeah, this new design will hopefully do the trick. I can’t wait.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well after what you’ve been through, I mean it’s the force of nature when you’re on the back foot where it’s just incredible, isn’t it?

Elise Currey: Yes, yes it is. It’s hard to impress upon people what it can be like, and how frightening. And you don’t realise it’s building and building and it’s incrementally getting worse and the people are sifting on, doing things that they really don’t need to doing and like the gentleman from work safety said, “I’ve never had to go in the coroners cooler for a sunken vessel.” You go there because somebody has died.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: And I said, “Yeah, yeah.” I said, “Boats can sink. You don’t want people sinking.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, exactly. Exactly. So at what stage did you realize that the marina was going to take quite a brunt from this? Were you left with just a short amount of time or was it inevitable that it was going to build to that and obviously you knew people had plenty of time to prepare? Like what was the sort of timeframes you were working with?

Elise Currey: It’s, on the Saturday, it was building but the whole storm arrived about 12 hours early. Maybe it was about nine hours early? So when I came into work on the Saturday morning, we had planned, we have storm gates here that we close and their closure is tipped by the forecast alert. So we were going to have a relatively normal day at work and the closure was going to happen, we were going to close those gates in the afternoon, before we left to go home. 

But of course I was woken up on Saturday morning, and it was already pear shaped. And it was almost too late for us to go up on the boat before it closed the gate, it was almost too dangerous. But we did and then it was just all hands on deck, and we have a lot of locals that volunteered to help out, water police was here at night, and they were trying to evacuate and that’s all you can do, is just get people out of harm’s way and hang on. Just rope things down and hand on. So it was the Saturday night when evacuations began.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Then in terms of the end result, what was the damage to pontoons or to vessels? Did you have vessels that actually sunk or did you have damage to vessels? What happened?

Elise Currey: We had a trimaran that was moored up next to the boardwalk. With any incoming weather, anybody who has vessels moored up against the boardwalk we will relocate, away from the break wall and that was one gentleman who thought he had the Saturday to come down and do it, and of course by the time he came down it was all too late. His vessel was a multi hull. So it had holes in two of the hulls but it was still afloat. 

A lot of vessels got scrapes and dings and all that sort of thing. There was one vessel on the southern break wall that just out of the blue on the very calm Monday, the weather was perfectly calm and I had a phone call saying a vessel in Siberia is looking a bit heavy in the bow, as I walked down the boardwalk to go and take a look, it just sank. Right in front of my eyes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh wow.

Elise Currey: It sank within, it must have been between my receiving the phone call and walking around there would have been 15 minutes, and it just went down so quickly. It’s getting [inaudible] tomorrow, so we’ll find out what that actually was. That was post storm. No idea what happened there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Slowly been filling up and then just reached an industry, it’s your tipping point.

Elise Currey: Yeah, yeah. So it’ll be interesting to see what happened to the hull and what’s going on underneath it, but yeah. But considering, we’ve been pretty lucky, very lucky.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that is very fortunate because some of the photos and some of the descriptions of the storm hitting the marina, I thought, “Gosh, there must have been half a dozen or dozen boats lost with this force of that water sweeping through there.” So you’ve done well for that not to be the case.

Elise Currey: Yeah, well there’s lots of running around and relocating vessels. We’ve still got a couple of vessels sitting up on the main wall, but they’re happy to stay there for the minute. Yeah, and the marina’s looks pretty bad because when those pontoons start disconnecting, they’re top heavy, they start to slip and they look pretty bad, but it’s very quickly to rectify that. So the marina is all completely straight and back in order. But it’s still disconnected if the boardwalk hadn’t been compromised, if the boardwalk was working, we’d be up and running. 

So essentially it’s just the boardwalk and most of the arms have got power and water back again. I take my hat off to the electricians, I called the guys out, now I have no idea how they get the power working. When it looks like the entire infrastructure has been destroyed, they’re like, “Ah now, we’ll just do this, that, and the other.” It just fascinates me. Yeah, it’s good to go here, but we need more people to leave so the contractors will be coming in the next week or so to rebuild and we still don’t who that is yet. The insurers are working that out. Yeah, so there will be a lot of changes in the next few weeks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and what’s the nature of what needs rebuilding and how long do you expect it to take?

Elise Currey: Whoever gets the contract, they have all estimated at the end of September. What’s written into our insurance is our obligations and what they will pay for is to repair and secure. So that’s what will happen. The issue of us having a brand new marina is that project is still reliant on the waiting for an outcome regarding our lease extension. Not our lease extension, sorry our new lease, which is the tenure has informally been agreed upon but we’re still waiting for that. The complete rebuild is a different project for what this is.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Elise Currey: Our obligation with our insurance and all of that. It’s a shame but we’ll still have a fantastic, relatively new facility. It’s just not going to be the end product that we want to do and what we have said we have committee ourselves to doing since 2006. So yeah, hopefully the need for a new marina will become more urgent having seen what can happen. So that’s what. We’ve been holding pattern waiting for the tenure on a low spirit. The importance is it’s completely rebuilt.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so this is the marina renewing the lease as the local council.

Elise Currey: Crown land

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Crown land, right. Just to give an idea, what sort of period of renewal do you have a lease like that? What is it, 50 year lease or hundred year lease? Or what sort of terms do you deal on?

Elise Currey: It will be a 50 year lease. A financial model won’t back up anything less than 50 years.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Not if you’re going to build something new, no.

Elise Currey: No, that’s exactly right. I was at a workshop that was run in Brisbane this week about fire safety systems and all that sort of thing. All the marinas that were there are inland marinas on rivers and they have their own set of challenges with flooding and all that. We don’t have issues with flooding, we have issues with between tides and over toping and all that. It’s very interesting to talking to them about how they manage themselves. It’s a completely different creatures and you forget sometimes but where we are, right on the ocean, it gets pretty hairy at times as we’ve seen. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: Yeah, marina that are in rivers and stuff don’t have that, but the surge and just that sense that you are right there, on the ocean.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s the Tasman Sea, right? Big systems can come from hundreds of miles away in the sea. The sea state can be quite large by the time it gets to you, as you know better than I do. It’s not, like you say, it’s not just the height, it’s the sheer force of what’s behind that. The depth of it.

Elise Currey: Yeah and strangely enough, this east coast low was relatively short in duration. We’ve had three-four days and we’ve slept. Asked if we slept in the office? Yeah, and had extra things, the 24 hours three-four days in a row. It was quite interesting. There was no chance in the beginning that you could have [inaudible] in that office.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it was spread, it was as high as kind of central Queensland as low as Tasmania. It covered thousands of kilometres at storm, didn’t it? I mean it was a big storm and we had, I’m in the Gold Coast in Queensland and we had a huge amount of rain in the space of eight or 10 hours.

Elise Currey: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then the sun came out a day later and you wouldn’t have known there’s been a storm, it came and went that quickly, it was unreal.

Elise Currey: That’s like the Monday here. I’m standing there, and you’re just looking at this total devastation in front of you and it’s a beautiful sunny day. It was that sort of weather. It was really quite surreal yeah, and it was funny because that storm was so widespread, normally people that would ring me and say, “Hey darling, how’s it all going there?” Weren’t, because they were all busy too.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: That was a sure indicator that it was not good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and has it had any effect on the commercial boats that are based there in terms of their ability to carry on going out fishing and stuff like that? Is it just business as usual for them?

Elise Currey: Yeah, yeah. Well the fisherman’s [inaudible], there was only one vessel that had some issues with the mooring. But they were all still up and running and that. Commercial guys were up and running within a couple of days. So all that has been unaffected. There was only one commercial vessel damaged, so he’s getting repaired. But the [inaudible] fishing and all that stuff, is still on and was.

The arm that they were on was one that was relatively unaffected. We managed to get them all up and running. It was all about making access to those vessels secure and safe for general public, so that was our priority from pretty much from day one for those guys and yeah, for any people that were staying on their vessels, getting them sorted.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Elise Currey: The commercial side is okay. They’re all okay.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And they’re got big tough steel boats too so they probably stand out for a little bit. A little bit better than the fibreglass boats.

Elise Currey: Well the club was quite protected because they’re sort of around the corner a little bit so to speak. Yeah, they were okay. We actually had some commercial vessels that relocating like the fishing commercial vessels were relocated into the marina because of the works that are happening at the slipway.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Elise Currey: As the storm sort of intensified they just went, “Stop this,” and went back to their regular berths that they were in in the [inaudible]. And so they all go, “No, this is too hairy for us,” which was good because the less vessels the better.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and with your new marina plans, sorry to just sort of jump sideways, but your new marina plans, when they come to fruition, does that mean an increase in berth numbers? Does that mean a change to the layout of the marina, does it mean there’s any other new commercial or retail spaces being created? Like what’s the sort of big picture?

Elise Currey: We would like to, we have a commercial block here. It has 10 tenancies in it. Restaurants and [inaudible] and all that sort of stuff. We would love to redo that building. There are plans for that, sort of loose plans. Their priority is the marina because of the age of the facility. It will be pretty much similar berths. Because of the shape of the inner harbour, we’re really restricted with what we can do. So the water ways will be increased. They will be wider. 

So the whole marine will move westwards a bit, and we’ll get rid of the moorings that are on the southern break wall and extend the arms a bit. It will be more user friendly for the modern style of boats, you’ve got multihulls, you got a lot of people living on big cruisers like Flemings and travelling around on big vessels like that. This marina, things like access to power. The needs that modern boats have are completely different to what they were when this marina was build. So just tweaking all those sorts of utilities and the design of the actual fingers and arms is, it’s not going to be anything out of the bag but it’s going to be more user friendly for the modern boat user.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. And there’s no plans to move the yacht club any closer to the marina so we don’t have to walk so far?

Elise Currey: Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It would be. 

Elise Currey: My argument has always been, I think they should but the yacht club where the slipway is, and incorporate the slipway into the yacht club to you’ve got them all as one unit and have it all at one. So you have a yacht club that’s actually on the water and closer to the marina. But yeah, interesting. We need someone that’s clever to come up with a plan and with lots of money to do it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, that’s right, that’s like they say, you have got some restrictions graphically with how it’s laid out and with the break waters and stuff. So I guess it’s the cost equation is one of these things. It’s nothing’s, especially when it comes to marinas, nothing is easy or cheap to build that’s for sure. Okay.

So the Pittwater to Coffs race is run I think for 35 years now and then Southport Yacht Club resurrected the Coffs to Paradise race in January this year, which I competed in as well which is a lot of fun. So I got to experience your marina for the first time in January. It’s a great stop off place for sure, on the way north or south. 

So those races are now bypassing Coffs in January next year, is that out of concerns that you have about being really being sure you can be back to where you need to be? Is that sort of the primary driver? 

Elise Currey: Well most definitely by January. Yeah, most definitely by January. End of September is our start up date.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: To be up and running again. Yeah, I’m not too sure why that has happens but yeah, it’s a shame to end the whole relationship on a race like last year where there was loss of life and loss of vessels and all of that. Yeah, very sad.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and that, just to clarify, that in those two vessels that were leaving Coffs and returning to Sydney in quite nasty weather.

Elise Currey: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay, so then you expect that those races will just resume in 2018 as per normal and you’ll be able to pick up where you left of? 

Elise Currey: Oh, I’m not sure. That’s a decision for the yacht club to make.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Elise Currey: I know they are looking at options for this year. We’ve found another club, so whether they forge a whole new series.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Temporarily for January this year, the Pittwater to Coffs and Coffs to Paradise, the Gold Coast races, have essentially been combined and just made a Pittwater to paradise, twice as long single race because obviously Coffs is the ideal starting point but with that not available, there’s no other now the ideal point. So that’s what they’ve got planned for January as a couple of weeks ago.

So I guess in terms of being able to plan, logistics and crews and accommodations, sponsors and all that stuff, I guess they have to put a stake in the ground if they’re unsure of anything around this, I guess for whatever reason they’ve done that.

Elise Currey: I’m not sure. Our commodores had all those conversations with our [inaudible], so yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just means you have a few extra available berths for other visiting boats at that time of the year.

Elise Currey: It’s just such a nice change in the year and everything just goes perfect. There’s nothing better, I just love it when there’s, you know, you got boats on sky hooks almost. It’s so much fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. It creates a real festive atmosphere?

Elise Currey: Yeah, yeah. When I first started working here, that was close to a hundred yachts coming. It was massive. We had boats tied down all along all the walls along the boardwalk. But now it gets, the numbers are so huge, you're fitting into all the berths and you don't quite get that abundance you know? There’s people and boats and festivities, it’s almost like it’s just a busy day. But we’d love to get back to all the chaos.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Do you know, have you got any ideas to why the numbers have declined? Because it’s a shame that they have.

Elise Currey: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not okay with all the racing regulations. I would assume that we’re only getting nearer to being part of lots of races. A lot of the boats we get here, their average size is 12 meters and I would assume that those sorts of mom and dad teams and all that sort of stuff. I guess it gets to a point where you’re thinking, “Jeez, is it Christmas time?” All that, having to fork out and prepare for all those sorts of things, those expenses. But I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ve sort of, the two clubs sort of knock everything out but the feedback I get is, generally comes down to expense.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think you’re right. I spoke to a guy last week who does marine training all over the country, Jerry Geraldson and he said there’s been a decline over the last 20 years and partly it’s the rising safety standards and then the cost of compliance with those. It’s a big time cost and big financial cost, so the bar gets higher and higher and the average cruising boat doesn’t comply with all those extra regulations now. That does start to rule, some of those people out, that’s for sure.

Elise Currey: Yeah, you could imagine that kind of our twilight sailors here, they have to be a certain category and affording all that stuff it just takes years.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s one thing to buy it, it’s another thing to keep it all certified each year and inspected and checked, and it’s not just a one off cost for these things unfortunately.

Elise Currey: No, no, no. It’s an annual thing. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to say, did you get some good photos or video footage of what was happening in the middle of all that chaos with those big 14 meter surges?

Elise Currey: I’ve got a couple of shots, there’s one of the office being sort of enveloped in a massive surge. It’s a great little full frame shot and there’s one that is a great shot of the swell. Somebody must have taken it from the hill up high in the marina rescue, looking down at the harbour and you can see the swell coming up behind the break wall and you’re looking at it, and you sort of see, “Ah it’s a cloud. Oh no, no, that’s water.” Then when you look into the foreground to the boats and the boats are so tiny, and it takes you a few seconds to actually absorb what you’re looking at, and you go, “Oh, dear lord, that’s not good.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like looking at the movie clip and with special effects and thinking, “This isn’t real, it can’t be real.”

Elise Currey: “That can’t be right. They’ve done something to that.” But the other one is a gentleman whose a coastal engineer for [inaudible] and he’s got this new drone, and he took a heap of aerial shots post the storm, looking down at everything, and that is just amazing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. So what I’ll do with the podcast interview, I get it typed up as well and posted dedicated podcast show notes page on the Oceansailingpodcast.com website. So what I’ll do is I’ll email you a drop box link if that’s okay, and any photos or videos you have to share, I’ll post those because people who listen to this think, “Well that’s really fascinating, it would be amazing to see it.” And then the fact that they can see that by photo or video.

Elise Currey: They can see it. Yeah for sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, they love it.

Elise Currey: There’s actually a woman who is a photographer in the marina and she took a heap of photos. So I can talk to her first. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well as many as you’ve got will be fantastic because what we’ve, you know, with some of our episodes we’ve published even 50 or 60 photos to go with the story and the interview. So we’ve had thousands of views of the pages. So people really get to see and feel. And if you haven’t been to Coffs before, it will give them a, obviously a good appreciation of the lay of the land and how open it is to the coastline there as well.

Elise Currey: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that will be good. I guess a couple of final questions. I guess, in these types of situations, as tough as it is, it always seems to bring out the best in people and particularly community spirit and people working together and I guess what are some of the memories or example you have of that, of just people mucking in and working together to make the best of the situation?

Elise Currey: We have always had a great community down here that just gets the job done. You know, people who are getting their own boats in the water, we’ve got a local guy who uses the marina on a casual basis for his fishing boat, he’s president of the fishing club, a he just got the yacht club [inaudible] in the water and just, I think he’s had three days off. He just goes. He just keeps going and helping to get the marina back in order and we’ve got other people that through the night are just, they just don’t stop. They just do not stop doing things and they just become, you all just become one team. 

It’s like I say, I’m the only full time staff member, but I fee like I’ve got this whole crew of people that I think it’s really quiet unique. I’ve never worked in an environment like it where everybody feels a sense of ownership for the marina and works accordingly and it’s non-stop. People turning up and giving us gifts. We’ve been getting cases of wine, people ringing us saying, “Are you okay?” Not only do they care about the marina and what’s happening down here, I think our shed, we had a fridge, a bar fridge that we had to close our temporary office, that was full with bottles of champagne and everything. 

The guy had just been giving gifts, constantly and it’s just the spirit down here is really quite remarkable and it’s something that we’re just everyday blown away by what people will do and the lengths they go to fix and offer, and local businesses as well. Plus, I’ve had guys like The Boat Shed up in Brisbane, Gold Coast Marine, they’re all ringing and saying, “What do you need? We’ll be down there. We’ll bring boats, we’ll bring men, whatever you need.” So I say, “Ah, thanks,” you know? It’s a really nice environment to be part of and to see that people can be really nice. They can be pretty ordinary as well, but we’re lucky here.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s pretty special and it’s quite amazing. Instead of people saying, “When you going to fix it, and what about me?” When they say, “Are you okay and how can we help?” It’s just such a different environment to live in and work in. It’s so much more typical of smaller regional locations as opposed to the cities that we live in, where nobody even talks to their neighbours sometimes. So it’s something special to be valued, that’s for sure. Coffs Barbour, is a magic stopping off point for cruising sailors and for racing sailors. So it’s nice to hear you’ve got people contributing like that to help you get back on your feet and get back to full working order as soon as possible.

Elise Currey: Oh absolutely. People say to me, when you sort of run through what it was like in the storm and everything, and I’ll say, “You know, the one thing,” because we’ve been doing a lot of talking about procedures and manuals and all that sort of thing and what we can do better, why weren’t some people informed? Maybe they don’t get emails, they’re not email readers. Maybe people don’t open their mail and doing different ways of communicating with that different, that really diverse demographic we have here.

But this human elements post storm, people are in shock and dealing with that, and I had a woman from my RMS yesterday asking me that what it was like, and I said, “Well the reality of the situation is it’s nothing that comes in a manual or a “how to” book, and having to manage people, people in distress, has been a really steep learning curve.” But the thing, the events down here, and this is what I say, “My job’s all about births, deaths, and marriages.” We’ve been through everything with everyone down here and it has been all of those things, and it’s almost like, you hate to say it but it’s just like we’re one big family and that’s how people operate, which is fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and in times like this, it’s worth it tenfold isn’t it? When you’ve got people working together like that, instead of like you say, sometimes it brings out people who don’t work well together anyway, it usually brings out the worst in them as opposed to the best in them. So it’s nice when you’ve got that tight knit community foundation. So that’s really, really good. Other than making sure that our cruising and racing sailors continue to visit your marina and sort of keep occupancy levels up, is there anything else that our listeners can do to help in any way?

Elise Currey: Oh no, but definitely keep in touch. Because our timelines might change if you’re coming up and down the coast. Our website will have information, we’ll have updates. Don’t hesitate to ring. If you’re driving past, by all means pop in. Happy to show you what’s happened. Yeah, just keep in touch and everybody that rings up and wants to come in hasn’t realized that we’re not actually open, the first thing I say to them is just, “Don’t feel like you’re harassing us, just keep ringing, keep in touch, look at the website,” because, you know, things might happen a lot more quickly than what they’ve anticipated. We’ll be up and running sooner rather than later. So that’s the best way you can help is to get people coming back.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Okay, so officially right now, other than people you’ve already got on berths, you are now taking new bookings, locations at the moment? So that September timeframe somewhere there, really that’s the likely earliest stage once that’s completed that you’ll be able to start doing that? Is it at the end of that process?

Elise Currey: Yes. Absolutely. They give me those time frames and they’re sort of taking into that you might have a couple of weeks of bad weather. That’s worst case scenario. So potentially, we could be earlier than that. So I keep saying to everybody, “Keep in touch, happy to chat, happy to have you pop in the office, chat about what’s happening.” You know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and they can continue to just visit the Coffs Harbour Marina website as well for updates.

Elise Currey: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, hopefully we’ll be up and running.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s fantastic Elise. Is there anything else you want to share at all before we wrap up, anything else you wanted to tell me about?

Elise Currey: No, I don’t think so. I think that covers it. If I think of anything I’ll respond in an email.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Well that’s great. I really appreciate that you took 45 minutes out of your busy schedule to have a chat and we’ve got thousands of listeners across Australia and across the world now. So this will be online in the next couple of weeks and I’ll follow you up with an email and some details of how to drop some stuff into Dropbox folder. Because it would be great to be able to share those photos and any videos or anything else you have there, that would be fantastic.

Elise Currey: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: All the best with the great job you’re doing, rallying your volunteer army and getting the marina back in its feet.

Elise Currey: Yeah, no it’s a challenge and it’s a fun one though. It’s better than being stuck in an office somewhere.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, like they say with these things, they’re character building, but you wouldn’t want to do it every year once you’ve got enough character, enough is enough right?

Elise Currey: Yeah, no we’ve ticked that box. We can move onto something else exciting.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, absolutely. Okay well that’s great. Thanks for appearing on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and take care and I’ll drop you a note in the next day or so and then I’ll send you the details when the podcast goes online and the link to the webpage as well so you can check all that out, and we’ll link to your marina as well so our listeners can link straight to your website for updates and stuff too.

Elise Currey: Lovely, thank you so much.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great. Thanks Elise, have a great day.

Elise Currey: Bye.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Bye now.

Elise Currey: You too. 

Interviewer: David Hows


Episode 17: Gerry Fitzgerald Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So this week we are with Gerry Fitzgerald and we are going to spend this episode talking about marine safety training and we’re going to drill into Gerry’s background, a lifetime of maritime experience and life involved in all things related to the ocean. So Gerry welcome along to this week’s episode of the Ocean Sailing Podcast. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Thank you, good to be here. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thanks for agreeing to have a chat. My personal experience is I went through a number of your training courses two and a half years ago and I found it fascinating but as 45 a year old student, what I found even more fascinating was many of the stories that you shared with us in terms of your personal experience in life and on the ocean and some of your adventures and it made it easy to learn and it made it really fascinating. 

I could have spent those training courses just listening to your life stories to be honest and not the course material if I had a choice. So take me back to when your life and the ocean kind of converged, and how did you get the maritime bug in your blood? 

18 foot skiffs in action on Sydney Habour

Gerry Fitzgerald: I guess my father, growing up in Brisbane, near the Brisbane river inspired me to a large extent. He sailed 18 foot skiffs on the river prior to the war and then a colleague of mine came by an old sailing boat under a house somewhere. He lived at Norman Park, the river was very handy to him. We got some tar and tied up the hulls and worked out how to stand up the mast and away we went. I guess my father and my future brother in law were inspiring in that sense, in that they got me onto the water. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and where did things lead to from there?

Gerry Fitzgerald: From there, I was a frequent Gold Coaster and that Kirra for many years, Kirra Beach. They were sailing off the beach, catamarans developed by Lindsey Cunningham and the quick cats were able to surf the surf prior to Mr. Hobie Alter coming on the scene and away we went. So I saved up some money and bought myself a quick cat, sailed it around a number of prices up and down the Queensland coast, in fact offshore, and then got into tornado catamarans as an Olympic class. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: And there was a tornado fleet based at Kirra Beach, five or six tornado catamarans and away we went, we raced off Kirra. Ultimately as life progressed, I stuck with the tornado class and competed in regattas internationally and nationally and also at the state level. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and did you have a day job? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, I had a day job. I had a day job which morphed into working for Carlton & United Breweries and working for Carlton got me traveling a fair bit and I ended up being transferred to Cairns back in the late 60’s at the Cairns Brewery and I introduced tornado catamarans to Cairns and got involved in the administration of yachting up in that neck of the woods. So I really enjoyed developing a fleet up there as well. So we had — well I think we might have had 15 tornado class catamarans sailing off the beach at Ellis Beach up in Cairns over a period of time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a pretty respectable size fleet too, that’s a good size fleet. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Indeed and it was at the end of the world regardless, regardless of the fact that I had a brewery there and a damn good one too. We campaigned from Cairns and we travelled to Perth, towing our boats behind us for regattas over there. Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney of course and here in Brisbane. But unfortunately my skills didn’t developed as they needed to in the tornado class. There were damn fine sight. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you weren’t Olympic material then? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: I certainly wasn’t Olympic material, but I was a willing participant and got to meet a lot of good guys. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great. So how did things sort of evolve to the point where you made a living out of being on the water? 

Queenslands Kirra Beach

Gerry Fitzgerald: I got involved in offshore multihull racing in the 70’s. So racing 40 foot, 60 foot trimaran and catamarans. Invitations came from various boat owners and back in the 70’s, offshore multihull sailing was really highly developed and highly refined. The multihulls were more highly developed in terms of design and enthusiasm for offshore multihull racing fostered mainly by the Multihull Yacht Club of Queensland but also other multihull fleets in Sydney led to regular races between Sydney and Mooloolaba. These were conducted annually. Brisbane to Gladstone of course. Gladstone to Cairns multihull races were regularly conducted and attracted a lot of media attention mainly because of the fact that they were breaking records. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The need for speed. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: The need for speed, that’s exactly as it was. We were on the edge of development in terms of design, wing mast, rotating masts, foils were all experimented with. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow as far back then? That’s pretty amazing. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: As far back then, yeah. But for a whole range of reasons, growth in the offshore multi hull fleet declined as technology caught up with monohulls and monohulls of course are a lot cheaper to build and maintain. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Easier to sail for a lot of people. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: For a lot of people, it’s much easier to sail, yeah and they didn’t have the risk. So I guess then, I had a day job in the 70’s, which was in the liquor industry. I invested in a couple of pubs, which provided me with the resources to spend more time sailing. I got into monohull racing back in the early 80’s doing Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races and so forth and then I realised that I needed some commercial qualifications if I was going to get into maritime on a full time bases. 

So I went along to TAFE and did a master class five, then went to work in a maritime industry driving 24 metre vessels, both power driven vessels and sailing vessels. This led me into a career that took me into a lot of places as a paid employee, driving boats from the equator all the way down to Antarctica. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Rediscovering Mawson's Hut in Antartica after it was close up in 1913. Photo: Reuters

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah so I got an opportunity to become first mate on a sailing boat going to Mawson’s Hut. A 16 metre aluminium sailing boat, which has been designed by Ben Lexcen who was an around the world single handed racer and it was converted into an expedition vessel and off we sailed south of Hobart, 1800 miles down to Antarctica. It was relatively easy to do back in the 90’s because the regulators weren’t overly concerned about the adventurous types. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: They just let you go, right? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, they just let me go. Or let us go, more correctly. We spent months down there doing various jobs opening up Mawson’s Hut. Mawson’s Hut was fascinating, a time warp from 1913 and exactly, it had a lot of ice inside but it was as it was when it was abandoned when Mawson came back to Australia. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I don’t know the background of Mawson’s Hut but what led to it being closed, and what led to it being reopened? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Okay, well it was built by Mawson to study the location of the south magnetic pole. So a number of scientists went down there, they set up a research base in 1913 and Mawson led the expedition. He also did some inland exploration, which was very high risk in those days and subsequently after a period of time when the research was completed, Mawson came back to Australia and consequently, the South Pole was conquered. 

Mawson had worked out the mathematics of the movement of the South Magnetic Pole, which is where your compass needle points, and the hut was abandoned. It was intermittently used over a long period of time and if anyone ever gets a chance to go to Hobart, then the Mawson Hut has been recreated in Hobart and it is really fascinating. Of course, people travelled in those days under sail as what he did and it was a pretty adventurous trip. 

Subsequently, the Government of Australia has restricted individuals from heading down there because of possible danger to the ecology and of course people. If you go to Mawson’s Hut you want to go inside. It’s secured, it’s well locked, we had permission to go in and do various things. It’s fascinating to say the least. 

Mawson’s Huts expedition conservator Peter Maxwell stands in the workshop section of Mawson’s Hut. Photo: Reuters

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And the research that he did is that still serviced today in terms of compass variation calculations? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, absolutely. Of course all basic recreational navigator understand variation and the adjustment that has to be made to bearings, to use the charts that we have been using for a long time, paper charts. So “variation” as the name suggests, just is adjusted in an annual basis on the charts that have been printed and the movement is well-known now and we all make our annual adjustments to paper charts. 

Many of us have moved away from paper charts and we’ve gone into electronica where it would be fair to say that most of the thinking done for us in relation of the mathematics of navigation. Flinders of course had a lot to do with discovering deviation and deviation is caused by the magnetic field on board the ships was sailing on them. Flinders noticed that when nails came into use to build ships, the metal in the nails were affecting the ship’s compass. 

So there had to be another adjustment made for navigational purposes and these days, deviation on board a vessels, we are sailing on is addressed by having a deviation charted prepared by a licensed compass adjustor and the licensed compass adjustor’s prepare a deviation chart for us and they give it to the owner of the boat and he applies the deviation if he is using the ship’s compass for navigation. But these days with electronica, things don’t require as much as in depth understanding as to what’s happening on the boat we’re sailing on. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to ask you about that and one of my questions or comments is the complacency that GPS creates and there’s a whole group of sailors now sailing keel boats that have never actually done anything but tune on a chart plotter and recreational parks are always taught to look for potential landing strips whenever they’re flying along in case of engine failure but I don’t think sailors, you know, some sailors would quickly be in trouble if they lost their electronics or their engine and are you seeing a decline in seamanship skills and with what technology is helping to provide or solve for us? 

Australian geologist and Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson (1882 – 1958) Photo: Getty

Gerry Fitzgerald: I am seeing a massive dependency on electronica to navigate your way either up the coast, up the river or across the bay as the case might be and this is a dangerous dependency. We all know people who wouldn’t get out of bed every morning unless their app told them that it was Tuesday at 9 o’clock or whatever and these days, there are so many apps that give us a false sense of security. 

The replacement of electronic charts, from paper chart to electronic charts, is almost universal and people have got their whole life on their tablet in front of them and if they become dependent on it and power goes down or the tablet goes off or went overboard or whatever or the driver of the tablet is not able to drive the tablet, then the vessel is going to be left figuratively rudderless so to speak and we’re seeing lots of electronically induced accidents occurring. 

So if one has got navigation — can buy a navigation app, install it on their laptop computer, connect it up to the fluxgate compass, then we become totally dependent upon that particular method of navigation. We are seeing accidents occurring where mariners are following the electronic chart, turning on the auto pilot and then watching a movie or reading a book and we’re having a faster boat sailing up behind a slower boat because they’re on exactly the same electronic track. 

So there are lots and lots of those accidents occurring. The East Coast of America comes immediately to mind, a high traffic area. I haven’t come across those sorts of accidents occurring on the east coast of Australia at this time but what I certainly have noticed is an absolute dependence on electronic navigation and there are some terrific, absolutely terrific innovations and one of the major innovations, in fact the greatest electronic innovation in my lifetime has been the introduction of AIS. 

Many people are buying AIS now to alert them to the fact that there is a vessel in close proximity. An AIS provides a range in bearing to that particular target. An AIS can provide closest point of approach, time of closest point of approach. In fact can provide the identification of the vessel and this has been enormously helpful to the recreational boating community. Pardon my cough. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s okay, I had it last week and just so folks know a little bit of background noise, we’re at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. We are sitting outside on the grass around the back of the training building, sort of in the sun but as a result, there’s the odd vehicles, and the odd sailor, and the odd bird in the garden, so there’s a little bit of a background noise. 

So I was going to ask you about AIS because I mean on one hand if you’re going offshore as a sailor, it gives you a lot of confidence that 60 minutes out you start to see on the AIS that the heading, speed and closest point of approach and time with AIS, as opposed to you’re out there and it’s dark and there’s five metre waves and suddenly a ship appears out of the darkness and that whole risk of being run down. 

But I also read recently that there’s a view that AIS should become more mainstream and more wide spread for recreational mariners, but a commercial ship captain said, “Well if there ends up being that much out there, I’m just going to filter out the smaller boats because I can’t handle the clutter on my screen and I’m more interested in the big ships and they’re just going to have to watch out for me, I’m not going to watch out for them.” 

Example of how AIS occurrs

Gerry Fitzgerald: That is correct, vessels over — commercial vessels from 12 metres up to 24 metres in certain areas of operation must be fitted with AIS and of course, all big ships are fitted with AIS mandatorily under the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. What you said is absolutely correct. Small boats fitted with AIS can filter out a whole range of information if they choose to but there’s very few cruising sailors who have installed AIS that don’t fully utilise AIS as a tool. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a great tool. I found it fantastic. I think you just can’t take the assumption that just because people can see you as well that you can assume that they’re going to look out for you and stay out of your way. You’ve still got to use it as a lookout tool and take responsibility. I think thats the lesson with AIS. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely, we find that in our radar courses where small boats fitted with radar just don’t appreciate the difficulty of interpreting the radar signal. Small boats fitted with radar don’t understand their legal obligations if they’ve got radar on board their vessel. The obligations under the International Regulation for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea and very few small boat sailors who have spent the money on radar appreciate that they have to know what action they should take under rule 19. 

If they detect by radar alone the presence of another vessel, there are certain things they can do, certain things they must not do and they will be held to account for the result of anything that occurs where they’re using radar alone to detect the presence of another vessel. Now the good thing about AIS is, A, it’s about one sixth of the price, B, it requires no knowledge of the cull rigs, C, proximity alarm sound, D, the identity of the vessel that’s it’s a threat is clearly displayed on the AIS system. 

So it is a major, major step forward for recreational sailors and I commend it and I say, “Small boat sailors forget radar, start with AIS.” If you’re going to put a radar, then you need to understand what your legal obligations are and its limitations more importantly. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I’ve got radar and I’ve got AIS and I’ve had my sailmaker tried talking me into taking my radar off and saying, “If you’re racing, you shouldn’t have radar. It gets in the way,” and I’m adamant I need to keep it because sometimes we’re out on the broad-water at night and the radar is fantastic when you’re motoring along and you know full well that there may be boats in the channel, boats without lights on. 

Radar’s a great tool but also, I’ve had instances with my chart plotter where my GPS location is 20 metres left of a channel marker but in reality, I am 20 metres to the right and so I have also learned that with GPS, and it’s not the norm but at times it can be 20, 30, 50 metres out and again your radar with indexing where you are in relation to the land around you and overlaying that on every chart, it gives you a lot of confidence at night too. So I’m a bit of a fan of both and I found them both in different ways give you some great tools at night. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Indeed. So AIS is not fitted to islands or reefs but it can be fitted and indeed, it can be fitted to navigational marks to provide a greater degree of accuracy for night time navigation, indeed in daytime navigation but AIS will tell you who’s out there particularly commercial vessels, larger vessels. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which you really want to know when you’re a small boat. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Well you do want to know, particularly if you’re going into places like Gladstone, particularly Mackay, Townsville, Cairns. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And just anywhere of east coast of Australia if you’re out there. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Where there’s high traffic. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s the five to 20 mile zone. It’s like a motorway sometimes. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Indeed it is. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and I did your one day radar training course, which I found — and I already had my radar for two years but I found that once I learned how to use it properly, it just changed how I use it, but also I started to understand why some of the things I was seeing that didn’t make sense, did make sense and it was a sea clutter and some of the things too. I found that really useful. So take me back to some of your other adventures? From memory, I recollect that you’ve done some contract away for the place and for the Australian Navy. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, during the Solomon Islands Insurrection, I was working on a 500 tonner as the master of a ship that did a whole range of things around the Solomon Islands. It was carrying copper, it was running steel out of Bougainville out of the old copper mine workings, salvaging steel and so forth and so I developed a pretty good understanding of how the Solomon Islands-Bougainville area worked. 

I happen to be in Honiara one night when I noticed some Australian naval activity, a little more than normal. All Australians were called to the high commission where we were briefed on the fact that the Australian government was going to undertake an operation where the military and the Australian Federal Police were going to restore law and order. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right by stealth. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Law and order — no, just by the sheer force, the presence of the Australian Army in uniform. When the Australian Federal Police arrived, they had some immediate priorities obviously but because the Solomon Islands is so diverse in terms of its population spread through various islands, they realised they needed boats to travel around and to locate and to transfer troops and so forth, to various areas. 

So the company that I was working for was employed to provide a police boat service and are also employed to provide a service running troops and equipment to various locations within the Solomon Islands. I had qualifications that would allow me to operate vessels of a certain size. The Navy were unable to operate in certain areas in peace time. Solomon’s being in peace time so they employed civilian contractors. 

So I was the first Australian Federal Police boat driver. We charted a 23 metre vessel and put it to work as a police boat. So I worked under Ben McDevitt who was an Australian Federal Police officer in charge of the operation. So we ran the police around the places where the police had to go then. We ran troops on that boat, armed troops into places where there were problems. Dropped them on the shore at nighttime and they did what the military and the police do in these circumstances. So I had a very interesting, to say the least, range of work over a period of a number of years, in the first three years of the Solomon Islands Insurrection. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Did you faced any hostile situations or risk type situations? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Plenty, yeah. We faced a number of operations where in the early days, the rascals boarded our boat and tried to hold us up. That’s before it became a police operation. We had just to deal with that as best as you can. It varied by circumstance, for instance one night we had three guys board the vessel with an attempt to rob the safe and steal food and do various other things. 

We had basic security protocols in place onboard the ship and consequently, we knew they were on board and then we harassed them into a corner and overcame the problem and lots of other similar circumstances. We had people from a particularly island group board the ship we’re on, The Neptune Gail, and we were there to drop supplies off to them, a hundred or so people came on board and they had a sit in, they weren’t going to leave the boat. Now very difficult for us, unarmed, to deal with that problem but I was told by my employer not to come back with anybody other than the 30 employees on the boat. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So the headcount was a hundred more men. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah so we had to deal with that over for a protracted period of time and that was all about negotiation. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right and did they get hungry eventually and go on their way? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: They got pretty hungry eventually, but we dealt with the problem through negotiation and it was pretty challenging. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It sounds like it’s pretty challenging and wide ranging kind of work. I mean did you find that satisfying? Did you find it difficult and frustrating at times? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: No day of sea is ever the same, of course. It doesn’t matter where you are. Up there at that time, each day would present four five significant challenges that might be of a security or safety issue. So understanding the perils that seek and present was overlaid by the perils of an unstable environment, which ramped my skill sets. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well I was going to say, just being an everyday person on the ocean, I have experience and judgment and decision making. All those things are important but that takes it to a whole other level that you’re not even looking for the problems that are landing in your lap each day. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Indeed but all in all, it all came back to seamanship and people management, which encouraged me to continue maritime studies remotely and through the Australian Maritime College down in Launceston. So I ended up doing a wide ranging job on both power driven vessels in that context, in the military context and on sailing vessels. So I went away and I spent a period of time getting a square rig endorsement on the master’s ticket and sail square rigged ships including the replica of the Batavia, 1800 ton, which was brought out to Australia in 2000 to coincide with the Olympics. It was the home base of the Dutch Olympic team and it’s only ever sailed on a number of voyages here in Australia out of Sydney Heads and at the end of the Olympics, it was put on a low loader and it was transported by sea back to Holland. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It weighs 1800 tons?

Gerry Fitzgerald: 1800 tons, built by traditional methods to the traditional design of the original design so with adzes and no nails and it was incredible. We sailed it, took it off, towed it with a couple of tugs out of Sydney Harbour during the Olympics and engaged in square rigger activities with the endeavour that we had a naval battle at sea..

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, how fascinating. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: …purely under sail. Yes, it was enormously enjoyable. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And what sort of speeds do you move at on a boat that size? The speed’s probably not even part of the equation I guess. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: No, the speed is not part of the equation but I think the fastest we got the thing going at was about seven or eight knots. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh, that’s pretty respectable given the size of it. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, 1800 ton. Getting it moving is the basic problem and the maritime authorities were very reticent to let the Batavia loose in Sydney Harbour. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You wouldn’t stop it in a hurry, would you? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: No and there was 7,000 sheets on that boat, 7,000 lines that had to be manoeuvred to sail the vessel. Now each of those lines relate to a particular mast and each of those lines had a Dutch name. So 7,000 different names for different lines that did different things. Now, I was captain of the bowsprit and we had about 100 lines to adjust the four headsails. Let me tell you, Workplace Health and Safety issues into those context went out the window. But there was a captain of the mainmast and the captain of the foremast and the captain of the mizzenmast and there were all Dutchmen. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What an amazing structure and a whole organisation to run a ship. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Indeed, but it was so rewarding, so rewarding. So it was a pleasure and a joy. I was the master of the Windeward Bound, which was a Tasmanian based square rigger and I was doing my master’s sea time for 24 metre square rigged vessels during the Olympic period. So they called on all of the square rigged skill sets from Australia to get the Batavia up and running, which was the only period in its existence. It’s on display on the hard, I think, in Holland. I haven’t been there, back to see it but fascinating. Thoroughly recommend going onboard and having a look. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That would be a sight to see. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, it is a sight to see. All flack sails, very, very heavy. Very big loads. Anyway, so be it. It was thoroughly enjoyable. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, and just completely diametrically the opposite of being in the Solomon Islands on peace keeping support duties. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, well the square rig came before the Solomon Islands but I had the opportunity to sail to Antarctica again out of South America, out of Ushuaia, onboard Spirit of Sydney, which had been purchased by a new owner and he took me over there to do the first couple of voyages down to the Riviera of the Antarctic, which is the Antarctic Peninsula and that was a different part of Antarctica, totally different marine life and pretty Spartan way to go to Antarctica too I might add, the Spirit of Sydney. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Not a lot of luxuries on board. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Not many luxuries indeed. Stalactites were hanging inside the boat off there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, that is cold. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah that is cold. Nevertheless, it was all part of maritime experience and when I decided that enough was enough in terms of taking random commercial jobs wherever they might be in the world. I decided that I needed to spend more time at home and I cobbled together my qualifications and applied to became a training centre. The inspiration for which was the six deaths in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. 

So it took about five years for me, up to about 2005, to get the necessary qualifications and accreditations to run a training business for recreational sailors and for commercial sailors as well and that in there has morphed into my business which is based here in Brisbane. We have six basic products centring around sea safety. So we have developed a marine first aid course for mariners, I’m not sure whether you did that one? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I did that one and it would be fair to say that the image of the de-gloving of the fingers is still etched in my mind and I saw it on the home page of your website when I was looking at it yesterday too. So it’s a very good course. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah so all of the six different products require five different levels of accreditation, working now as a registered training organisation within the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, a gambit of training products has been tedious, restrictive but absolutely vital for trainers to fit within that context and your listeners might not know but from the first of January 2017, the states will have no longer authority for commercial maritime activities within state jurisdictions. 

It’s all been handed over to Canberra. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority will be responsible for all commercial boat operations and they’ve been transitioning to this for five or six years. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And do you think that’s more positive than negative? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Oh absolutely. The one jurisdiction with AMSA is a better environment and it gives better outcomes in terms of safe operation of vessels, in terms of qualifications, in terms of survey standards. It’s now uniform, whereas previously, you could get a qualification in Queensland and you won’t be able to work in New South Wales. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is kind of ironic isn’t it? Given our population base, but also if you’re running a training organisation, then there’s opportunity as well to be able to, if you can provide qualifications that they can use nationally, those will get you opportunities too, right? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Exactly and the problem was you could be qualified to teach a master five here in Queensland but you couldn’t teach it at Twin Heads because you couldn’t use it and you weren’t accredited by the New South Wales government. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is kind of like red tape gone wrong. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, crazy. Crazy stuff. So it’s a very positive move in my view. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and the courses that you run, so your sea safety and survival. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: We run sea safety and survival for recreational boaters. That’s mandatory for people that race to Hobart. It’s mandatory for people, for a percentage of people on every boat that does a Brisbane to Gladstone or Keppel Island race or Darwin to Ambon. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Sydney to Gold Coast. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Sydney to Gold Coast or Sydney to Coffs Harbour as the case might be. So that’s a recreational course of two days. Interesting times in recreational boating. We’re finding decreasing number of participants in organised yacht races. So the number of people that are actually going out there and racing is declining. There are a number of reasons for this. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It goes hand in hand with increasing compliance I suspect as part of it. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, it is related to compliance. Compliance is related to safe operation by participants. So every time there is a death or loss of a vessel in an organised event, that is an organised Yachting Australian event, the regulators do what the regulators do best and the regulators might write more regulations. There is no regulation that is introduced that is cost free and consequently, people say, “Bugger this, this is enough for me. I can’t afford to keep sailing with this investment if it’s going to cost me this much.” 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it’s a time cost too for a lot of people who are just sailing recreationally, just with keeping up with it, let alone the money cost. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Major time cost. So participation rights are directly related to compliance as you’ve correctly pointed out but they are also directly to the economy. So if I’m a panel beater and the economy is going well in that particular segment, every panel be to buys himself a racing boat and off they go. However we’re now facing an uncertain economic future. I’m not sure which way it will go myself. 

But what’s happening is that racing sailors are being replaced on sea safety courses by retirees, grey nomads who bought themselves the dream. The dream is, buy a boat and sail to Hamilton Island. Buy a boat and sail to the Solomon’s. Buy a boat and sail to Indonesia or further afield. So lots of recreational sailors are now attending these courses. 

Because they now realise having spent half a mil on a sailing boat, a cruising boat realised they really need to know a little more than what they thought they needed to know. So radio courses, first aid courses, diesel engine courses, radar courses are all part of the skill sets that an informed offshore sailor has in his intellectual tool kit to ensure that the boat gets to where he wants it to go. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Are you seeing couples doing these courses? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So not just the male, “I know everything me and my wife will be fine sitting in the cockpit as long as I don’t fall off the boat or get incapacitated” type attitude. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: That was the transition. So the transition was the guy retires, buys a boat, has either a lot of knowledge about yachting because he’s come out of racing or sailing so he’s made an informed decision. The majority make decisions of the heart and of course, they used to sail as a kid so they don’t need to know. So they send their partner along and she attends the course and then she comes back and she says, “I’m not going unless you go to these courses and get some qualifications,” which has been quite hilarious. 

So now we see, there was a start seven or eight years ago of cruising couples doing rigger courses that require qualification as an outcome and of course, where mom and dad both operate in ignorance, it only takes one voyage with wind over 15 knots for the uncertainty to start to bubble to the surface as to whether they’re really equipped, as you would know, to do the dream voyage. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and if you’re not confident, especially in a yacht, a bit too much heel angle and a bit of sea sickness and somebody gets a bang on the head and the confidence and the drummers can be shattered immediately, particularly for the uninformed. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, that’s right. There’s a great move amongst cruising couples to go to multihulls, which gives me great joy. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Given your long time passion for multihulls? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah and multihulls are faster and of course, they’re far more stable but they’re proportionately more expensive as well. There’s a definite move for cruising couples to go into multihulls and cruising multihulls really do provide the opportunity to cover distance quickly and live in a degree of comfort. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well they’re almost like an apartment, the living space in them. I mean my wife would love to have that space in the whole sit flat in an anchorage kind of concept. It’s probably not right now for me but you know, you see — I do see all the positives. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah and lots and lots and lots of positives. The typical mono-huller, probably doesn’t morph into multihulls simply because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he knows what he knows and he sticks with his knitting, so to speak. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s the generational issue that’s a part of it too, right? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: It is a major generational issue and I might say that there are certain yacht clubs in Australia who avoid involvement in multihulls for a whole range of reasons. Some practical because their marina will only take half the number of boats, etcetera. But that general awareness, particularly America’s cup. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s helping a lot.

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, it has certainly helped. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: When the kids started saying, “Hey dad can we get a cool boat like one of those catamarans?” That might change it. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, so I guess the big challenge are regulatory changes. Regulatory changes are driven by deaths in yachting. I am happy to say that deaths in yachting, in organised yacht races, have been declining and we haven’t had a death in an organised yacht race since Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Andrew Short and Sally Gordon died in the Flinders Islet Race. Category two race

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that was a tragic story. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: But we are still getting deaths in yachting, recreational yachting, occurring essentially because people don’t know what they’re doing and they’re occurring on the return legs. So if we do a race to a particular destination, then when we have to get the boat home and there were always time pressures and crew pressures. 

The crew pressures are pressures that occur because we accept people to bring the boat home under the clock, to be home by a certain day. They don’t have the same skill sets onboard racing boats. Now, we had a death in January this year where they skipper of the boat was washed overboard in five metre seas and 50 knots of wind and he wasn’t wearing a life jacket harness or tether. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No tether, yeah, out of Coffs Harbour on the return leg? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah on the return leg. We have another racing boat, had a guy trapped up the mast for seven hours in a Bosun's chair. He had to be brought down by a crew member of another boat who swam across to get him down. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well they had “get there itis”, didn’t they? Because they both sort of could have sat at Coffs for two or three more days and they just waited for the weather to pass. The race was over but they were in a hurry to get home.

Gerry Fitzgerald: Hurry to get the boat home because, rather than hiring a car, driving home and coming back when the forecast is like it is today. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well it’s funny that you say that because I had to have my insurance policy extended because I’m doing Sydney to Southport and Sydney to Hobart this year and then the insurer, and a premium and told them all that kind of stuff that’s more than 250 miles and that was all good. But I don’t know how the conversation started, but the insurer said we have four times the number of claims on the return trips than in the races. So if we have four claims going to Hobart, we’ll have 15 coming back from Hobart for exactly all the reasons you just have said, which I thought was staggering. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, you know, I preach the gospel. Three times a month, we’re doing sea safety courses. That’s probably 50% of all sea safety qualifications in Australia from our base here in Brisbane. I’m off to Sydney at the weekend for the next round down there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So what locations do you do you hold your training? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: We train from the Darling Point Sailing Squadron here in Manly Boat Harbour in Brisbane. Terrific location, right on the water, there’s a good training ground and the dock is good for us as well. So you can bring a boat alongside if we have to. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s just hard sitting in a classroom and not daydreaming and looking out the window, such a great backdrop. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Exactly, exactly. In Sydney, we train in the Mosman Bay Sea Scouts Hall. It was a derelict building back in sometime in 2006 or 2007. Scouts hadn’t been using it and I approached the Scouts and I said, “Look, I’ll rent it off you, provided that you spent the rent money doing it up.” 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a good deal. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: So that’s the way it is, so we’ve got a workable dock out the front, the building has been lined, the windows are being replaced, the floors have been polished. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well you don’t get conditional landlords like that normally. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: No, that’s right and free parking in Mosman in Sydney, free 12 hour parking so it’s a great location and it’s worked very well. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that makes the courses cost effective when you don’t have all those other issues going on. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Those major overheads, yeah. People come by boat there as well and pull up in the Mosman Bay Marina. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you’ve got those two locations, are there any other locations that you train in? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, we have been going to Darwin on a regular basis at the Darwin Sailing Club. They have now set themselves up so they don’t have to drag me and all my gear up from Brisbane. Certainly Gladstone, certainly Port Curtis, Mackay Yacht Club, Coffs Harbour, Gladstone and we travel to China on a regular basis. In China yachting is the new golf. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, that’s interesting. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: And so in Shenzhen, they have built themselves a yacht club and a marina. So the yacht club is six star. It has got 100 rooms, six star with restaurants and so on. So one guy built that and gifted it to the club under whatever arrangement. Another guy built the marina. The marina is 300 berth and another guy donated 20 Beneteau 40’s as the kick off fleet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, they just donated a fleet of 40 foot Beneteaus? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah so they then realised they had the club, they had the marina and they had the boats, but nobody knew how to sail but we’re going to do a race over to Taiwan. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just from the get go? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: From the get go, that was — they don’t miss a boat up there. So they said, “Well we need to make sure that people know how to be safe”. I suggested to them they needed to know how to sail to start with and safety would come as a few steps down the chart. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like a byproduct, isn’t it? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: It is a byproduct, yes it is. Anyway, they all got to Taiwan and they all got back and they realised that they didn’t know how to sail when some key people fell overboard off a number of boats and they didn’t know how to do man overboard drills. So now there’s a thriving business in China for ex-pats to teach people how to sail and on 40 footers. I mean the Chinese have brilliant thinking sailors. So for the future if anybody is listening who might want to pursue a career in China, there’s lot of opportunity for people that are appropriately qualified. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s going to open up a whole significant channel overtime isn’t it? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and great for production boat builders too to have some extra scale out there, which overtime continued innovation and cost come down, and all that stuff starts to happen. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yes, there is a major production boat industry in China of course. Lots of boats are coming are being built by Australians in China and Taiwan and certainly Vietnam and the work standard quality is good. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great. Okay, then your website, what’s your website address for listeners? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Marine Training, all one word, all lower case, www.marinetraining.com.au

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a great domain name, Google would love that, from a search engine point of view, that’s great. Just jumping back, I remember you telling me you were actually on a yacht in that Sydney to Hobart race in 1998. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: That’s correct. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: But you didn’t complete the race, so tell me about that? Because I remember listening to that story at the time just absolutely wide eyed when you told me about that and the information you had access to and decisions you made. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Don McIntyre bought the Benlex and designed the aluminium hulled Spirit of Sydney and Don raced it around the world on a single handed event and at the end of the race, he decided that it would make a good expedition vessel and where else would you want to go other than off to Antarctica on a sailing boat. So he took Spirit of Sydney down to Antarctica with 10 paying passengers onboard. 

He went down there in January and had a good time and had a backup plan. The backup was the’d do it again next summer. So he did it again next summer and I was retained as the first mate partially responsible for crew training with the skipper and the skipper was Dave Price, a naval architect and a well-known sailor. So we decided that the Sydney to Hobart yacht race would be our delivery voyage from Sydney where Spirit was based. 

So then for a number of reasons, the vessel would not comply with category one. It complied with category zero which is an around the world yacht and race boat. So we said, “Well, what we’ll do is we’ll start with the fleet.  We will sail down with the fleet, metal in tows and all the paying passengers onboard, 10 of them and that will allow us to sort out how that goes during a typical Hobart yacht race.”

Well, we hung about with the heads and then we took off with the fleet but we got a phone call by the time we got to Wollongong from Roger Bantam who was the weather router. He’d been retained to give us advice about the Antarctic weather and so forth, he rung us up and said, “Go home”. He said the fleet are going to get bashed up and you don’t need to be bashed up this early. You’ll probably get bashed up from Hobart South. 

So we turned around and told the crew that we were pulling out because of the forecast weather and we got back into Sydney and we swung at the peak and we listened to the events unfold on the high frequency radio and the high chief radio over the next couple of days and we were glad we’d pulled out. We had one crew member pull out then, they didn’t like what they heard on the radio while we were anchored in Quarantine Bay. 

We then took off to Hobart in generally pretty good conditions across Bass Strait, got down to Hobart and then we did a reassessment of the crew that were on board and we suggested to a member of the crew that this voyage wasn’t for them. So they got a refund and we then brought another crew member down who filled his place and off we took and we had a voyage to from Hobart to Antarctica that was predictable. 

The weather advice was good, the weather routing was good, the weather was manageable, 35 knots on the beam, five metre swells, plenty of ice once we were south of 55 south and found our way into Commonwealth Bay which was quite tricky, no charts. Found our way in and managed to get the boat secure before the first katabatic wind came through. Katabatics are 70 knots every afternoon at 2 o’clock. 

So we had a month there doing what we had to do in Mawson’s Hut putting instrumentation in mainly and then doing some voyaging. By voyaging, I mean voyaging out onto the ice in our ice climbing gear. It was a voyage of a lifetime and I would love to go back to Commonwealth Bay, going to Antarctica is addictive. The light is different, the whole thing is different. You just have to experience it, it’s extraordinary. So we had some near misses but none that are deterring in any way from wanting to do it again but it’s not for the unwary. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No and the weather is the weather when you were down there? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: The weather is the weather when you’re down there, you’ve just got to deal with what you have and there had been people, fool hardy people who tried to do it and there’ve been no loss of life amongst the fool hardy.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is quite remarkable, given how hard it is to get them out of there.. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, it’s extraordinary. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And when I did the sea safety and survival course which I highly recommend for everybody racing offshore, cruising offshore just in terms of the confidence it gives you. I highly recommend it and I think about 80% or 90% of my crew have done that course in total and I think it’s extremely valuable but one of the key lessons out of your example there with Roger’s advice and I think his nickname is Clouds. 

I tracked him down and when I sailed across Tasmania and used his services. The weather down there was fantastic and he made us wait for three days before leaving even though we were impatient to go, this northerly system came through but our crossing which was eight days, we had six days of motoring or motor sailing just to due to the lack of wind. 

Then we had a couple of night at which we’re at boat, I don’t know, 35 knots in six metres but he routed us around the top of a system that was much bigger through the south but the lesson is the easiest way not to deal with the problem is just stay safe and out of trouble that way. If you could just wait for it to pass or go around it and then don’t put yourself through it. It’s a good starting point. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely. So I have been impatient as everybody is, sailing voyages at a particular point in time and then rounding the southern island of New Zealand, sailed down on New Zealand on my way to Cape Horn on a delivery trip. I decided to take a short cut and I’m lucky that I’m here to recount it. So I just came too close to the southern end of the south island of New Zealand. The ocean goes from 4,000 metres to 200 metres in 10 nautical miles and if you’re in that 10 nautical mile, the sea just obviously stands up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It stands straight up like the Cook Straight in New Zealand, not like Bass strait on a bigger scale. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yep. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s interesting, I heard about Bass strait for years but I never fully appreciate it until I looked at the nautical charts and you see the Tasman Sea going from 4,000 metres to 3,000 to 2,000 then to a 150 metres. You’ll just think, “Well of course the volume of water is going to go through that small gap but it stands up.”

Gerry Fitzgerald: Exactly, yep. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So it’s not a matter of it it will happen to you. It will happen to you if you go through there in that kind of weather. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely but having said that, heavy weather shouldn’t be necessarily looked at as being an insurmountable challenge. Heavy weather is a part of offshore sailing. Heavy weather is enjoyable, heavy weather needs to be undertaken by people that know what they’re doing. So getting experience near coastal, which is far more dangerous because of traffic and reefs. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And ships. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, absolutely. Heavy weather sailing can be extraordinarily enjoyable. Alex Whitworth is a well-known yachtsman, has had a boat, he still has as of today, a Brolga 23 called Berrimilla and he sailed Berrimilla around the world, east-west and also north-south double handed. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, I hadn’t heard of anyone doing north-south, that’s amazing. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Yeah, so he sails Sydney to Dutch Harbour in Alaska non-stop and then Dutch Harbour straight through the northwest passage from west to east and then down the side of Greenland and from Greenland down to Portugal, Portugal down to Cape of Good Hope and Cape of Good Hope across to Kerguelen Islands and Kerguelen to Tasmania. Yeah extraordinary voyage. So Berrimilla passes into history. He tells me it’s been sold, but I think he’s still in possession. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s an amazing voyage, he’d be an interesting person to talk to. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: But a key point for him is that heavy weather has just got to be dealt with. I mean if you’re undertaking a voyage, then heavy weather if you’re out there, may not be avoidable. So if you don’t have a boat that can’t handle heavy weather, stick to the coast, stick to safe haven and that’s just as enjoyable as well. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: But if you’re boat’s set up for heavy weather. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: If your boat is set up for heavy weather… 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: The rawness and the beauty of it is actually quite thrilling. Once you’re comfortable and your realise it’s going to be okay, it’s actually awe inspiring just to see that the grandeur around you and when it’s just you and the ocean is actually a lot less to worry about. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: It is a lot less to worry about, exactly. So Alex won the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in his division. So he got through it all. Everything’s happened to Alex and my recurrent theme is, if you’re out there long enough, everything will happen to you too so you’d better be prepared for it. That’s why he makes a great presenter on our courses. So he comes up to Brisbane and down to Sydney and up to China as well where we’ve had our course notes, our sea safety presentation, transferred to Cantonese. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and I think as we sort of wrap up, I think the value I got out of doing all the courses prior to sailing across the Tasman for the first time, it’s now two and a half years ago now, was just the life experiences you draw on. You can read all the books in the world and you can kind of grasp the theory but when you’ve got teachers that can actually apply the lessons based on life experience and great stories and analogies and examples, it makes the learning stick, but it makes it so enjoyable, and it makes it — it’s almost like the stories you’d take away help you to continue, just to meet the learning I think, that’s what I’ve found. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Indeed, that’s a good way to explain it because we don’t tell irrelevant stories I hope. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, I could listen to your stories all day. That’s why I’m here today right? So that’s great, so any last kind of lessons or advice you’d like to give recreational sailors and recreational racers about good judgment and safety and survival? 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely, you’ll only get the experience if you a go. So not many recreational sailors sail inside the Barrier Reef. Now, I’ve sailed many, many oceans, all of the oceans of the world where it’s cold and where it’s hot and all I want to say that too many of us in Australia are shirking the Barrier Reef. Once you have done some day sailing inside the reef on your boat with the keel sticking down and the coral heads sticking up, then you’ll be hooked but you’ve got to get the confidence to do it. 

So the basic rule of thumb is never avoid the reef but never sail before nine of a morning and after three of an afternoon. Find yourself a hole somewhere in the reef, 60 miles offshore and you’ll never go short of a feed, scenery and memories that you’ll carry right through your last days. The reef that is here on Australia, is just a great resource that’s under-utilised. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And it’s in reach of 80 or 90% of the population of sailors in terms of its location where everyone lives too. It’s a nice sail up there. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Absolutely, look Lizard Island, they’re running a regatta this year okay out of Cairns. Check with the Cairns Yacht Club. I am a life member of the Cairns Yacht Club. Check with the Cairns Yacht Club, they are running a cruise and company, a race and inverted comers up to Lizard and Lizard are hosting the whole show. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow sounds fantastic. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Terrific, do it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What a great destination. Well in the show notes, and we’ll get this interview typed up as well and published on the Ocean Sailing Podcast website and on the show notes I’ll put links to your training sites so people can easily find it and some of these other things that we’ve talked about and then also, if there’s any photos or videos that you can share, I will publish those as well to give people some more graphical kind of experience around some of the things that you’ve talked about. 

And really a big thank you for putting aside the time this morning Gerry to join us on the Ocean Sailing Podcast. We’ve got lots and lots of listeners all over Australia and outside of Australia as well and I think this has been a really valuable insightful conversation and I think it will be really, really well, enjoyed and listened to. 

Gerry Fitzgerald: Terrific, thanks for the opportunity. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, thanks Gerry.

Interviewer: David Hows


Episode 16: Mark Stephenson Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thanks for agreeing to have a chat to me. I was hoping to chat to you for about 30 minutes, it might be a little bit longer but I publish the Ocean Sailing Podcast and we’ve got thousands of listeners across Australia and clearly, a lot of people were quiet dismayed to see the video that was on YouTube that showed some pretty horrific stuff happening. So I wanted to have a chat with you about that. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, pretty impressive videos I suppose. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And the sound as much as the pictures was horrendous, so we’ll just back it up, so what’s your role at Mersey Yacht Club? 

Mark Stephenson: I’m the commodore.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how long have you been in that role? 

Mark Stephenson: A year. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s good timing. 

Mark Stephenson: It is, yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so how long have you been involved in the club itself? 

Mark Stephenson: Well I’ve been in the committee for about 10 years and a member for about 18, 19 I think. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how old is the club? 

Mark Stephenson: I think we had our 83rd or 82nd AGM just last week, or a couple of weeks ago. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Mark Stephenson: It’s about that old yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, I’m based in Southport Yacht Club and that’s just having it’s 70th birthday and we thought that was a lot, so 83 is right up there.

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how many members do you have in the club and how many yachts normally sail out of there? 

Mark Stephenson: Hang on, I’ve got the members here. We’ve got about 200 members about 50 of those are just sort of social members. So that’s 150 senior and active members. We’ve got about 50 boats I suppose without counting them, but then there’s all sorts of everything from trimarans, racing trimarans, down to, you know, there’s motor boats and everything between, trailer sailors. Racing wise, we don’t get a huge fleet. Have half a dozen boats. So we still have races and we have combined races with other clubs up and down the coast to build up the race fleet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how many clubs are there along the coast within sort of sailing reach of where you are? 

Mark Stephenson: Well there’s Leeuwin Yacht Club about 10 miles west and then there’s another one about another 30 miles on. They just send trailer sailors up to the races there and then the Tamar River is about 20 nautical miles east and there’s — up there that that river is about 30 miles long and there’s about three clubs up there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay so for our — we’ve got listeners across Australia and about 59 countries now around the world, so do you want to explain geographically where you’re located if you’re explaining to a lay person? 

Mark Stephenson: Yes well Tasmania’s sort of shaped like a triangle and we’re in the middle of the top section. There’s a slight V on the northern edge of Tasmania, we’re about in the middle where the ferry boats from Melbourne to Tasmania ties up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so you face north and I guess you’re exposed to what happens in Bass Strait sometimes depending on weather direction. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, once you get outside the river, you’re just in Southern Bass Strait and there’s almost always a swell. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and what sort of racing do you do there? Do you have just sort of twilight racing in the river, or do you do ocean racing as well? Or what sort of racing is sort of popular there? 

Mark Stephenson: Mainly just around the buoys, we just set up the standard Olympic course up, the old triangle, sausage, triangle and then we have a few races up or down the coast, one way or the other depending on things and then there’s the Melbourne to Devonport race once a year held in conjunction with the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria. So that’s sort of the 180 nautical miles across from Port Philip Bay and then there’s a couple of races that are sort of between us and the Tamar River, there is one going that way and one coming back. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how long are those races? 

Mark Stephenson: Oh that’s just your 20 something miles. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay great and so if we can go back to that storm that sort of hit you around the 6th of June, what stage did you realised that the marina might be in trouble? 

Mark Stephenson: That’s a good question. We had moorings dragging all over the place and we’ve had to happen about five years before. Yeah, five years. We lost 11 moorings and we just recovered the boats and sorted all that out without much problem. This one that was happening but on a much greater level and to be honest, I was on the other side of the river on the commercial wharf helping to tie up boats and you look up and there’s the pontoon going past. 

But everyone says they have never seen the river like that. People that have worked on the river for 50 plus years, they’re all going they have never seen it like that. The water was just flowing so fast and upriver, there was a railway bridge that got knocked out. They say three road bridges got knocked out. But I was talking to a guy from the council up stream, and he said they’ve got 14 bridges to replace. 

So they’re obviously smaller bridges but there was all of that and some of those bridges were just the old timber ones, you know that are made out of logs essentially but a bit more modern than that. So all that rubble was coming down with all the trees and cows and containers and so on. So the water wasn't just flowing fast, it was full of stuff. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and often the debris in the river from that kind of stuff does more damage than everything else going on to everything it hits on the way past. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it’s like in Bundaberg a few years ago, you see someone and you think, “Yeah, you could probably just stem that,” but then you get clobbered by a container and it’s all over. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Exactly. Yeah exactly. I mean I watched that YouTube video and the sight was pretty sickening but the sound was even worse. 

Mark Stephenson: It was like a waterfall, wasn’t it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh it was horrendous and then you could hear people’s gasps in the background as well. 

Mark Stephenson: And all the — when it went and it started pealing boats off the pontoon and all that crunching noises and yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So are there any estimates to how fast the river was actually flowing? 

Mark Stephenson: There’s been a few estimates and our sort of race boats, it’s got twin 60 horse power outboards. It was up on the plane and sort of being essentially stationary, so what’s that, 15-20 knots? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. So there’s incredible force and I think when the Brisbane River broke a few years back when they have to release the dam, I think that floated about 12 knots and that carried hundreds of meters of piers and pontoons out the river out into the open sea. So if you are talking about 15 to 20 knots potentially, that’s a hell of a lot of speed and a lot of force. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and that would have been in spots as well. There was a bit where it was like being in the rapids. When I was on a boat that we were towing back in and it felt like being in the rapids. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and how many people were out in the water trying to salvage or save or secure boats when you had that going on because that’s pretty dangerous stuff. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, we had our race boat out there and our work boat. But this was sort of a big diesel job. It’s not really up — it doesn’t have the speed but it’s got more pull. So they were out doing what they could and the port, the commercial port has a 300 horsepower workboat and it was doing a few things as well until it got too much hay in the sea water coolant and it had to stop. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. So hay in river that had been washed down. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it was just grass and the hay bales going past and just stuff, yeah, sticks. But it would have been the hay getting into the coolant I would imagine or grass. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it was not really designed for all that stuff floating on the surface. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So which direction was the river flowing? Is it flowing from land out to sea or where was it? 

Mark Stephenson: It is, yeah because it rained a lot the night before or the day before as well and it obviously did — the catchment area picked up a lot of water and it was just all running back out into sea. In hindsight, you could take your boat out the river and you would just anchor a mile up the coast and you’d be fine because it was all normal out there. It was just this torrent of water. The catchment areas is where it can be large and the dams have been low and they picked up about 10% water levels in that one weekend, even though it wasn’t really in the catchment area. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. So those images of those boats and marina pontoons breaking free, I mean what happened next and where did that all end up? 

Mark Stephenson: Actually with the people on them, there were people on the pontoons and some of the safety issues, at some point we should have said, “You can’t go on there anymore,” but people still did and then when it started to go, there were people just trying to save their boats and a lot of those get carried out and some of them got picked up by the tug boat, the port’s tug boat, which was out there and some managed to sort o get their engines going and get their boat out of trouble and tied up to the wharf. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. That’s pretty significant in river flowing at that speed with all the debris in it. 

Mark Stephenson: Once it — so where the Yacht Club is the shallow section, it’s a bit narrow and it’s only about about 200 meters across. It’s a big shallow. It’s only about probably five meters at sort of high water springs but once you get out into the shipping the turning basin, that stretches to 12 meters. So the water slowed down a bit when it hit that area. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: All right, okay. 

Mark Stephenson: It still had the debris of course but yeah, so that would have been just a little bit slower there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So in terms of your members, did you have anybody that was injured or that ended up in even in a worse position? 

Mark Stephenson: No, we were lucky. There was a couple that were on boats that they got picked up that we were quite worried about, but they got — one was on the pontoon that sort of as it went, he got on the biggest boat that was there even though it was locked up and then the pontoon sections all got caught on the Spirit of Tasmania and then the tug boat tried to pull the pontoons free but that didn’t worked and so the tug boat picked up him. 

And the club race boat picked up another guy out there somewhere. There was just so much going on. It was sort of — I was sort of, you know, you’re there tying up a couple of boats because they’ve broken loose and come over your way and then you could see the race boats buzzing to and fro and you think, I was thinking, “How do you prioritise what you’re doing?” And he said, “I’m just picking up people.” Fair enough. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and when you’re in a landscape that’s just moving and changing by the minute, it’s not like you can just tick everything off one after the other, can you? 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, you can’t objectively sit back and think about it and do the priorities. You just sort of do something, do what’s next that you can see and hope that it’s not the wrong thing to do. And I know it’s a bit easy to dwell on that. The guy driving the club’s race boat. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So do you have volunteer marine rescue or coast guard type facilities down there for this type of situation or is this a just a once in 50 years event type of scenario? 

Mark Stephenson: There is a volunteer coast guard but they’re over in the Leven River, which had problems of their own and they’re just volunteers and they wouldn’t have a boat that would be up to it. They used to have a big RNLI life boat, but they couldn’t afford to run that so they had to sell it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh, yeah it’s unfortunate. 

Mark Stephenson: That’s the kind of thing you’d need really. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well especially something that’s robust where you’ve got the force of the water as well as the debris, it’s got to be able to handle bouncing off every so often. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So what was different about this particular storm to what you normally get? 

Mark Stephenson: There’s just more of it I think. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just a lot of rain? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah just a huge amount of water. It’s been classified as a national emergency, which hasn’t helped a lot of the farmers and that with their insurance yet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. Does that categorisation change how insurance is handed out?

Mark Stephenson: I think so, I hope so. I’m not sure. You sort of don’t pay a lot of attention to how these things actually work until you are in the middle of them. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, they’re hard to plan for and to put into perspective for our listeners, that covered a massive area of the country. I don’t recall on my time seeing a front that sat all the way from probably south of Tasmania all the way up to north of the Sunshine Coast. I mean you’re talking about, I don’t know what that is, maybe two and a half thousand kilometres. 

It was a massive, massive area of rain and the rain that fell was just as incredible in Queensland. Not as extreme as you had but certainly the rivers were brown for days afterwards by the time the hills emptied out of all the water that fell. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. We’ve got — the river is still not clear enough for divers to go down. We’re sort of just waiting for that to happen and the ports raking the channel, the fairway, on low tide, on out going tide to try and get some of the silt to move out because they reckon there’s next half a meter of silt in the channel. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh right. Well and then if you end up with any sunken debris, you’ve got suddenly all these high spots that you didn’t used to have in the bottom of your river. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, I think someone said there was a couple of boats in the river, so like sunken boats, but we’re not — there’s not exactly word of that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So how many boats were lost, do you know? 

Mark Stephenson: It was about 15. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Mark Stephenson: That includes three that are sort of on the hard, but written off but so some — one’s still one of the beach outside on northern Tasmania. This ferro-cement yacht just lying there and one sail people decided to burn because it was an old timber fishing boat. They couldn’t get it back in the water and couldn’t get it onto a hard road or anything like that and there’s a handful that are still missing. 

They’re just missing and there’s some we saw sink. We had a short section of pontoon that was sort of across the current so you could walk from one arm to the other and two boats sort of just went under that and popped up on the other side and just went down again and then another boat broke off and just went off with it’s bow pointing in the air. So we know those ones sank and others are just not about. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So they’re either on the bottom somewhere or they’re out in the Tasman Ocean right now heading somewhere. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, there was one that we kept getting reported on every few days someone would report it. And you think, “That must be that one still out there.” It’s an old knotting 23 Huon pine yacht, not worth a huge amount of money and not insured that was on one of the moorings and I think it still had its mooring hanging off the bow because it would have come up and been blown onto the beach a lot sooner. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh because it’s dragging with all the weight kind of thing. 

Mark Stephenson: Well once it got out into the deep water, it would have just been hanging there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Adding a bit of a weight to the bow no doubt. 

Mark Stevenson: Yes and we just thought that won’t last long because it’s an old strip planked boat and the seams above the water line won’t have been taken up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh right and then the weight on the bow just starting to drag them down and it’ll also start to fill pretty quick, bow first I guess. 

Mark StephensonStephenson: Yes, I heard a security about a sunken boat off the low head light, at the most of the Tamar River, a yacht with a mast. I thought, “I reckon that’s that one,” because she was the one they’d been reporting and anyone else with a mast has been accounted for or is gone sooner than that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So how would you describe the impact on your club and obviously on the yachts and on people’s lives with what’s happened? 

Mark Stephenson: I think we’re bouncing back fairly well. Virtually everybody has got damage, broken pulpit, or a stanchion’s missing and things like that. So we’ve all got jobs to do to fix them and quite a few of the ones their insurance has paid out, so they’re looking at buying another boat. Some already have and also I’d want to think about it for a while myself, but anyway. Yeah so most are bouncing back without too much grief. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s good. I guess what’s been physically involved in the initial clean up that you had to do so far in and around the club itself or in and around the local area? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, because of all the — we lost a lot of moorings and most of the moorings are privately owned so everybody sort of had to sort out their own mooring and we had 13 boats on the western wharf and 19 boats on the eastern wharf. Wo we had to sort — and the port was going to want the western wharf area fairly quickly. 

So we just had to start moving them back and without a marina or with more than half our marina gone, you’re there — some people had to come out straight away on the slip way because they hulled under the water or just on the water line so that meant you put another boat in their spot on what’s left of the marina and a neighbouring, one of the Tamar Yacht Clubs, actually Tamar Yacht Club, they’ve got a large marina. They’ve said that anyone who wanted to go over there there, they had three months free to stay in their marina. So I think only one person took them up on that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s a kind offer. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it was good and they’re just sort of coming back and being on the slip or being taken, one’s been taken home to get to be repaired. It’s just one boat at a time and there’s only one still, ewe haven’t contacted the owner yet to find out but it is still sitting in the port area but no one seems to be minding so it can stay there at the moment and lots of moorings were lost. 

A lot of them were just dragged off and we manage to, there was a big tangle of four moorings with boats attached and we took the boats off and then the port used their crane to pick them up and put them on the wharf and said, “You come and get them.” So we didn’t lose those four moorings, so there’s four boats that are happy. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good, and how much does a mooring typically weigh? 

Mark Stephenson: They’re usually railway wheels, so there’s one wheel is 300 kilograms and two wheels are 600 and sometimes people use crusher jaws that are about 800 kilograms. One 800 kilogram dragged down the river. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s a lot of weight to drag across the river bottom. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah but it’s sort of not much more than what say 12 to 15 people put them on a yacht, the yacht’s not going to sink is it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah but it’s got a yacht attached to it, it’s got all that extra surface area, yeah. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, I think the old one that was bobbing around probably only had one railway wheel and that’s enough to hold in most situations. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Most, except the situation. 

Mark Stephenson: If you had two tons down there, it just would have sunk your boat. The force couldn’t break the line or drag the mooring, the boat would have gone under with the weight of trees and 12 to 15 to 20 knots of water. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it would just drag, just drag, just drag and the sheer force would have pulled it under. I guess it’s good to have a bit of a governor like that that’s got a little bit of give.

Mark Stephenson: We had a couple of boats that were their noses are just under water and water was lapping on the bow and that was earlier in the day and the work boat went over and cut them off and brought them on the pontoon. Actually one of them was on a spot that his wife said, “I don’t like it there.” So we moved it on the shore wood side of the other pontoon and where it was. Yeah, it would have been crushed or carried away if it hadn’t stayed there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well tat’s pretty fortunate, a big treasure to be saved the first time and then lost the second time in a different location. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah there was one guy who's like that. His boat had dragged and it was out of sea and we would be doing what we could. So he got the surf club to take him back to his boat and they thought it was only a couple of kilometres out so off they went and then they saw the boat, which was probably this other one that we’re talking about. 

We know because that’s another two kilometres out? No that’s not it. Oh no there it is out there. So I reckon it was about six kilometres out and he doesn’t think the surf club would have normally gone six kilometres out. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, they got they got there faster though, they’re committed so they kept going looking further. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, anyway he bought that back in and he tied it on our courtesy pontoon which is in front of the club and downstream of the marina and when the marina went, it was the third boat, there were three boats in a row on the pontoon and the first boat, a yellow one got sunk, the second one got scooped off and then it just gave a little glancing blow to this boat, and you thinking, “Well he could have lost his boat twice in the one day.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh, what are the chances? Oh my goodness, that’s a stroke of luck. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and then his boat’s fine. It’s got a bit of paint missing on the bow.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like a cat with nine lives almost. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So what’s required to repair the damage completely in terms of cost and time with what you’ve got to do? I mean obviously replacing. Do you need to replace all of the marina in terms of the pontoons? 

Mark Stephenson: Well, the pontoons were made out of steel section that was used to a crane and there’s about 90 meters of them and there’ve sort of been 15 to 20 sections and they’re scattered up and down the coast and we’re having trouble with the insurer to either salvage them or whatever but you’d think even if we could salvage them and then you redo all the joints. 

That’s sort of welded with hinges and stuff like that so they could pivot a bit, all engine here and quite up to normal stresses but I think we’ll have trouble getting an engineer to sign off on the design because it’s happened once, they won’t sign off to say how strong it has to be. I imagine — but you’re sort of saying, “Oh you just upgrade that”. 

Instead of having 300 mill poles you have, you’ll have 350 mill poles in the steel ones or even 450. Like for the main ones. I’m sure it can be done but how much that would cost is anybody’s guess and then if we can recover the infrastructure, buying it from the scratch that’s another matter. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And have you got an obligation to clean it up or does insurance take care of that with it being a national disaster in terms of where it sits right now?

Mark Stephenson: I imagine the insurance will have to be involved if we’re ordered to remove them and I think one of them is still afloat but it’s anchored by a couple of sunken yachts near an island that’s just off the North Coast here but I haven’t actually seen that one, that’s what hearsay and you think, “Well if that got lose, that could be then the hazard.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and is there anything else other than the marina that you need to do repair or damage wise? 

Mark Stephenson: No, not really. Now there’s a couple of poles. There’s — the poles that were in this marina section were some timber and some steel and the steel were the older design that you don’t use them anymore. A couple of H beams welded together, and you look at them and you think, “That’s one inch steel, it’s one inch thick for these beams.”

So there were three of them and we know where one of them is. It’s sort of sticking up at low water so we’ve sort of marked that with a float, but we don’t know whether the other one is bent over and it’s just waiting for someone to catch it low tide. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which would be nasty. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, the timber piles are probably broken off where they came out of the bottom or got plucked out. But again, you have to wait till it clears and there’s a couple of divers in the club and they’ll go down and have a look. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Mark Stephenson: But that’s just getting that pile out really, or any others as well. Not a huge jobs but just all those things that need to be thought of and worked towards. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So has your racing come to a standstill in the meantime? 

Mark Stephenson: No, we raced a couple of weeks ago because there’s only one boat that raced regularly sunk — actually no two. And another two have damage but they’re okay. One of them just lost his pulpit in his life lines, another one has been hulled above the water line. So they’re being repaired, but apart from that the racing schedule is still going on. 

Mind you, I think there’s only two races left in our winter series and so then there’s a bit of a break until October/November. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s the fact that you even have a winter series is pretty admirable. I mean it’s pretty cold in that part of the country on a cold day right? 

Mark Stephenson: Well, the winter sailing is actually very nice. You just try not to get wet because the wind is often steadier and it’s — and there are nice sunny days and it’s not that bad but yeah, you wouldn’t want to be getting wet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, the water would be pretty cold. I guess so with what you saw, what are the images that are etched on your mind the most? What really stuck with you? 

Mark Stephenson: Well, when I got that call at 5 o’clock in the morning, I went down there and I couldn’t find my boat and so I had that gut feeling of anxiety and whatever and then when the sun came up, when it got light and you go, “Oh no, there she is just sitting in the turning basin,” and the port took her and moved her out of the way. 

I sort of think, I thought that was good for — because one of the guys who lost his boat just disappeared and he hired a plane and flew up and down the coast. A big 44 footer or so. He looked terrible and then a pilot took a photo and we worked out that that shape next to the pontoon section was his boat and then bits of wreckage started showing up on the shore including one of the name boards and then he looked better after that. The uncertainty must really chew away at you and you go, “Okay, now it’s lost now,” and you know it’s lost. You don’t think it’s lost or scared it’s lost or something like that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, and a yacht is like a member of your family isn’t it? It’s hard to explain to somebody, and even though you’ve got insurance you’re still personally attached in lots of different ways and the hours that you pour into it and some of the things you keep on it. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, well that’s some of the things you sort of think about. The stuff you’ve got on board that’s probably not insured and not really insurable, but it’s all the mementoes or so. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right. 

Mark Stephenson: But you have to take things, the perspective of the few people still lost their houses and so on and it’s just a big toy, keep that in mind. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right because people lost their lives in Tasmania in the storm and there was a lot of livestock lost as well. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, there were two deaths. One death in Latrobe and two further east I think. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you’re right, you have to keep it in perspective. I guess often you see in these situations is amazing how people just sort of muck and get together and help get all sorts of things sorted out and tidied up and what sort of examples have you seen of communities team spirit or club members team spirit with getting in and helping this sort of stuff tidied up and sorted out and helping people out?

Mark Stephenson: Well, yes. It has been a remarkable attendance of people there a lot of the time but yeah a lot of it’s — we’re just there sort of waiting to help people who are already loosing and there’s still on the day there was a lot of that and even a few days after that as we were sort of getting boats sorted out. People were quite willing to help and things like that and it’s still just there. We’re very much a — there’s quite a few members that are just sort of hands on ready to help and do things. They just need to be asked really and not too difficult. You work out which ones they are. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and is there anything else you want to — I mean what would be good to get, and I will e-mail you afterwards, but if you’ve got any photos or any links or any other videos what I will do is I’ll get the interview typed up into what I call show notes and I’ll publish those online on the website as well and with some of the interviews we have added photos of all sorts of things and people love when they see the photos. 

It’s great to hear your story, but I will e-mail you and get you to send me any photos or images or links of those or what have you because that really gives people an appreciation and I’ll dig some stuff out too and obviously that YouTube video online, I will put into the show notes page for the interview as well. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, absolutely. There’s one of the guys at the club trawled the internet and got a hold of every movie that he could find and then he sort of spliced them together. So get this chronological and geographical progression and you can watch it several times because you’ll watch it for each different boat but I’ve got to get a copy of that yet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and has he put that online anywhere or on YouTube or has he just got that on a computer at the moment? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it’ll just be on a flash drive. So I’ll work out what we can do if I can have it. I will find out if it’s online, he’s more of a computer person than I am. I’ll find out if he’s got it anywhere that you can access or put a link to. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah or I can send a Dropbox invite and he can drop it into a Dropbox folder, which will just upload to my computer automatically without him having to try and send it or anything like that. So we’ll work that out. That would be great. That would be fantastic. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so when do you hope to get your, I mean obviously you’re playing a bit of a waiting game, but when do you hope your marina will be back in working order? Is that sort of before Christmas or do you see that sort of dragging on past Christmas? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, I can see it going on past Christmas yeah. Because you sort of think, everything just takes longer than you expect. If we can get those sections back, the port is happy to lend us or rent us a bit of land for a dollar a month or something like that so we can put them there and even then you get welders on to re-weld all the bits. But then getting the plans I don’t think will be — I think we’ll have to drive some piles. Getting the boat here to drive the piles. Everything just takes a long time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well especially if there’s council permits or marine permits or anything like that involved. It does take time. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, well we’ve got the land, the water area, we’ve got that at least all sorted out and we could argue that we should be able to put back what we had before. It’s just how much beefing up we’d need to do to have an engineer happy to sign off on it because without that on the drawings you can’t start. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, on a different note, I’ve got a large wooden retaining wall that I need to replace at home and I want to replace it with rocks this time because the termites have eaten it and I have to go through council permits because they said, “But I don’t care if you’re replacing it. You are starting all over again so you’ve got to start from scratch whether you’re replacing something existing or not.”

So suddenly you have an extra two months that have been added to the process, so I can only imagine what you have to go through given the extra complexities. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and we’ve got a sub-committee that’s sort of — one of the guys that’s lost his boat is on that. Yeah, we’ve only have one meeting so I don’t know how much has been going on yet with that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Mark Stephenson: Because otherwise we’ll just end up, every committee meeting we’ll just be talking about it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah well and the months go by if they are only monthly meetings too. Okay, so Mark is there anything our listeners can do to help in any way or contribute in any way? Is there anything that you need or is there anything they can help with? 

Mark Stephenson: Not that I can think of, no. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Other than visiting the area again this summer and spending money in the local economy? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, well there’s always that. Well, we’ve still got the, what we call the courtesy pontoon or the visitor’s pontoon and that’s often said that’s about 60 meters long and that’s where most people who just come in to drop in and visit, where they tie up. So yeah, we’re still open for business and the club rooms were not affected. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s great. 

Mark Stephenson: So yeah, all of that, the camaraderie or whatever from that side of it is still perfectly intact. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Oh that’s excellent. Well that’s one saving grace. I know the Vaucluse Yacht Club in Sydney Harbour, their club rooms were literally smashed to pieces. The waves, you know the extra height of the see, of the tides, and then the swell behind it literally took out the front of their club rooms, which is unbelievable. It was just a mess. 

Mark Stephenson: So Vaucluse, they’re in the southern side of harbour up getting out towards the heads, are they? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I don’t know exactly where they’re located but they are inside the harbour, that’s correct and then Coffs Harbour had 14 metre high sea surges come over their massive boulder wall and literally wipe out their marina and there’s some amazing photos of — there’s a swell that’s coming over the top so yeah, the same storm affected different clubs in different ways. So it’s great that you’re — certainly it’s great that your club rooms are still intact because that would be tough if you also had nowhere to congregate. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and I know just looking, they’re near down on the water, just near the heads, yeah. But then you’d think that’s still quite sheltered, really. It’s around the other side but yeah, they’re close to the water, looking at the photo, yeah. We had — the water was just on the grass at its’ peak and that’s still 20 meters back to the club rooms and downstairs is storage sort of thing so yeah, that wasn’t an issue where we were. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, that’s pretty lucky. Did anywhere any along the river, did it break the banks and flood any of the local areas? 

Mark Stephenson: Upstream it did, yeah. If you sort of drive around there, there’s sort of fences with bits of grass all stuck on the barbed wire and yeah, it broke the banks pretty much because it’s narrower where it has the main highway bridge and then it sort of opens out and then further up, it narrows off when it comes through Latrobe and that bit was all flooded. Essentially it’s a flood line and so that was flooded and then you go down a bit further up. It often breaks the banks up in that area, but obviously not as bad as it did this time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, it’s just lucky there…

Mark Stephenson: Because we’re only — we’re less than two kilometres from Bass Strait. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is pretty close, I mean when you think of that. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, so for the water level to rise too much there it’s pretty impossible because it can just run out. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah because the way that… 

Mark Stephenson: But if does get to speed up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s fortunate all those 83 years ago and I am not sure if that’s the original location of the yacht club, but when they made those decisions, that you weren’t lower and closer to the river given this ability to rise like that, especially in these one off events. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and as I said, we’ve got a pretty three meter tide range that’s sort of — you always take that into account. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well those are quite big tides especially if you get a high tide and then a flat on top of a high tide. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, okay. Well Mark that’s been great and thank you for taking the time to talk with me on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and I will drop you a line and we’ll work out how to get some of the other material to post for everybody to view. I’m sure there will be lots of interest in that, and I will send you a link to the podcast when we publish that as well and works with you on that detail but that’s really, really great. 

And thank you. Thank you for appearing and thanks for sharing this story because again, it’s one thing to see a little bit of a tidbit in the media, it’s another thing to hear it first hand from a — especially form a sailing point of view when boat owners are affected quite differently than the people living on the land in these types of situations. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. All right, okay? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So that’s excellent, thank you very much. 

Mark Stephenson: All right David, thank you. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, take care and good luck with getting your marina back and back into shape and everything you got ahead of you. 

Mark Stephenson: All right, thanks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s great. Thanks Mark. 

Mark Stephenson: All right, bye. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Bye. 

Interviewer: David Hows


Episode 15: Ian Thomson Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, welcome along to this week’s episode of the Ocean Sailing Podcast. This week we’re down on board with Ian Thomson down at RQ, or Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron at the marina. Ian, welcome along.

Ian Thomson: Thank you. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: This week we’re going to talk about the Around Australia Race, which is planned for I think August next year?

Ian Thomson: Yeah, the 5th of August 2017.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s just something that’s just been released in the last couple of months, really tropical and the race last ran in 1988. So t’s been a long time between drinks. Ian, tell me a little bit about the history of the race and what sort of motivated this idea to run it again after all this years?

Ian Thomson: Funny enough, the initial race was run back in 1988 in the bicentennial year. The name of it back then was the Goodman Fielder Wattie Bicentennial Around Australia Yacht Race, which is a hell of a name for a race. How they promoted that I've got no idea. A friend of mine, Don McIntyre who happened to own Jessica Watson’s boat, also did the Bounty Boat re-enactment. Quite an adventurer. Runs out of Tonga, runs down to the ICE every year. Incredible guy. 

He was the one who actually ran it back in 1988 and what a race, at the end of the day, Sir Peter Blake is the only winner of an around Australia Yacht Race. To be able to put your name on a trophy next to Sir Peter Blake would be kind of pretty cool I reckon. My motivation for it has been to sailed around in 2010 solo, it was a dream of mine to do and a lot of people have been inquiring with me as to whether I can run something or whether they should do it themselves. 

Actually sailing home recently from overseas, I sailed through Fiji and actually caught up with Don McIntyre. We were talking about his 2018 Golden Globe Race, which is the 50th anniversary of when Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sailed around the world, and he said, “Yeah, I’d love to run an around Australian yacht race but I don’t have the time.” I said to him, “Well it would be really cool if you had someone who has done that track to promote it wouldn’t it?” He’s like, “Yeah, you’d be perfect.” 

It’s something I’ve been thinking of for a while and just Don tipped me over the line and said he’d support us 100%. So whilst he can’t do it himself, he’s there in the background helping us and yeah. So putting on a race, probably the motivation behind the race is a little bit different to most other races and the fact that we’re trying to help people achieve their dreams rather than just running a race to make a million dollars. That’s why we can make it affordable for sailors, not charging $25,000 like a prior attempt I tried to do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and so it’s 6,350 nautical miles, it’s the longest coastal race in the world and it’s virtually the equivalent of sailing from Sydney to Los Angeles across the pacific. Kind of puts it into context.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, it’s a long way. The conditions you’re going to face around the country, well, I was fortunate enough when I went around to sail 78% of it, I had the wind behind the beam. It is good weather but once you get to the West Coast, anything can happen and of course you got the southern ocean leg there from Cape Leeuwin and across to the bottom of Tasmania, which, well the Southern Ocean could throw anything at you. 

I had everything, I had storms, I had nothing. It’s an awesome track, takes you through the warm, takes you through the cold, I’m sure most people will enjoy the warmth at that time of year but won’t appreciate the Southern Ocean at that time of year. But hey, that’s part of sailing. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So how did you choose August? Does it help with it climatically to start the race at that time of the year in Sydney?

Ian Thomson: Look, if you are going for an outright record, I would say you would go earlier but you’d be pretty silly to put a fleet through the southern ocean in July. Just for every reason. But also, the winds are getting lighter and lighter now like we’re still copping southeast, well the low’s off the coast here, which is very northerly as we speak. So we don’t need that, to sail up the east coast on northerlies. So hopefully August next year, who knows? The weather could do anything but if we can get a nice high sitting in the middle of Australia, you sail around it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That almost times to the day with the start of the Sydney to Southport races, is that just a coincidence or?

Ian Thomson: It’s a week after the Sydney to Southport. It was deliberately done a week after. Sydney to Southport, I’ve been in the yachting industry before and the Sydney boat is always on the same time that that race is on.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Ian Thomson: So selling yachts and wanting to race, you can’t do both. We decided to go afterwards, we don’t want to compete against these other races but at the end of the day, we’ll only run every four or five years. So obviously we’re taking people away from Airlie Beach Race Week and Hammo Race Week, which we didn’t really want to do. It would be great if you could run it at Easter, but the weather at Easter is just not good enough to do that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: You have to run it, it’s an event a lot of people want to do and hopefully we can get a good fleet of boats on the line that are happy to do that and I apologise to all the other yacht races if I take people away from them. I hope they don’t see it that way. I hope they see it as just once every four years we’ll get people down. Sydney to Southport, we could bring boats from overseas that could do a Hobart. So it might take away from one but might add to another.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, absolutely. The thing is too, like the way I look at it is, if you attract a lot of amateur racers or people that don’t do it for day job, many of their crews can’t do anything anyway. They’re going to have to make choices between what they do in terms of time off. So technically, even if you are at the event at a different time of the year, there will be a whole lot of boats for the crew and say, “Well we can’t do Airlie Beach and Hamo and do this race week and fit in family and work.” So that trade offs going to be there to some degree regardless to timing, I think.

Ian Thomson: Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all just race yachts for a living? That would be awesome but as you say, if we run it in the middle of the year, we’re going to taker boats away from the winter series that club’s run. So there’s always going to be something you’re going to conflict against, We’re very aware of trying not to conflict against the Volvo Ocean Race because our Ocean Crusaders Campaign is trying to get a leg in there.

So we’d love to head to, straight from finishing this race over to Alicante and run around with the Volvo Ocean Race with Ocean Crusaders pushing our environmental message. We don’t want to clash with the Golden Globe because that’s Don’s pet and that’s something we’re also looking to be involved in, and 2019 is a long way away. 2017 is the goal and I think most boats will make it around anywhere between 30 and 60 days around the country. Obviously with the eight day stopping, unique feature of any sort of race. Yeah, who knows.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so at least just to sort of jump sideways into Ocean Crusaders, tell me about that. A read some interesting facts online on what’s out there in the ocean that a lot of us, even sailors, take for granted. Tell us about that.

Ian Thomson: It all started back in 2010. I picked up my ice turtle out of the ocean when I was a skipper up in the Whitsundays and I just got over it. Like picking him up, finding out they die because of plastic and plastic bags in particular. It was just killing me because that’s what we love going and seeing. So I actually sailed around in 2010 to raise awareness of that. Okay, it was a bit of a dream to sail around the country but to do it to raise awareness was a really key thing. 

So off the back of that, I ended up launching what is now Ocean Crusaders. Back then it was Save Our Seas Australia. But Ocean Crusaders is morphing into something quite big, into 18,000 schools through our online project. So it’s an awesome thing, but the issue in the ocean is, it’s unheard of. People don’t realise what is actually going on out there. We go to the shops, we pick up our plastic bags, or they’re almost thrown at us. We pick up our milk in plastic containers; we pick up water in plastic bottles.

A lot of it does go to recycling but we’re only talking 38% here in Australia, goes into recycling of PET products. Plastic bags, we don’t have the recycling facilities here to do it. The amount of rubbish out there, they’re talking over 53 trillion pieces of plastic now, all breaking into smaller and smaller pieces and yeah, everyone talks about the north pacific garbage patch but that’s only one of the five jives out there. 

You can’t see most of it because it’s so small, it’s in micro plastic sizes these days, the same size as planktons. So 95% of the fish we’re eating have plastic inside them, they’re consuming plastic out there so we’re consuming plastic. Massive issue. The Ocean Crusaders side of things runs along in the background with sailing to 18,000 schools with our own online education program last year, it’s growing again this year. We’re getting a lot of interest from other yacht races like for our environmental campaign because we’re sailors to be involved. 

We’re trying to get the message out there, do a little bit, whatever we can but obviously this yacht race, being run by me, is going to have some unique features to it and that includes a set of special environmental regulations, which will ban provisioning your boat with plastic bags. You won’t be able to have single used plastic water bottles on board. So the smallest water container in plastic you’ll be able to use will be a 10 litre. 

So you have to refill your bottles as part of the entry fee like each crew member will get a race shirt and a stainless steel water bottle. So they can actually refill those and use them, you don’t end up with all this plastic water bottles in your bags at the end of the race, mostly half drank. No one knows whose is whose. It’s one of those crazy things and we keep doing it. People go on racing and they’ve got plastic forks and they just one use, bang, in the bin. 

People have been throwing aluminium cans overboard for years, thinking, “Oh well, it’s aluminium, it will go.” People don’t understand, aluminium cans have a layer of plastic inside them otherwise, all the fizzy drinks, we know coke what it does to your teeth. It would eat though the aluminium can.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, so this is just the assumption that it would just breakdown and disappear. That’s not the case, with the lining?

Ian Thomson: They will eventually but the plastic parts will actually end up in the ocean. It still takes like something like 400 years for that can to actually completely disappear but the plastic won’t. So throwing aluminium cans in the ocean isn’t good. I was speaking to someone the other day saying that they’re happy to throw glass in the ocean because it’s made from sand.

I don’t even know how to respond to that because I mean where is the mentality that says that’s okay? Let’s recycle it; let’s reuse that product so we don’t have to keep pulling sand out of our beaches. We’ve just got to start getting a lot smarter and less lazy I think. So this race hopefully will change the way we go sailing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s really interesting, you’ve touched on a number of different topics there. How did you reach 18,000 schools? How did that come about? That’s no mean feat when you think about — even if you think about a thousand kids in a school, I mean you’re talking about what? 18 million young people? That’s a big reach.

Ian Thomson: In the five years since we’ve had the online education program going, it’s been stunning the growth. It sort of triples every year. We started off visiting school after I went around Australia and then I realised I couldn’t visit a lot of schools because you visit one school a day. Of course it costs money and we weren’t getting funding in.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: So we put the program online. 13 lessons here in Australia, ranging in topics from overall general plastics is the introduction and then there’s one on plastic water bottles, there’s one on turtles, seals, whales, dolphins, sharks, albatross. There’s all this different lessons. Then we do email marketing out there, as the money comes in, which is very little.

The big growth came when Shawn Manchester, one of the guys from America. He sailed in The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. He only did one leg, which was Florida from San Francisco, which was 5,100 nautical miles. He raised a dollar for every mile he did for Ocean Crusaders. That $5,000 ended up being put back in to an email marketing campaign in America. We grew like over 10,000 schools in America in a year just from one email marketing campaign.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then you get to that tipping point where so many people start to know about it and they start to tell others and it starts to take on a life of its’ own.

Ian Thomson: It’s interesting because unfortunately, I’m not that computer savvy of how to get statistics back and Don picked this up that we’ve got 18,000 schools who have downloaded the program last year. That doesn’t take into account the people who have already downloaded it in the past.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

Ian Thomson: Who could still be using the same program, because you download it on to your computer and you can use it time and time again.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You can just use it over and over.

Ian Thomson: That’s 18,000 new schools last year.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

Ian Thomson: It’s not 18,000 schools. So we could be somewhere a lot higher than that, and I don’t know how to work out how to work out who is using it every year. So we’re working on how we can do that. Whether it’s kids signing a contract committing to no plastic bags for the year and they sign it each year, and after three years they get a T-shirt from Ocean Crusaders, don’t know.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, some good things you can potentially do there with that information and then probably start to help you gather more support to help spread the word wider once you understand the reach because it potentially, like you say, it could be quite large without really even knowing.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, one of the things we struggle with is funding for Ocean Crusaders being not for profit organisation. Recently we’ve been looking at trying to get funding but because we’ve got now quantity of measures of our impact, we struggle to get funding. Yet the people who are cleaning up beaches and pulling tons and tons of rubbish off the beaches are getting hundreds, if not millions of dollars from our government, which makes no sense at all.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like working on the bottom of the cliff, right? After it’s already turned to custard and cleaning up the problem rather than preventing it.

Ian Thomson: We teach the kids prevention is better than a cure. We all learned that at school, and yet the government’s funding the cure, which is “clean it up”. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Because it’s visible, yeah.

Ian Thomson: Which makes no sense and we can’t get funding to go and keep campaigning. As I say, $5,000 US dollars we get over 10,000 new schools.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: Bang like that. But then it does snowball.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And like you say, if you look at supermarket shelves now, there’s bays allocated to 24 packs of water bottles and the irony is we live in a country where water’s on tap for 99% of the population. There’s country’s where they just happily have clean water, yet we’ve got to go now buy it in water bottles instead of taking it out of our taps and I read recently that RQ, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, are looking to change their sailing rules to prohibit use of disposable plastic bottles on boats when you’re racing. Is that something you’ve had a hand to play?

Ian Thomson: To be honest, no. We helped promote the fact that they’ve made the decision but they’ve actually made it off their own back when we go back from our trip overseas. We came to RQ and we know quite a few people here and they said, “Oh you know they’re going plastic bottle free here at RQ,” and I’m like, “Well that’s awesome, let’s promote it because no one knows about it.” They’re following the royal Hong Kong Yacht Club who did it. They’ve been over there and seen one of this massive yacht clubs, which is now a host to the Volvo Ocean Race. They’re doing it so RQ are going, “Well maybe we should too?” 

It’s a huge thing if we can get that done like we’ve just got to find a way for them to do it where we can cater. We’ve just had the junior sail week here and there’s a lot of kids off the beach, so you’ve just got to make sure that we can provide for those kids so we don’t have thirsty sailors. A lot of the senior sailors, that’s all right, they usually drink beer anyway rather than water. But at the end of the day, we just got to make sure we could set it up so that it works.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Theoretically though, 50 years ago when kids sailed before the days of disposable water bottles, or throw away wear bottles, they drank water somehow didn’t they? 

Ian Thomson: Yeah, we all used to do it. We also used to be able to get our groceries home without plastic bags. They were called the boxes that everything goes into the shopping. You pick them up at the door.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s a good point. Theoretically, the same number of boxes that takes food into the supermarket, the same number of boxes you need to take them out again right? In theory.

Ian Thomson: Well, they just crush them.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, they just go to waste, put them to the bows, but you look at what Dan Murphy does, not necessarily a good cause but you get your box back of the check out, and you pack your wine in and away you go. They don’t need to give you plastic bags.

Ian Thomson: That’s just logical; we’ve just got lazy. Unfortunately the supermarkets, it’s a cost thing because…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s a productivity issue too, right?

Ian Thomson: Their biggest cost is to checkout person. Getting someone through the check out as quick as possible and unfortunately at the moment, plastic bags, all one size that they can just pull out on those little stands, fill up, that’s quicker than us taking our own bags.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: What you’re starting to see overseas is cities that are starting to ban plastic and force the change from bylaw level to say, “Within five years you won’t have plastic bags and plastic bottles and what have you.” So some of those things aren’t going to come out of self-motivated commercial agendas are they? If push comes to shove, a bit like all the other stuff for the carbon trading and emissions and sometimes it does take a bit of brute force from government to start to force the change.

Ian Thomson: We wrote a letter a long time ago to the government saying, “why don’t you ban plastic bags?” And they said, “It cost too much.” We spend millions every year on banning like cleaning up the problem but they say it’s too much to ban. Well how much does it cost to make legislation? It’s a bit of words on a few pieces of paper and get a few people to tick it and that’s it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s too hard to risk all those votes for those lazy people who wouldn’t want to change in a short term from plastic bags usage.

Ian Thomson: No, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s how much will it cost their government because most of their campaigns are funded by the oil companies that made plastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. Yeah, right.

Ian Thomson: So it’s not about the people. We deal with whatever we give them, whatever government you get soon, if we get one, we have to deal with whatever they put in place. You learn to live with it, you have to. Otherwise what are you going to do? Complaining when no one listens really.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well that’s right. I never use plastic water bottles when I was racing and maybe 18 months ago we started buying them and now half our rubbish bags are plastic bottles. We were planning some multi-day stuff recently and one of our crew said, “We’ve got this water tanks, why do we fill up the bag with disposable bottles? Why don’t we just take water bottles. If you don’t like the taste of water in the water tanks, which is tap water, just put a carbon filter on your sink tap and it will taste great.”

Ian Thomson: 19 bucks from Bunnings.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hundreds years ago if you said, “You can have a boat with water tanks, and just fill up your bottle whenever you want,” people would have gone, “Wow.” Now we go back to taking bottled water along that we can fill up our rubbish bags with.

Ian Thomson: Still countries out there who would sit there and come on a boat like your boat, like my boat and just go, “Wow, you’ve got a sink, you’ve got a stove, you’ve got running water, you’ve got hot water.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: I mean there’s people that live in villages like they don’t have that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’ve got a cutlery drawer. Why would you throw disposable plastic cutlery when you can just use what’s in your drawer?

Ian Thomson: Exactly. We’re a wasteful society and it’s because we’re lazy. We’ve just go to get over it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so you’re currently the solo around Australia monohull record holder. How did that eventually come about? That’s no mean feat to do it solo given, unlike crossing the ocean, you spend a lot of the time close to the coast, close to other recreational commercial traffic and there’s lots of hard stuff to run into if you got the wrong way at the wrong time.

Ian Thomson: Yes, there’s lots of hard stuff to run into. I didn’t hit anything, thank god. Electronics is the only way you can do things solo these days. I was lucky that I had Furuno sponsor it. The Furuno radar overlaying onto the plot with all the alarms. If rainclouds came close they’d come up on the radar, set off an alarm, I’d wake up but the longest sleep I had in 42 days was 26 minutes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Ian Thomson: The average sleep was usually 20 minutes, I’d sleep for 20 minutes, get up, check everything, get up. I might go straight back to sleep for another 20 minutes. But it’s pretty furlong running two hand it would be a hell of a lot easier and a hell of a lot faster because you can run spinnakers all night because someone’s on deck watching the whole time.

I didn’t. I’d slow down like at night time to make it safe. If there were rain in the area, I wouldn’t have a spinnaker up. It’s was full on to sail solo and these guys who sail around the world on these [inaudible] 60’s with foils.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s unreal.

Ian Thomson: Insanity is probably the word. I realised when I got back that 42 days by yourself is not a good thing in life. It’s sort of people, we’re meant to be with other people. Yeah, pretty full on achievement but doing that is nothing compared to what our oceans are facing and that was the message of why I did it. The oceans are facing a much bigger battle in 42 days. It’s going to take a lot longer than 42 days to clean up our oceans.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well because the problem’s not standing still, right? With population growth and then with some of the countries that just literally bulldoze their waste into the ocean, along there where you stop contributing to the problem.

Ian Thomson: When we’re consider that China’s producing 27% of the plastic that’s in the ocean, China’s a big hit and I remember talking to the guys over at Volvo Ocean Race and they said to us, they went to China obviously in the last edition and they said, “Okay, we want to do a beach clean.” And they’re like, “No, we don’t need to clean beaches because our beaches are clean.” The Chinese government is just not admitting they’ve got a problem. 

Volvo said, “Well okay, no, we want to come and if there’s no rubbish to pick up, that’s awesome, we can promote that, fantastic.” So eventually they agreed that they would be able to do this clean up. 6 o’clock in the morning, the Chinese army went down and cleaned the beach that the Volvo team were going to go and pick up the rubbish off. So by 8 o’clock, when they got there, there was no rubbish on the beach because the army had already picked it all up. So it kind of gives you an idea of China doesn’t want the reputation of creating all this plastic, but they are, and until you admit you’ve got a problem, you’re not going to fix it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean we’re pretty critical of North Korea but that’s a little bit in denial there isn’t there? In terms of that example.

Ian Thomson: A little bit of an understatement, yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Keeping up a public façade that’s quite transparent, well not transparent but you can see straight through it.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what we’re fighting; companies and when governments that are doing that. Our own government says it’s too expensive, it we’ll spend millions of dollars cleaning up the problem.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yes.

Ian Thomson: It’s just, “Let’s get to the source of the problem,” and that is just making a few decisions, making a few changes, getting rid of lazy people. Let’s do something. It can be done. San Francisco’s just banned Styrofoam, there are no more Styrofoam cups, there’s no more Styrofoam burger boxes or anything like that. What a fantastic initiative. Why can’t other governments do that? If it’s so expensive for us to ban plastic bags, how does South Australia and Northern Territory in Tasmania do it?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well exactly. You give people choices and they’ll either recycle or they’ll pay extra for not recycling by buying paper alternatives or other alternatives.

Ian Thomson: You change. You have to change.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: They take quite a lazy option and people don’t have the option anymore.

Ian Thomson: If you have to change, you will.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right. Okay, so your last trip around the country, I mean doing it solo is pretty significant. Like you say, even having a second crew member is probably like having five more crew members in terms of the perceived difference it can make. What were the key lessons you took out of the preparation that you did that made that possible?

Ian Thomson: Pretty much like making sure you’ve got all your electronics running properly. I mean my trip was meant to be nonstop, unassisted. It didn’t end up there because coming across Bass Strait, I had a fan belt broke. I put the spare one on. Must have been petrified because it last less than 24 hours. I didn’t have a third one. So I ended up having to pull into Sydney.

Pulling in to Sydney meant that I was no longer a nonstop, unassisted but I was going to captain cook it up the coast. I literally was. I actually have the ability to do that and because you’re coastal, you can get your line of site and I had the charts, I had the handheld GPS, so it wasn’t quite Captain Cooking it but I would have done all right. 

Problem was when I was not sleeping and I couldn’t have my radar and my alarms set anymore, literally at one stage, I woke up, came outside, made sure there’s nothing around and there was a super tanker 50 meters beside me. That scared the living bejesus out of me and that was it. As a commercial skipper, I couldn’t go running into a ship, putting other people’s lives at risk, so you just couldn’t do it. I had to stop. Records are one thing but safety of life is the biggest thing to anyone. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hit some other boat and near killed someone or anything like that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s not great for your family either to leave…

Ian Thomson: It was interesting because I probably got more credit from people in the sailing industry for actually stopping and making that decision for safety than if I had pushed on and actually got the record. In this race coming up, safety is always going to be a paramount thing and one of the cool things with the pit stop version of the race where you can take your eight days wherever you like…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I love that part.

Ian Thomson: …is that if you have a problem, you can go in and get it fixed.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s like having money in the bank, isn’t it? You just got to choose when and how you spend it or whether you save it till the end of it and enjoy it all at once.

Ian Thomson: Massive technical decision for weather but it does give you a get out of jail clause if you tear your mainsail in half. Like in the last Hobart, how many boats pulled up because of torn mainsails? Well this option is, you sail into the nearest port, you get it fixed and off you go again.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: To me, that was a really cool feature. It was actually Don McIntyre’s idea of how to run it, learning from his original race. So yeah, I like that. Eight days, I don’t even know how Don came up with eight days, and I don’t know why I didn’t change it. It was just, “Well that sounds good. Happy days, eight days.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that was probably kind of a day a week kind of thing almost isn’t it?

Ian Thomson: Yeah, what did it take me? Six weeks to get around? Six weeks to get around. So yeah, it is sort of a day a week.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well when I saw it, the thing that instantly struck me was, “Wow, this is actually doable whether volunteer crew who have day jobs and lives because they can join you for one leg or two legs or three legs because depending on how you use those days, you might say, “We’ve got four 12 day legs,” and anyone potentially can join you for 12 days but they couldn’t do the whole race.

So the ability for a crew to swap out at certain change over points and you’d have some reserve days for things that come up that break or need attention. It just gives you a whole lot of flexibility that you wouldn’t have if you had to say find people who want to do a 45/50 day race and take two months out of their lives. 

Ian Thomson: Absolutely. And I mean we had a fine call and I hope this comes off because it will be awesome for the race and awesome for the program but Dave Pescud from Sailors With Disabilities currently owns the nonstop fully crewed record around Australia for a monohull with the Sailors With Disability Program. He’s been in touch and he loves the whole stopping concept because it means they can go in to port, they can get promotion at that port, they can swap crew over, get sailors with disabilities from that region to sail the next leg. 

So if they come on board, fingers crossed that their committee allows it and we can find some funding for them even, like if you’re out there listening, awesome program. It changes people’s lives. If they had the funding to do this race, imagine what that would do for those people. “I was in the race. I’ve raced around Australia.” Huge thing for someone who is able bodied, let alone disabled.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There will be some stats somewhere that says there’s more to the moon already than to have sailed around Australia. So it’s no mean feat when you think about some of the adversity that you face with some of the weather and some of the legs, especially down south.

Ian Thomson: Absolutely, one of the ambassadors of the Ocean Crusaders Program and I’m still yet to get in touch with him, Jamie Dunross. In 2010 when I was sailing around Australia, Jamie was too. Jamie was doing it on a little S&S 34, same thing that Jessica Watson went around.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Popular model.

Ian Thomson: His was yellow, not pink like Jessica’s and he was doing it with stops, which you sit there and go, “Okay, well you know a guy sailing around the country, stopping by himself, no problems,” then you hear the guy’s story. He’s a C5 quadriplegic. It takes him 40 minutes to get to the bow and back on a 34 foot yacht. The guy has so little movement in his arms and legs that the whole interior of his boat was actually padded because he can’t hang on if the boat rolls. 

He can’t come in to a port and tie up without someone to help him because he can’t be on the tiller and just quickly run up to the bow and then 40 minutes later your boat will be in the next marina. So what a legend. He sailed around and if you actually took out the days of his stops, he’s the second fastest person to sail around the country.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s no mean feat.

Ian Thomson: For a C5 quadriplegic. He’s an absolute dead set legend and inspiration for anyone who is thinking of doing this race. He did it as a C5 quadriplegic with stops. Anyone can do this.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And most of us grumble because it takes us 20 minutes to get away with the gear on and off and we don’t have to worry about lifting up the stairs into the cockpit in a hurry. I mean that’s a huge barrier for somebody that has to deal with a race like that.

Ian Thomson: Just to set his boat up with systems to get him up and down a companion way. We just walk up and down the companionway. He has to have a full system to lift him up there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: He even had a system set up to go up the mast.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s amazing to just have the guts to do something like that with a limited movement. I’m not the best with heights on a good day let alone the fact that you’re completely reliant on technology to get you there and nobody to naturally grab on in a hurry, that’s incredible. 

Ian Thomson: You talk of inspirations in your life to do things and for me, running this race is about allowing people to achieve their dreams and so many people want to do it. You’re our third entry but the two first entries, both of those boats had actually been custom built for this race. The first one was built for the 88th bicentennial race. That’s the 50 foot cat Top Gun. That was built back in ’87 to go on the first race, it didn’t make it because of funding issues.

It was then bought by somebody else to do the race, that didn’t happen in 2014 and now we got the new owner who is hopefully third time lucky, we’ll actually get it around the country. Then the other boat is Tam Faragher’s 50 foot Kerumba. Absolutely stunning boat. Beautiful boat, built it to do what was meant to be the 2014 race. Obviously never went ahead and so now he was our first entrant because as soon as he heard about it, he was like, “Yup, okay, we’re in.” No hesitation, it’s just what his boat was built for, it’s a dream for those people. Coramba, I don’t know how much it cost but it’s not a cheap boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a beautiful boat.

Ian Thomson: Absolutely stunning boat. For him to have built a boat for this event and not be able to do it, that would have hurt. Now he’s got an opportunity to do it. We’ve got three boats now; we’ve got a race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, because I entered last night.

Ian Thomson: You entered last night and I love the fact that your boat’s not a full blown race boat, the other two, well okay the catamaran is a full blown race boat. Kerrumba’s a race boat on the outside but really nice downstairs and you’ve got the more cruisey version of a boat. It shows, it doesn’t matter what boat you’ve got.

We’ve had interest from a guy who owns an old Herreshoff, 70 year old boat and it’s the smallest boat to have competed in the Sydney to Hobart, he raced five times in the 50’s and he’s looking at going around on that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Isn’t that cold to get some of those iconic type boats back for something like this. That really creates a special race. 

Ian Thomson: Well something I’m really focused on, because I really hate the Hobart every year because it’s all about the maxis. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s right. The television viewers who don’t sail would think that there are only five boats in the race or that all the boats in the race are hundred footers because that’s the coverage, right?

Ian Thomson: They’re all multimillionaires and it doesn’t matter, all their crew get $20,000 to go to Hobart. But you get Maluka of Kermandie who is Sean Langman’s boat that’s so small and timber and takes nearly till New Years to get to Hobart. Some say it’s kind of like golf, they’re out there longer so they get more enjoyment. I don’t know about that because going to Hobart’s, the wrong way.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Depending on the weather that you’re enjoying.

Ian Thomson: But at the end of the day, we’re dead set certain we will promote every single boat in this race. Everyone will have sponsors. If they’re sailing for a cause, we’ll be right behind them 100%. Every boat will get coverage. If we get TV for the start, we’ll actually run separate starts if we have to, to ensure that every boat gets covered. If those start focusing on the big maxi boats, they’ll have me in their ear very quickly saying, “Get off them. It’s not about them, it’s about everybody living a dream.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s really struck me as a horses for causes type of an event because you’re going to attract shorthanded crews that want to go nonstop on monos or multis but also all of those crews that are out there that can make it work because of the eight day ability to stop for eight days throughout the course of the race to change crews, repair damage, replenish provisions. I think that makes it work and I think that when I thought about like last night, I thought, “What is it about this that’s kind of the magic ingredient?”

I think there’s this whole bunch of sailors who sail up and down the coast and never want to get out of sight of the land and they look at the around the world sailors and say, “Wow, that would be cool to do some day but I’ll never do it because of time, cost, money, logistics. I can’t take 10 months out of my life or what have you.” You look at this race, you’re within a stone’s throw of the coast, even though it’s probably out of sight sometimes. It’s a long race but even the cost of getting crew from one side of the country to the other that get on and get off is not that significant. Versus getting them to the other side of the world. 

It’s really got all the ingredients of a great ocean race with all sorts of challenges and different legs and different stops and different dimensions but it’s actually within reach of a lot of people I think from an affordability but more importantly, time. You can take a couple of months out of your life to do something like this but most of us couldn’t take nine or 12 months or 18 months as it turns into when you’re preparing for something big and all the preparation that goes in.

It kind of struck me as this sort of big enough to be challenging and you wouldn’t want to do it every year but it’s one of those things that if you did it once in your life or twice in your life, it’s a pretty amazing way to see the country as well.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, we’re trying to open it up to as many people as we can obviously for safety side of things, we had to put an age barrier on it but we did actually drop that down to 16. There’s a lot of 16 year old kids who are damn good sailors. Jessica went around the world when she was 16. So people can sail at that age. If you’ve got a 16 year old kid who wants to sail around the country with you, what a great thing to do when you’re 16.

We took the size restrictions off that most races have these days. I’m talking about top end and bottom end. Because you got the mini transat boats. Mini Transat boat, six and a half can’t do a Hobart. But they can cross the Atlantic?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s an odd one isn’t it? That anomaly.

Ian Thomson: We’ve had an inquiry from a couple already that love the stops thing because on a six and a half meter boat, being able to stop and re-provision is probably a good thing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well you can’t take it all with you upfront, can you? Not easily without having a severe weight issue with handicap wise.

Ian Thomson: Well, you can and obviously they do it across the Atlantic. But when you’re eating out of a packet all of the time, it might be nice to stop and have a good steak meal. Even a few cold beers or anything cold for that matter because they don’t have fridges on those boats but yeah, just being able to open it up to smaller boats. Obviously the big boats, there are outright records held by 110 foot trimaran.

Imagine if Spindrift 2 wants to come down here, 135 footer, 130 foot maxi trimaran and do it, fantastic. But the other thing, the shorthanded version, we have the Melbourne to Osaka that starts in March 2018. To come out here to Australia, do the around of Australia, hang around, do the Hobart with a few extra crew, then go back to Melbourne, do the race week in Melbourne, Victoria Sailing Week or whatever they call it these days. Then line up and go back to Japan, you’re back in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully we can drag a few international entrants on that basis.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s nice if the timing feeds into other things, makes it all work.

Ian Thomson: So you would have that if you did it in 2018 that would be the wrong time of the year.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, what’s your vision and do you see this as the start of something new that then starts to run every four years or some sort of frequency and starts to take on a life of its own and gather them into them?

Ian Thomson: Absolutely, we would love it to become a permanent race and grow into one of the legendary races that you want to do in your life. Round Island Yacht Race, just had 300 entries or something. I don’t think we’ll ever get that many but you dream.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Who knows right? You could start somewhere. 

Ian Thomson: So timing wise, how many years between? I don’t know to be honest. We’ll talk to the sailors who enter this event afterwards and say, “What do you think?” We’re listening to the sailors in this event. We just want to listen to what their thoughts are. If they like something, great. If they don’t, we’ll change them.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I saw some interesting commentary, I think you might have said, the people have already raised questions about the fuel restrictions and part of the environmental approach is whatever fuel you leave, is what you’re going to take around the country and if you think on one hand about solar and wind generators and the hydro ones you can go through the water, then from a self-sufficiency point of view, the options are there. I think you got around with about 180 litres I think when you went around. What’s the push back been? I didn’t see that it’s unreasonable when I read that as part of the conditions.

Ian Thomson: I think some people are looking at what they’ve used in other races and haven’t even thought about the alternatives because they’ve all spoken to me before that article was put out about the environmental side of things. Which we just wanted to hold back a little bit as to why we put them in there.

It’s like the plastic bag thing, really? “Why do you want to get rid of plastic bags?” “Because we don’t need them.” “Why do you want to restrict fuel?” We don’t need it. We don’t need fossil fuels. Teslas can drive around the country like on a battery.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right.

Ian Thomson: We’ve got solar and by jeez, Australia, sailing around the country, you’re not going to see too many cloudy days apart from the southern ocean. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Plus we’re sailing right? We’re not murdering. That’s the primary goal. 

Ian Thomson: That’s the other thing, we’ve sailed back from Croatia to Australia with solar and wind and we could sail, like when we’re sailing, if the wind was 15 knots, with the wind generator and the sun during the day, we didn’t need anything. At night time we might have to throw the engine on for a couple of hours which is two litres of fuel a day. That’s not a lot. 

The hydro generators are improving and the cost are coming down. Just spoken to a company and it’s likely we will have them on board with a discount. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Also when you’re sailing, it’s kind of annoying putting the engine on if you don’t have to. Even just the sound interruption, let alone the fact you're wasting fuel in running the engine, which doesn’t really like just idling.

Ian Thomson: I’ve always talked about the R factor of sailing of when you turn that engine off and you hear that silence and all of a sudden it’s like like, “sigh”, yeah. The hydro generators that are coming out these days, they’re getting better and better. We’ve got a company, Watt and Sea that are likely to come on board and offer a discount to our entrants on their systems. Now, someone said to me, “Well that costs a fortune, they’re like $12 grand.” They’re down to under $6 grand these days. I think its $5,200 for the new Watt and Sea hydro generator. It’s 300 watt so…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s pretty substantial. I’ve just put three solar panels on there and they’re 1.2 meters by 800 millimetres and they’re 400 in total for the three panels. So 300 is quite substantial form an output point of view.

Ian Thomson: Yeah they’re 300 watt and that’s sort of speed at 10 knots. They power up in anything above three knots. So I mean at the end of the day, that’s $5,200 I think. I’m hoping that we’ve got some sizeable discount coming from them as part of the deal we’re trying to work with them.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: It’s a sponsorship of sort. We’re not looking to get money from them, we want to offer discounts to our entrants and that’s the sponsorship that hopefully they’ll put forward. So fingers crossed for that but they look awesome. They’re just a one meter fin that hangs off the boat, that’s very little drag on them and huge power. So I think you’ll actually find this system, not in the 17, 18 Volvo Ocean Race. But they have a vision of going fossil fuel free in the Volvo Ocean Race. I think you will actually find those things will power the next generation of boats because they want to design boats. So if they’ve all go them, they’ve all got them.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well instead of having to run those dedicated generators daily to top their batteries that would be a great step forward.

Ian Thomson: It’s where we’re going, we’ve got hybrid engines in boats in the past, we’re getting hybrid cars. Germany is looking at banning fossil fuel cars after 2030. So if cars aren’t in them, why are we using them in sailboats? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Life’s easier. I mean if you don’t have to plug in the shore power on your engine, I’ve just put solar on because down the Gold Coast, quite often it’s not enough wind for the wind generator to be effective and if you’re in anchorage for a few days, just running your engine for the sake of it, there’s no enjoyment there and here’s a trailer for it, you’ve still got a fuel cost and you’ve got an engine wear and tear cost, it’s not that running your engine’s free. So when you’re thinking about the value over time of other forms of power generation, you’ve got to look at the cost of your engine use and maintenance and fuel over time, it’s not a free resource.

Ian Thomson: Well in the last Vendée Globe, there was a boat that actually was going fossil fuel free. Didn’t get a lot of publicity because it wasn’t one of the quicker boats but his deck was covered in those flexible solar panels. So even on a race boat you can do this. Because how much deck space on a race boat do you never walk on? So just looking at those alternatives, you don’t have to have the big bulky solar panels. The technology is there, we just got to think about it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: To be motivated to think differently, be creative. Okay, with the race, so how many entries do you expect or what do you think the range will be? Do you have any kind of guesstimate in your wildest dreams as to what it could be on the start line when it comes to August next year?

Ian Thomson: Wildest dreams? People keep asking me this question and I have no answer to it. We’ve got three boats now, we’ve got a race. If we end up with 10 boats, awesome. If we end up with 20 boats, awesome. It’s not about how big it is to me, it’s about making sure that if we got three boats, that those three boats achieve their dream. If we got hundred boats, we’ve got to cover a hundred boats and we’ve got a hundred boats achieving their dreams. That’s more important to me than numbers. Obviously if we end up with a hundred boats, god, it would blow my mind for starters. Like a hundred boats…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There’s a few logistical issues coming out of that.

Ian Thomson: We might need a few more crew to run the race. But that’s all right. I don’t have a wild expectation. I don’t have a number that I dream of, I just want people to achieve their dreams and come on out and if they’ve got questions, give me a call. I’ll talk to anybody. Drop me an email, I’ll respond to every email. I’ll help people try and get to that start line. That’s what it’s about for me.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great Ian. I mean there’s this little old race called the Solo Tasman Race, which runs every four years, and most people have never heard of it. 10, 15, 20 odd boats turn up every four years, and leave from New Plymouth and sail to Mooloolaba. So for people to be able to achieve things like this they want to achieve, with the flexibility that the format creates and the sheer number of boats that are potentially attracted to it, it’s got all the potential to be very satisfying for a lot of people for a whole lot of different reasons.

Ian Thomson: It’s also a bit more achievable in the Solo Trans-Tasman. The problem with the Solo Trans-Tasman is solo and you’re off shore.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s the Tasman.

Ian Thomson: No insurance company will touch you. Around Australia, when I went around, I was on a Club Marine insurance policy. 200 nautical miles from land. You're going to stretch the boundaries across the Southern Ocean there, but most of the time you’re within 200 nautical miles of land. We’ll talk to the insurance companies and say he’s going to come on to try and support the teams who are trying to do this event so that hopefully they’ll offer discounts as well. When we sailed offshore, we went with Pantaenius, so they have an offshore cruising insurance, I don’t know if they cover racing or not?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: They do, I use them. In fact, I just had my policy extended for Sydney Southport because it’s the length of race rather than distance off shore. In terms of the Australian policy and up to 250 nautical miles is the first level of racing cover. The club racing up to that and then they’ve got over 250 which of course Sydney Southport and Sydney Hobart and that’s pretty — my access hasn’t changed, it’s added $900 to the year for the policy but it covers all of the racing activity.

So it’s actually quite reasonable. I found they’re the best. I had another company I used but through my good behaviour or five years of having nil claims, my access progressively got matched from $2,000 to $15,000. I couldn’t get any explanation as to why. So I changed to Pantaenius.

Ian Thomson: Yeah. So just being achievable, like I say, it’s one of those things, you can fly crew to Cannes and pickup, swap your crew out who are tired from the trip from Sydney to Cannes. I’ve got a pretty good bet that we’ll have quite a few boats stopping Broome. Why wouldn’t you? It’s Broome. It’s hard to get there by plane, that’s really hard to get there by boat but in this race you're going to be sailing past the doorstep.

After that, do you go into Bunbury like I actually did? That’s not far from the corner there at Cape Leeuwin and then stop in there before you go across. Or do you sail around the corner into Albany before you sail across down the Tasmania. Who knows? It’s going to be really interesting to watch that side of it from being stuck on land and probably with itchy feet. My wife’s looking for a ride on a boat, she doesn’t even want to sit with me and watch the boat, she wants to do it. So yeah, it’s interesting.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and it brings so many different variables. Like an incredible number of variables with the ability to choose when you stop and to work that around weather being a factor as well. Clearly stopping for a day when there’s no wind is going to be more advantageous than a 20 knots power wind. I’m sure it’s one of those races if you get a dozen boats or more, the lead will chop and change many times and to finish first, you must finish, as they say with many marathons.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, but being able to stop and do some repairs, even if you use more than the 8 days, so what? As long as you finish because crossing that finish line — in my solo around Australia I had to stop, but I still crossed the finish line, and it was the best day of my life.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s interesting they say that and I think some of the times you find with these things, people think they set out to do it for all sorts of external reasons. Competing a race and what have you but often then they finish the race, they realise they did it for a whole lot of other internal personal reasons and that regardless of the external outcomes, that’s a far greater life lasting sense of achievement and satisfaction than anything external that you can be given or awarded.

Ian Thomson: I launched Ocean Crusaders off the back of my trip around Australia. What else is going to be launched from it? Who is going to be able to do what, having being able to do this race? Who knows? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s just a one little drop starts off that ripple effect that gathers all that moment.

Ian Thomson: Yeah and look, as I say, it’s about people achieving their dreams and if people can achieve their dreams and I’ve helped them do that then another tick in the box and my life achievements is to be able to get these boats around Australia. To be able to save a few turtles lives, to raise awareness of plastic even while doing this race. 

Having, as you say, half dozen over a dozen boats going around and being able to send the message out through them as well rather than just me going around solo and when I went around, no one really, apart from Sail World running an article every day, we didn’t end up on the TV or anything like that. Who knows what will happen on this road because it’s a pretty major race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Absolutely. It’s very Australian centric as well, with it being around Australia.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, we just need a big good old Aussie sponsor now and we’ll be fine. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, there’s a little bit of time, some would say there’s not much time but it’s quite a bit of time and the sooner you can gather momentum and interest now, who knows what could unfold just the next two or three months.

Ian Thomson: To be honest, we haven’t even chased sponsors yet. We wanted to get a few entries in first and get a feel for it before we decided to do it, but we’ll start chasing them now.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s good. So when you sailed around the country and clearly if you’re living on small pockets of sleep, I guess there’s days where you’re just enjoying the wild beauty and the aura of it all and there’s days where you think, “I just want this to be over, I’m tired and grumpy.” What were the memorable parts of the trip for you?

Ian Thomson: Well, some of the things that a lot of people wouldn’t realise is what sleep deprivation can do to you. I tell this story now but I didn’t even tell it when I was out there. Especially to my mom because she was panicking as it was me being out there, but sailing down the west coast, sailed right across the top from Airlie beach to Carnarvon. We flew around there and I think we were averaging 11 knots, the wind was behind us, and we were just off, happy days.

Get to Carnarvon, the weather forecasts were all telling me to go into the shore, you’ll get this run down the coast, happy days. So I went in, it wasn’t that, there was no wind. All four forecasts that I was using said the same thing and nothing was there. So we spent two days getting back out, we missed a front. But sailing down the coast I was, each day, I wasn’t on a big budget so I’d call in on the satellite phone to a friend and they’re write the report and put it out to a Sail World and three days in a row, I was ringing my own mobile because she had my mobile and I got my own voice on the answering machine. 

So I was speaking to myself and that was the only contact I had. I kind of got a little annoyed the first day and the second day was very annoying and the third day it was pretty livid, so I rang mom just to hear another voice. But coming down the coast there, because I missed the weather wind, instead of getting in front of a huge front that came through I ended up in it. This was off the coast of Perth. Perth had 60 knots that night. I don’t think I quite had 60 knots on the boat but rather than sailing downwind to Cape Leeuwin, I got absolutely hammered on the nose, 35, 40 knots on the nose, on the boat that was made to go downhill. 

I was tired, I was grumpy, I was cold, and the boat felt like it was breaking. I actually was sitting there on a beanbag downstairs, wet, miserable, planning how to sink my boat. To all the insurance companies out there, don’t listen. I was in such a mental state that I wanted out. I couldn’t fail by just giving up, that’s just not who I am. But that’s where I was sitting. I was thinking, “I’m going to sink the boat and hang on. Hang on, I don’t want to sink it out here, it will take too long to get the rescue services to me so I’ll sail in towards the coast.” So I started sailing in towards Bunbury, and I fell asleep. Woke up, “What the hell are you doing?” Literally like that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Top your batteries up, have a little bit of sleep and suddenly you’ve got a whole different level of reasoning. 

Ian Thomson: I was like, “What the hell are you trying to sink your boat for?” But just that sleep deprivation, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. I wasn’t thinking about jumping off the back of the boat and killing myself, I was going to get into the life raft and you know, I had problems, I wanted it to stop. But yeah, for me, it was a pretty big moment in my life to sit there and just that little bit of sleep. I woke up, I’m like, “Ah, this isn’t right. Okay, we’re going to get some repairs done.” So I sailed into Bunbury, and just dropped the anchor and fixed my mainsail, got my engine working again, took off again. So I’m not going to say this is the easiest track to sail around in the world. It’s over 6,350 miles by the time you actually sail. Everyone’s going to face some pretty wicked challenges. At least you’ll have someone else on the boat to help you and to talk to.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: But finishing was the highlight of the race. Sailing across, I was fortunate enough to have done it out of the Whitsundays Sailing Club. They supported me hugely, a lot of mates up there. I happened to be arriving on a Wednesday afternoon. So they actually had Wednesday afternoon sailing on, and I was arriving before the race and every single boat came out, came over and sailed past me to congratulate me before they went to the start line of the race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s a pretty magical way to finish.

Ian Thomson: It was cool. It was really cool. Mom was up there on one of the boats that I worked on and it was just, what an achievement? You’ve finished the line; you’ve achieved something massive. So from halfway around wanting to give up, to actually achieving the goal, just two total contrasts of life, probably the lowest point in my life ever to the highest point in my life ever. So yeah, achieve your dreams, you’ve got to never give up. 

I wrote a book afterwards called Dare to Dream, and it was all about encouraging people to just go for it. Like stop living within your comfort zone, get out there, have a go. Okay, you’re going to fail sometimes but get up, get off of the ground and go again. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your business, whether it’s your family life, whether it’s a running race or race around the country. Unless you have a go, you’re never going to know and dying with regrets is probably one of the biggest regrets you’ll ever have.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah absolutely. 

Ian Thomson: So yeah just to me, that’s why this race exist. Allow people to achieve your dream that so few people will ever do or so few people have done.  Jamie Dunross can do it as a C5 quadriplegic, anyone can do this. Anyone can do this. I’m hoping that maybe a few boats will actually get together, you know, the corporate boats and do something like The Clipper where you can have people who have never sailed before. I haven’t been in touch with any of them but I will be touching base with them. I know there’s four Volvo 60’s in this country that would be ideal for it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That would be perfect. What a great culture and team building exercise and you’ll be able to change out employees on different legs so that you have this marathon type event but you can tailor it to businesses needs as well, that’s a pretty cool idea.

Ian Thomson: Spirit of the Maid, 2001 Volvo 60, sitting up at Hamilton Island, foresail $150 grand.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Gosh, wow.

Ian Thomson: That’s a for sale for us. Okay you probably have to do some work to get it on the water and get it ready for the race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s a great starting point though.

Ian Thomson: Volvo 60 is going to smash this course, 78% downwind for me. That’s what those things were made for, going around the Southern Ocean. Spirit of the Maid, Merit’s got new owners. You’ve got Southern Excellence, it’s a Volvo 70, it’s on the market, I don’t know the price of that one. Some pretty cool boats on the market, there’s even a TP 52 for $180 grand down in Sydney. I mean that would be smoking to do this trip on. Some pretty cheap boats out here. So and people overseas, I’m sure there’s some boats out here that people will put out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There’s lots of Whitbread boats still floating around that are now sort of charter and tourist boats that would be still be fit for purpose.

Ian Thomson: But even a fleet of Sydney 38’s, great boat to do this trip on

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It would be good if you had a class, one or two classes where they took tat kind of approach, with another race within a race type concept.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, like even the class 40’s I’ve had interest from one already. There’s not too many in Australia but certainly a class that I think will build in Australia because they’re two handed boats and perfect for this race. So who knows, hopefully we’ll get some sort of class going and who knows what will happen. It’s an open slider at the moment and we’re open to anything and ready to listen and definitely ready to take entries and help people achieve their dreams.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With this type of race, logistically, if you are 10, 20, 30, 40 entries. Logistically, what has to happen other than the start-finish line is there anything you need to do logistically around the country from a safety support, logistics compliance point of view? What happens from that point of view? 

Ian Thomson: We’re basically, there will be a tracking system, there has to be to know where everyone is. But also, everyone has to have a shore-based contact so that we know that they’re in touch with someone on the shore. When people are doing their pit stops, we need to hear from them so that we know where they’re going in. Obviously we will have a lot of contacts, I mean I know most of the marinas around the country, so if you need a mainsail repaired in Broome, that we’ve got someone sitting on the dock waiting for you when you get there because on a boat, you don’t want to be organising that stuff but we’re happy to do that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and a day’s a short amount of time ashore right? Even with the best laid plans. 

Ian Thomson: Yeah, but they can do it after every race day and Hammo and Airlie Beach Race Week. Certainly like you break a sail there and it’s back on the dock first in the morning. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If you organise the right people in place, everything is doable right? 

Ian Thomson: If people are there and just even people from the yacht clubs may be willing to come and support people who are coming in by running them down the shops rather than having them get a taxi or picking up people from the airport or if you’ve got crew flying in there, who knows, yacht clubs can help out.

When Jamie Dunross pulled in to the Whitsundays, I contacted the Whitsundays Sailing Club and said, “This bloke is coming, help him out.” A whole fleet were out there to greet him. He wanted to move to the Whitsundays after that event. So yacht clubs around the country if we’ve got boats coming in to you, we’ll be looking for your help and I’m sure people will be willing to help and just listen to the stories those people have, have a beer, because I’m sure people will be having a beer if they do stop. It’s an Australia wide race.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it creates quite an opportunity for, away from the typical you’re a stop over port or you're not. Anyone can be a stopover port within reason, right? So in an unplanned kind of way, there’s all sorts of ports and stops and marines around the country that may get a boat to stopping for whatever reason that they get the ability to host and spend 24 hours with and help out and create all sorts of local interest from just general public wanting to come down and see a boat that’s part way around the country. It’s quite a cool concept; it’s a really interesting format. Though I haven’t really seen or thought of before but it hits so many nails on the head I think in terms of the flexibility.

Ian Thomson: It would be a very interesting scenario from Sydney to Hobart allowed it because how many boats end up in Eden? Imagine if you could pit stop at Eden, do repairs and keep going. It will never happen but you sort of sit there, you’d have so many more finishes if you could do that. A club like Coffs Harbour might sit there and go, “Oh, we’re so close to the start, no one’s going to pull in to our club.”

Have a look at the Vendée Globe race. How many boats break the first day? Then they’ve got to go back. So boats could even be pulling in at pit water. You don’t know. If damage happens, at least with this concept, pull in, get it fixed, continue racing. That allows you to do that; as long as you don’t pull the boat out of the water. So don’t hit anything underwater.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Well and here’s the thing, right? If you, just hypothetically, if you’re cruising and your average six and a half knots right? Well that’s a thousand hours of sailing and do and a thousand hours of sailing, it’s probably who knows? Five years of club racing, you are going to break stuff. Stuff’s going to wear out; you can’t carry speed through everything. There is that unpredictability and their need to improvise that’s all part of the magic I think in terms of the race.

Ian Thomson: Don’t expect your sails to be in very good condition when you get back. Six and a half thousand nautical miles of sailing is going to put some wear and tear on a set of sails. But one hint I will give you is making sure you leave with damn good sails. I didn’t. My mainsail delaminated when I put the third reef in. That was off in that storm over in Western Australia.

For the second half of the trip, I couldn’t take the reef out. I sailed with the third reef for the second half of the trip because the rest of the sail was destroyed. So leaving with the right equipment, and this is why I say my phone’s always on and my email’s always open. I’ll help you get to the start line but I’ll also make sure you’re ready for the start line as well because I learned a lot of things. Bruce Arms who owns the multihull record I’m sure would be only too happy to talk to anybody about how to run your drogues. 

A lot of people don’t realise that in the Southern Ocean, he nearly ended up being pulled off his boat. He was racing alone and put the drogue out, it got tangled or something was in it. He tried to pull it in, ended up with a loop around his ankles and he’s drogue trying to pull him off the boat. Very, very lucky guy. We’ve learned a lot. Dave Pescud’s probably got some stories to tell as well of when we went around. So there are a lot of lessons to be learned, there’s a lot of lessons that will be learned but preparation of your boat, key. Number one factor, it’s got to be ready. Not just to sail to Hobart, this is going around the country.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s 10 Hobart right?

Ian Thomson: 10.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah I just suddenly thought, it’s a quantum leap when you think about that.

Ian Thomson: You crossed the Queensland border you haven’t even done a Hobart. You’ve only just began, you’re only 10% of the way when you’re crossing to Queensland. It’s a long way. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just along those lines then, and if you look at a different example, but the Atlantic Rally for Cruises which is 150 odd entries each year now, they run a number of seminars or workshops leading up to that to prepare some of the novices for these types of things.

Have you got any plans to give any thoughts to some of the resource that may help the average boater to plan something like this where they haven’t done anything category one or been off shore before like this where they’re having to prepare for that kind of long distance, self-sufficiency, marathon type event where it’s not like you can just, even with eight stop overs, you still need to prepare and plan. You’re not always in everything within reach and you’re not going to get around if you don’t think about these things and plan property.

Ian Thomson: Certainly would love to travel around and do some workshops before we go, but that’s going to come down to the funding that we’ve got available from sponsors because we won’t put that funding onto the competitors. If we have to do a webinar or whatever.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Webinar I was going to say is probably a good alternative.

Ian Thomson: So at the end of the day, we’re here to help, we’ll find a way to do it and just a matter of when and how and listen to them. At the moment it’s still over a year away and as we get close within six months of it, certainly we’ll want to start talking to competitors more often and find out where they’re up to.

In the Golden Globe Race, Don was telling me people were already preparing and that starts in 2018. Their boat’s getting ready already so yeah, obviously a year is going to disappear pretty quickly when we all think about having to work and get a boat on the water at the same time. But it’s nothing over the top of what you would normally do on a boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No.

Ian Thomson: It’s just you might have to add a few systems, you might want to put that wind generate on, you might want to put those solar panels on and getting them fitted early, making sure those systems are operating correctly, trying them in a race beforehand is really worth it to make sure that you don’t go out there with a new system.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Absolutely, and your tools and your spares and your points of weakness and your backup plans.

Ian Thomson: Make sure your fan belts are good and you’ve got two spares.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I carry two spare sets now because I had an unfortunate experience for taking friends away for a week and we were half an hour out of the marina and the main one went and I said, “That’s okay, we’ll sort it out when we stop.” But it had shot shrapnel through the other two belts that run my super alternator and they shred themselves, I kid you not, half an hour later. So I ended up with over three belts gone and I checked the spares and there was only one spare for the three I needed and even though the previous owner had the boat’s engines serviced every year, the fan belt was 12 years old. The irony is you should just replace it before it breaks but it’s a good example if you don’t have spares, we were stuck for three days waiting for spares to arrive and not been able to run power and stuff.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, and getting the right stuff, making sure you’ve got your spare and powers for everything. It’s just you kind of carry a bit more equipment on this trip than you would even going to Hobart because yeah, you don’t want to off the coast to Broome have something go down and you don’t know how long it’s going to take to get to Broome. Probably quicker than you think, but you’ll pay for it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and it’s better than ending your race early just because you’re not prepared and often I’ve found, it’s the $5 path that causes you the grief. It’s not that the problem’s expensive, it’s just the part’s unique and without it, other things don’t work.

Ian Thomson: But it’s the little things that a lot of people don’t look at. They just go, “Oh you know, my rudder is tight.” They don’t pull the rudder out and check the bearing, and make sure the bearing is solid; it’s got no cracks in it. You need to do that before you go around the country like this. You pretty much need to pull your rig down and have a rigger scan all your rigging. 

We don’t want any dismounting because that’s going to take a bit more than 24 hours to fix. When I went around, I spoke about — well I spoke to myself about it, which you do quite a lot when you’re sailing solo. Sailing at 90% a 100% of the time. You can’t sail at 110% in a race like this. You can’t do it, it’s not a sprint.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, and you’re just going to break stuff.

Ian Thomson: The ARC guys in the Hobart might do that and if they make it, great. If they don’t, “Oh well, we tried.” This isn’t about that, this is about getting to the finish line, if that means you do sail at 90%, you do. If there’s a cloud on the horizon, pull the cart in, what’s it going to do? Over six and a half thousand nautical miles.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: A nautical mile like lost because of safety versus blowing up your coat on the second night. It takes away your tactical advantage of getting something fixed later on. If you break something the first night, it takes out a day or two of your stops. You can’t use them later. Later on down the track, you’ve got to realise the crew’s going to be tired. They’re going to be very tired and it is more likely that things are going to get broken.

Even though Hobart seems really close to home, with just a reverse Hobart to Sydney to do, Hobart would be a pretty cool spot to stop and just make sure you’re fresh for that last little blast if you’ve got two or three days up your sleeve when you get to Hobart, perfect. Stop, relax, chill out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, you can really recharge your batteries.

Ian Thomson: Hopefully the weather’s kind too, otherwise you could stop just even in Botany Bay.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: And you use up your days in Botany Bay if that’s what you have to do. You could sail right around the country and spend eight days in Botany Bay and then finish. It could happen.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right. For preparation and education’s pretty key component and not just having to be category one certified but just the fact that in that many days of consecutive racing, you have chafe, you have things that bolts and screws that come loose, you have all sorts of things you have to manage. They’re quite different to the normal just going out for a day or a week, and so much of it is about just boat management within the constraints of comfort not pushing and breaking and how many things come apart or having crew come apart.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, absolutely. Even your mainsail, you don’t want to sail around the country with the main at full the whole time. I’ll tell you that now because your hull is going to cop a hammering if you do that. Throwing in a first reef and get some stress of that point or just slacking it off a little bit in the light winds just so it moves an inch so you’re at a totally different waypoint on the sheets.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Ian Thomson: It’s all things you’ve got to consider when you’re doing this right because six and a half thousand nautical miles on a halyard, it’s a long way. Six and a half thousand nautical miles on your steering gear; it’s a long way. You’ve just got to constantly think of all this stuff beforehand and just like our plastic motto of prevention is better than a cure. Same with your boat. Preventative maintenance is a hell of a lot better than a fix it maintenance.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, absolutely.

Ian Thomson: Which so many people do. So you make sure your boats ready. Have your oils on board just in case you need to top up. Not that we want to be using that, but you might need that as a backup. You still need it to start to go on in and out of the port. We’re not making you sail up onto a birth, you can stop racing and go back to that point when you decide to go ashore. You might be a hundred miles; you have to go back south because you’ve decided that you’re going to motor that hundred miles. Who knows? This is all part of the tactics and fun of this race and the challenge, I think.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s certainly fascinating. I guess my last question for you Ian is, the Vendée Globe and the Volvo Ocean Race have done, I think they’ve done an excellent job and the last couple of events have really started to engage a wider audience and they’ve done things with virtual gaming and virtual racing and live tracking and media reporting from on board and there’s a bit of controversy at the moment because they said, “Oh we need to have a media person on board, the Vendée Globe boats if the Volvo guys have done it.

The Vendée Globe guys said, “Well hang on, it’s a solo race. What do you mean somebody else on board?” So I’m not sure where that’s going to end up. Have you given thought of a technology plan, tracking plan, live broadcasting updating plan from your point of view with this race to help make it accessible and make it interesting and keep that attention? The reason I ask is we had a Coffs to Paradise race, which isn’t 150 mile race back in January. 

For the very first time, the club had trackers on the boats. Suddenly we have people on Facebook, friends, family, watching our results. And you know how slowly those things move up the screen, doing six or seven knots. But the fascination was, I got a real taste of it. It’s not just these big races that gather interestingly. Even a smaller format, you definitely have access to the technology and the data and the information. You really start to get engaged with it.

Ian Thomson: Yeah, tracker’s they’re definitely be on the boat and they’ll be interactive sort of system that you can, we’ll highly likely to use yellow brick tracking for it because it’s quite a simple box that you can put on board and away you go. But there will also be a virtual regatta going around. We’ve just got to decide what boat we’ll use for the virtual regatta because obviously there are so many different boats in it that the virtual regatta has to have one particular boat.

So whether we use a Volvo specs or TP 52, I don’t know. We’ll talk to the virtual regatta guys about that. They setup a race for us when we try to go around Australia in 2011 on Brenda Bella. Unfortunately the boat never went but we still held the virtual regatta around people around the world and were racing around the country too.

You find out where the boats are on the tracker and then you go to your system and you go, “Okay, where are we going as they race around the country?” That always creates lots of social media and everything like that. On board reporters, we’re setting it up so that people have satellite communications so that we can talk to them, we can still get photos off. I mean, these days, the iridium go, we came across with the iridium go, which was we purchased through predictwind.com. You end up with your own tracker as well for your own website. So apart from…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s cool.

Ian Thomson: … people who are cruising off shore, like our parents knew where we were the whole time and how fast we were going and when it failed for whatever reason, they’re like, “Why are you back in that country?” It’d be good and bad but at the end of the day that allows you to get your weather data down. It’s $125 US a month for unlimited data.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s actually really, really affordable.

Ian Thomson: And what was it? 150 minutes talk time.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So anywhere in the world or just coastal Australia?

Ian Thomson: Anywhere in the world.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I need to tell Andy Lamont, he’s sailing around the world in and S&S 34. He assumed it was going to be thousands of dollars.

Ian Thomson: If you get the external aerial, I think it’s $1,600 to buy the unit but then after that, yeah it’s $124.95 a month.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s really accessible.

Ian Thomson: Unlimited data. Okay, it’s downloading at Iridium speeds, which are glacial at 2.4 kilobytes per second. But at the end of the day, you can actually still get your news.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I’m just going to make a note of it. Yeah, that’s great, and your weather as well?

Ian Thomson: Yeah, the weather is really important. When I went around Australia I wasn’t really getting weather because I didn’t really have a satellite system. I did have a satellite phone but the Internet was hopeless on satellite phones back then. Now it’s brilliant because you’ve got this system and in 2017, there are some areas that are going to go to 3G speeds on the Iridium Network. 

If we get to that on these devices when we left Croatia, we were getting 50 minutes of talk time. Still unlimited data but then the plan changed to have 150 minutes of talk time, which was great. We’re in the middle of the ocean and Anica’s calling her mom back in Sweden.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s pretty cool isn’t it?

Ian Thomson: I can call my mom and call your friends and sought out things at home still. So it’s nice to have that security out there and it’s actually got an SOS button on it, which will send a message to all the different people on a setup email. A fantastic system, so that’s on predictwind.com. They were sponsoring our campaign, they still do. Well worth talking to John over there and his weather forecast, you can download that on your tablet. The cool thing with the Iridium GO is that it’s like a Wi-Fi dongle on your boat. Then you use your standard, whether as your computer, your phone, your tablet, as your device to talk on.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh right. So you’re just…

Ian Thomson: So your iPhone becomes your handset.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. How good is that?

Ian Thomson: So technology’s coming to allow us to get more stuff off boats and out of respectable cost. Like I say, $125 bucks, I think its $50 bucks to connect it. But so what? The security that’s involved in a satellite phone to make sure you’ve got it, fantastic. If you don’t want the outside arial, I think you can get it for about a grand, they’re pretty cheap.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s great.

Ian Thomson: And it’s not even like the old brick phones anymore, they’re tiny.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, cool. Well, is there anything else you want to tell me about the race or the plans or anything else at all before we wrap up, Ian?

Ian Thomson: I think we’ve covered most things. To me, it’s about achieving your dream and that’s what this race is about. Go hard, sail around the country and experience that feeling of finishing. If you’ve ever finished a Hobart, you know what it’s like to finish a Hobart. To finish 10 Hobart in one sail, it’s a pretty damn good feeling and it will be the highlight of your life and a definite achievement and it will change the way you look at life, absolutely. So if you're thinking about it, please contact us to talk to us. If you’re looking for crew, if you’re looking for a boat, get on the website, let us know and we’ll try and hook you up. That’s what it’s about.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, the website address is?

Ian Thomson: It’s Aroundaustraliayachtrace.com. It’s a long one but that’s easy to get to.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and we’ll link to it from the podcast episode and we’ll also create some show notes off this episode and link to it and Ian’s details from there as well so you can check that out through the podcast website. I’m sure we’ll love to catch up over the next few months as we get closer for a check in with you and see how things are progressing and I’m sure this will be a really, really fascinating episode for our listeners. 

I’m sure, if you’re thinking about doing this race, it’s just over 12 months away, there’s time to prepare and plan. It’s a coastal race around Australia, it’s accessible, it’s a cost effective way of doing it and I know when I took a screenshot of the banner off Facebook and put it on my Facebook group with my 18 crew that share that page, there was a lot of interest straight away.

In terms of I said, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Suddenly the mind starts thinking about “how can this be possible” as supposed to “it’s not possible”. There’s lots of ways it can be possible. So particularly with your resources, your advice and support and your ability help people to find boats or crew that I’m sure that people can make this happen and something that they’ll remember for their lifetime.

Ian Thomson: There’s not too many times you’re ever going to be able to do something like this and as you say, if you can do it once, fantastic. If you get to do it twice, you’re pretty privileged. But yeah, if you’re dreaming of doing it, let’s do it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great, well thanks Ian, thanks for getting behind the creation of the new chapter of this racing and good luck and all the best with it. I think it’s going to be — I think it’s a fantastic concept and I truly wish you all of the success and I think all the ingredients are there now, it’s just a matter of making people aware of it and getting them thinking about it and I think it’s going to truly become a great spectacle and a great opportunity and a great endeavour that many people decide to aspire to do.

Ian Thomson: Yeah. I think it’s an awesome thing and the more people we get involve, it would be awesome.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great. Thanks Ian, look forward to catching up again soon.

Ian Thomson: Thanks again. 

Interviewer: David Hows


Episode 14: Kym Fleet & David Hanton Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, this week on the Ocean Sailing Podcast, we’re down at the Gold Coast City Marina. We’re here with Kym from the Gold Coast City Marina and with David from Bradford Marine and we’ve got an episode today that’s probably a little bit more technical than what we normally do and we’re going to focus on some of the important things around boat maintenance and taking care of your hull, decisions and choices around paint selection, particularly around anti-foul and also some thoughts around steel versus wood versus fibre glass. 

If you’re in the market to buy but you’re not really sure about some of the differences then obviously considering some of the maintenance issues whether they go with those types of hulls it’s going to maybe help guide you along the way. So guys, welcome along with us today, thanks for joining me. Let’s start off with the Gold Coast City Marina facility, so that’s where we are, it’s on the Coomera River, it’s about 90 minutes from Southport Yacht Club if you come here on incoming tide. So Kym, tell us about the history of the Gold Coast City Marina?

Gold Coast City Marina on prime land in the Coomera marine precinct

Kym Fleet: The Gold Coast City Marina, the concept was first thought up in the late 90’s. Obviously, it’s the biggest shipyard facility, marina facility in the southern hemisphere. So it was a fairly big call to make the decision to move forward with the facility as you said, its 90 minutes up the Coomera River from the broad water. Its 15 hectares in total, so it’s a huge site. We’ve got five hectares of concrete hardstand, we’ve got five hectares of sheds and about five hectares of water. So all in all it’s a huge facility. 

The hull was starting to be dug, the marina was started to be dug in about 2000 and it opened in 2001. The buildings were progressively built over a period of time, they didn’t start out with everything. So it was pretty well finished off by 2004, complete.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so interesting timing when you open up a facility of this size and you’ve got a large number of businesses based here. How did you manage kind of I guess rolling it out two or three years before the GFC and then having the weather I guess a bit of a storm during the GFC, and then how’s it faired since?

Kym Fleet: Yeah 2000, the marina industry in Australia was actually booming, there was lots of manufacturing going on, so the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It takes a lot to fill this facility and obviously a lot of that is the relationship we have with our tenants. We treat our tenants like customers because they probably are the most important part of the business to us. They bring their own customers into here. 

I describe it as a little airport, we provide all the infrastructure for those around us to do what they want to do, we provide the hard standing, the buildings and we provide the machinery as well, which is the lifting equipment. So we’ve got a couple of forklifts up to 12 tonne or 50 tonne travel lift and a 250 tonne traveller. So the whole facility, the whole process, there’s a lot behind the scenes that make it all tick. But one of the most important things to us is our tenants because they bring a lot to the business.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How many tenants have you got here?

Kym Fleet: Today we got over 60. We’re very, very fortunate that the facility can cut with that amount of tenancy and we’re also are very fortunate that along the way we’ve managed to gather together a really good crew of people. They paid to be here and the part of that relationship is that we provide them with what they need and consequently they provide us with what we need. 

Steve Sammes and Kym Fleet of the Gold Coast City Marina with one of many awards

So in the end, it’s excellent for the customer coming in off the river with their boat. We can provide them with choices virtually for every aspect of marine maintenance and repair, the only thing we really don’t have here is a sailmaker and we’ve got one down the road so virtually everything else is covered at least twice if not three times.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So it’s pretty handy if you’re doing a refit or an upgrade that covers lots of different areas to have those tenants available nearby rather than having to pay for travel time for contractors to come from far and wide to do all sorts of what can become expensive jobs instead of small jobs?

Kym Fleet: Well, we’re regarded as a one stop shop in the marina industry. It is the biggest facility of its type in the southern hemisphere, not necessarily by its capability of lifting or by its volume of boats it holds in the marina, but the overall picture of the whole facility is we’ve got more tenants, more services, more hardstand and the total of that is, you’re right David in exactly what you say, you don’t have to leave the gate to get a service done here and ultimately you’ve got a couple of choices along the way too. 

Not everybody gets on with everybody. Some people do their work a little bit cheaper than others. So you’ve got the opportunity to get a couple of quotes somewhere along the line you’re going to start a relationship with somebody within the facility that you’re happy with the work they do and for the price they do it, ultimately, we don’t want to have your boat here once, we want to have your boat continually going forward. So it’s about building relationships and making sure ultimately the end of the day, we want people to leave the facility thinking, “Well that was good, I got what I wanted to get done, done. It was at a reasonable fair price and I’m happy with the end result.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and the facility here is actually part of an even wider marine precinct. It employs several thousand people. How many businesses actually are there in the total precinct, including the areas outside of the Gold Coast City Marina?

Kym Fleet: Yeah, that’s a good question. This precinct was first thought of back in the late 90’s and the reason for that is the marine industry in Australia was spread all over the place. Australia is a big place, lots of distance between each capital city and there was manufacturing going on in Victoria and New South Wales. Queensland government came up with a concept of getting everybody as many people as they could in a reasonably tight area.

At 250 tons there is not much they can't lift

On a good day there could be 5,000 people working in this facility. Most of them are manufacturing in Australia has done in or around the precinct now. Obviously there’s come some competition with servicing and shipyard facilities in the area, which is great. The biggest manufacturers of luxury boats in Australia are both here. The biggest manufacturer of aluminium boats in Australia is here, as well as all the sub services as well. 

There’s some big names in the industry here, we’ve got Volvo, we’ve got Mercers, we’ve got Riviera,  Maritimo, Quintrix, most of the big names are within the facility and consequently that attracts the smallest supplies as well and the smaller repair people as well. So all in all it’s a hub, it’s about 5,000 people, I don’t know the number of business but it’s certainly several hundred.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With where you’re based, four or five hours motoring from here to sort of Manley and with all the yachts that go up and down the east coast each year for racing and cruising the various things, do you find that you get your fair share of the traffic from up the road in Morton Bay and those that are going to go up and down the coast as well coming here for servicing and for work.

Kym Fleet: Yeah most definitely. Our focus has changed a little bit over the last few years and I’d have to say that we’re getting more involved with collaborations with different businesses and different marinas. Southport Yacht Club’s an example of that. This year we’re getting involved with the 50th anniversary game, fishing tournament up in Cannes. The reason for that is there are lots of areas in the boating industry in Australia that we would like to be involved in. 

Obviously sailing is one of those, you’re aware of that. The game fishing federation is another one, obviously we got the capability of lifting big boats, and our top end is 250 tonne of about 40 odd meters. So there’s a lot of wide boats go up and down the coast this time of the year heading up to Hamilton Island for the racing and the game fishing season and everything else.

The idea of this facility is to attract as much of that as we can where our mentality has changed to the point where we’re starting to get into partnerships with different businesses up and down the East Coast to help us in attracting those people in. We’ve got the facility here to do it, we’ve got the tenants here to deal with all aspects of the boating industry. So it’s about being wise and utilising those tenants and the facility to their best and attracting people in.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. In terms of the depth, if people think you’re coming here, what’s the depth that we’ve got in the river from a keel depth point of view?

Kym Fleet: That is one of the issues that we face here because we’re as we said, an hour and a half up the river from the sea way or south port yacht club, the Gold Coast is an internal inland water way and it does suffer from the level of the river changing. We call it three and a half meters of dead low tide, at three and a half meters dead low tide we’ve never had anybody touch the bottom. There has just been a program put in place now and the dredging of the river has started. So from the seaway, all the way to Sanctuary Cove which is two thirds of the way to us has already been a program put in place.

Black Jack Too in the slings at Gold Coast City Marina

The spoils from that dredging is going back out to see because principally it’s silt and sand so that’s just being pushed back out in the ocean again and that’ll disappear in the currents. From Sanctuary Cave to us, there is a program in place, there’s the spoils yard being designated behind us here at forward road. The style of dredging changes because it goes from being a suck and dump to a suck and run situation. The programs in place.

When that’s finished we’ll be at five meters dead low tide, so there’s not too many boats around that we have the capability of lifting that won’t get to us and we don’t have the drama with it at the moment, we’re just cautious and we ask people to come in on an upcoming tide. If necessary we’ll send out a boat to help them come in and help them take the best course up the river also.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s pretty good. I mean that’s a lot of depth, and you’ve got more than that on the rising tide.

Kym Fleet: Some of the bigger boats that we get here, some of the big super yachts we call them, anything sort of over a hundred foot we regard as a super yacht. They tend to draw about three meters, boat’s like a north haven which is a big bilge keel, ocean going boat, they can draw a little bit more but we’ll just send that our boat. They can follow them up the river and as I said today, I certainly haven’t had any drama in my time here. We had a Volvo 60 here just prior of Christmas and drove over four motors and it just got in and out without any issues, we just had to time it on the tide. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, So if you’ve got anything less, you’ve got no problems.

Kym Fleet: Nota at all.

DH1: Okay great. So what’s the longest boats you’ve had in here?

Kym Fleet: We can work berths up to 200 feet, we’ve had a couple of 200 footers here just in the marina berths. We’ve got a couple of super yacht fingers out the front in the main river, we got plenty of pair there with 63 amp principally what’s ever needed out there. The real capabilities of the facility are anything from a tinny, we can deal with an eight foot tinny without any problems at all, and we’ve got a 250 boat dry store facility in the end of the marina. As far as our maximum lifting capacity goes, 42 meters by 10 meters by 250 tonne is what we call our maximum. 

There’s not too many of those boats around on the coast. As I’ve said, we deal with a lot of super yachts which are anything from a hundred to 130 to 140 feet long and they tend to be about as heavy as they are long. So you’re talking 150, 160 tonne. We’ve had a couple of 200 tonners up here. We lift a lot of boats. This financial year, which is about to be completed, we’ll be at about 1,700 job sheets. So that’s 1,700 lifts out of the water. We don’t get another mark for going back in the water so it’s purely job sheets. So that’s anything from an eight foot tinny to 150 foot super yacht. So that’s a lot of volume.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: A lot of volume. And if you’re a typical yachtie, these kind of tonnages sound over the top but in my experience, I had my 45 footer lifted out here a couple of months ago for some cleaning and tidy up and on the 250 tonne lift and it was the first time, and I’ve used three different lifts on the Gold Coast in the last 15 months for weighing and anti-foul and various things. It’s the first time I didn’t have issues with the forestay either hitting the front of the lift, or the backstay, which has got my HF aerial attached to it for my HF radio.

Been hard up against the back of the lift, it had actually been bent, which I had the unfortunate experience just before Christmas when I got it weighed for an IRC rating. So the great thing about the big lift here is if you’re a yachtie you’ve got no issues with forestays and backstays because 250 tonnes over sized for your typical 10 tonne yacht but you actually need that extra space to not have those damage issues with your forestay and your backstay, which is something I found.

Kym Fleet: That’s totally correct and what people, customers need to know is you don’t pay any more because it’s a 250 tonne traveller. If what you’re paying for, all the marinas certainly on the East Coast of Australia charge out by length. Once you get over a hundred tonne, there is a weight charge there as well and that adds up to a figure but when you’re talking anything from a 30 foot yacht to a 60 foot yacht, you’re paying by a foot length. 

So whether or not we use the 50 tonne travel lift or the 250 tonne travel lift. The cost doesn’t change but the level of ease changes and the stress value changes because our big machine with the 10 meter beam with the capability of 140, 150 feet, a 45 foot yacht fits in there very nicely and there’s no stress involved.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean it would be fair to say you don’t worry about the capability of the machine. It actually looks like it’s lifting a toy boat when you look at the scale of the machine against the boat. I mean it’s big enough to lift a 737 aircraft I think. I think they’re about 200 tons.

Kym Fleet: Yeah that’s correct. The other side of it is too, when you're operating a machine like that, we use 20 tonne slings. So a boat like yours David, a 45 foot Beneteau, we can pick that up with two slings quite comfortably. The slings are a foot wide, we lift them on the manufacturer’s recommended spots on the boat so there’s no issues of no stress on the boat. There’s no damage that can occur to the boat itself because they’re sitting in something soft. The boats weight are just absorbed in the slings. 

Once we get you down on the hardstand we’ve also got a keel pit here you know so we can pop your boat down into a keel pit. That pits three meters deep, so at the end of the day when the boat’s sitting on virtually on ground level, we come back and give it a little wash where the slings have been but the rest of the boat’s been cleaned off with the high pressure cleaner and there’s no damage at all.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and I did notice your guys are pedantic about where the lifting spots are and for those that don’t know and especially if you’ve got an older boat, there’s these manufacturers marks on the side of the hull, in the front and the back, you need to lift your boat and I’ve had the boat lifted up before where no one’s paid any attention and in fact I’ve had to actually ask them to move the slings more than a foot sometimes, to put them in the right spot and then I think if I wasn’t there as the owner, well what sort of stress is it putting on the hull? So having people that are pedantic about that is quite important because if you have a structural hellfire in the middle of the ocean at night one day just because somebody’s lifted your boat in the wrong place and stressed it all, you can pay the price.

Kym Fleet: Yeah, that’s correct and another thing we do here at the Gold Coast City Marina is we have photo records of virtually every boat that we bring out. Bringing 15 to 1,700 boats out a year, that’s a lot of lifting but also it gives us a good database, or good knowledge base for what boats look like underneath. Obviously every boat is not the same. Most 45 foot Beneteau’s are the same so we’ve got a record of that on file. If it’s 140 foot super yacht and we don’t know what it looks like underneath, we’ll just get a diver in. 

We can pay $300 for a diver for an hour’s work, but it’s just an insurance policy. So they can get underneath the boat, understand where all the skin fittings are, all the water intakes are, where the shafts start and stop, where the rudders are. So before we even start to take any weight, we’re totally convinced that we’ve got it under control. When we do lift it to water level, we can then get a visual underneath it and just make sure we’ve got it all covered. We lift boats, the boat needs to be balanced correctly in the machine as well, and you don’t just lift them and hope for the best so that’s part of the process. 

If we’re lifting a boat we aren’t aware of or boat we haven’t seen before, we will allow all day to get it up, get it out of the water and set it on the hard stand, we won’t have another two booked in behind it and put the pressure on ourselves to make sure that we keep moving, we’ll just allow the time to make sure we’ve got it right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, you almost need a clear river so you can have underwater cameras.

Kym Fleet: That would be nice and no sharks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Exactly. So what are some of the stranger’s sites or challenges you’ve had to deal with here with lifting vessels out of the water?

Kym Fleet: We’ve had a couple here, some of the bigger boats. We’re reliant on the skippers of the bigger boats because generally they’re not driven by an owner, they’re driven by a skipper. So if we start a conversation with somebody about hauling their boat out of the water we need some specifications on the boat, some drawings, and some lifting files. Sometimes we don’t always get told the truth and that sometimes makes it difficult. 

In my time here, we’ve only ever walked away from two lifts. They were quite heavy boats but they were quite short boats also, which has its own set of complications. The other side of that, we’ve lifted boats out of the water here and they’ve never gone back in the water. They end up getting cut up and thrown in a bin, which is sad, but we’re trying to avoid those as much as possible. They’re usually houseboats.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah right. You see a few of those sunken around the place?

Kym Fleet: Yeah, we will refuse to lift something if it just doesn’t look right, if the insurances aren’t in place. What happens with us is we try and help everybody as we do, that’s part of our role. We don’t sell an angle, what we do is provide a service so you want to do the best for everybody, sometimes you can’t help people and you wish you didn’t sometimes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well I guess there’s some boats where the conditions are that bad, that it might actually fall apart if you lift them.

Kym Fleet: That’s the danger is then we become responsible for it, but 95% of the people that are boating up and down the East Coast of Australia are sensible people. As I said, we don’t physically sell anything. We sell a little bit of diesel, we sell some ice creams and we sell some ice but apart from that, this whole facility is based on providing people with a service and we need to be good at it at the end of the day, we need to do it safely. So sometimes we will back out of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so looking to the future, I mean, the facility here is I guess 15 years old, something like that? So what do you see the next 10 years holding for the future of the marina and how it unfolds and goes forth from here?

Kym Fleet: We’re very fortunate because the people that initially designed the place were industry people, they knew what they wanted to achieve out of. We’ve still got one of the original partners. He’s here, he owns the place, him and his son Trenton and Patrick they own the place right.

What we want to do going forward is we want to maximise the capabilities of the facility, the mentality’s change, as I said, over the last three years. So currently we’re at a 100% tenancy as far as the ability to take any other businesses on board to utilise facility, we’re maxed out there at the moment, we’re in a bit of a scramble to get some more space. Having said that, we know we need to change with the times. Our super yacht ships, we got eight super yacht ships here, which are 150 feet long. 

They’re constantly booked out, they’ve been booked out for the last two years. So part of the process going forward is to add on to that to give us a little bit more facility out on the hardstand, a bit more covered area where we can do specific jobs on the hardstand and protect all the boats around us. The other thing we’re looking at doing now is adding a couple more super yacht arms in the main river. So the idea of that is a super yacht can come in, get works done without having to lift it out of the water or anybody can utilise the facility but also so you can drive vehicles down to the wharf, be right next to the boat so you can replenish the vessel without having to walk 50 feet every time you come out a box down there. It gives the tenants here or the industry here the ability to come drive a vehicle right down to the boat. 

Other things we’re doing, we’re heavily involved with the Gold Coast Expo here, which is one of the boat shows on the calendar in Southeast Queensland, and we want to expand on that. We’re just here to help the industry as much as anything. I’ve described it before as an airport. It is an airport. We provide all the infrastructure for the industry to do what they need to do and we listen strongly to what the industry suggestions are and where the industry is going so we’ll just adapt to suit their needs.

If it means more infrastructure or bigger machines, we’ve replaced our travel lift 12 months ago with a bigger machine because there was a need to be able to lift heavier boats. If we can get to the point where the river is dredged, quarter clearance on the gold coast, it’s really important to us at the moment, we’re championing the government to allow us to have a port of clearance either here in this facility or at Southport Yacht Club.

If we can do that and provide people with the ability to come straight out of the pacific, clear customs come and see us, get the work done, do what they need, they can dry store their boat. If they want to fly home for Christmas, we can dry store their boat here, look after it four to six months, we do a special rate for long term hardstand. It’s about what the industry and what our customs are telling us we need to do. We’ll do our very, very best to fill in the gaps.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great if you can get a port of clearance down here, that’d be fantastic. I mean right now, having to sail into Brisbane, up the river to the body gateway to get cleared in and then come back down to the Gold Coast is you’re coming in from overseas. Its eight hours are easily to the trip and you felt more. And I know personally from that, it’s a pain in the ass if you didn’t have to do it, you wouldn’t.

Be able to come here is a cruising sailor, clearing here, enjoy the gold coast and get all your work done here without that extra detour in and out, that will be a great plus for you.

Kym Fleet: Yeah well it’s proceeding actually quite well. This is first came about, we do a bit of sailing of the marina in and about the pacific. We go to Fort Lauderdale every year, we go to Singapore, we do a Tahiti rendezvous, and one of the things we learn from going to Tahiti was apart from the fact that there’s 200 puddle jumpers in the middle of the pacific right now coming out of the west coast of America, out of California.

What we learned is we’re losing business to Brisbane and although it’s a reasonable sort of a facility, the Brisbane River is not wonderful. The marinas up there are underneath the airport, the international airport in Brisbane. So constantly we get the fall out, out of that. At the end of the day, it’s not so much about the Gold Coast City Marina, it’s more about what the Gold Coast has to offer as a region and that’s fine dining, it’s the best golf courses on the planet. It’s the best beaches on the planet. 

You got the green behind the gold, which is the hinterland up in the hills there, which is just absolutely stunning. So there’s much more to the Gold Coast than just us, the Gold Coast City Marina in the precinct, it’s more about what the whole region has to offer and it’s part of our sell going forward is to make sure that people out in the pacific up in Asia and then the Americas know about that and that’s part of our process going forward is to keep selling that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You can drop your boat off here and be at the theme park in five minutes.

Kym Fleet: That’s correct and another thing that we do here is we’ve got a customer courtesy vehicle, we’ve got access to both the airports reasonably easily, we got a train station five minutes down the road. Part of the process of what we provide to anybody, being it an internal tenant and one of their customers or somebody sailing in and out of the pacific, is we will store their boat for them, long term over the summer if they want to go back to America or Asia or the UK, wherever it is, we will happily look after their boat for them. 

Its 24 hours a day, seven days a week security. We’ll happily store their boat, plug it in, get them back to the airport, we’ll happily drive them to Brisbane Airport or to Coolangatta Airport or pop them on a train within reason, whatever they need to do, we’ll accommodate that. That’s a free service, that’s part of what we do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s a pretty good location. Over the summer we’re pretty much south of where the cyclones hit generally. You don’t have some of those risks you’ve got if you go a whole lot further north and leave your boat there over summer.

Kym Fleet: We’ve got some people arriving in the next two weeks, they’re sailing over from New Zealand, and the idea is we park their boat on the hardstand for three months, we plug it in, we monitor the boat for them, they’re jumping in a high car and they’re touring Australia. So they’ve never been here before so they’re enjoying a sailing, but once a year parked up, they know that their boat’s safe and they go off and do their land based stuff. Come back, jump in the boat and go and do the Whitsundays. So it’s a perfect scenario.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s a good idea, why would you leave it in the water if you can take it out of the water for a similar cost, given the risks that are attached with this.

Kym Fleet: Once we do our long term hardstand thing, that’s actually cheaper to be out of the water on the hardstand and then your maintenance is down then as well and we can keep a good eye on it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’ve got no risk of anyone running into your boat, no risk of your skin the fittings or pipes rupturing, your boat’s sinking while you’re away.

Kym Fleet: And as you say, we’re below the cyclone belt, we can occasionally see the effects of cyclones, we have a contingency in place if we’ve got a big blow coming down the coast, we’ll have to strap the boat down to the concrete so it’s more than safe. We’re boat people so we understand the ups and downs of having boats on hardstands and it’s again, just a part of the service we provide, we want to make sure that you can drive or sail away from here knowing that we’ve done a good job and that’s the plan.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, have you seen that marina in Fiji on the west coast where they’ve dug all the holes in the ground and then we stayed there last year and it’s a circular marina, it’s like a basin and there’s about 40 boats that holds and when you walk around there, there’s all these holes in the ground in tires and I asked, “What are these for?” They say, “Well if people leave their boats here over cyclone season, we lift the boat out, we lower it, the keel into the ground of course, the hull sits on the tires and then we just strap it down. 

So if the cyclone comes through theatrically, the damage to your boat is going to be debris flying through the air but it’s not going to tip the boat over but it’s quiet, like there’s probably 30 or 40 holes in the ground that had been dug out. I thought it’s just so you can work away at your boat at ground level. The cyclone’s better. Fortunately we have to think about things like that here.

Kym Fleet: What we’ve got is we’ve got a lot of meter square concrete blocks, which basically spoils from left over concrete when they come back from doing a job and the council requires that they have a process for getting rid of the left over concrete. So we happily take it on board. What we do particularly with the catamarans in summer, because the catamaran is so light and there’s so much windage to it once it’s out of the water it will just literally ratchet, strap them down to concrete blocks so it just give them that bit of extra protection. Those blocks are well over a tonne. We’ll put two or four down as necessary and that works really well, we’ve never had any issues, touch wood, but that’s part of the plan.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s great. Thanks Kym, thanks for sharing all of your experience and thoughts there in such a great description of the facility here and what it has to offer.

Super yacht sheds make it easier to do work in all weather

Kym Fleet: No, my pleasure mate. As I said, it’s is a service industry, we need to know, we need to let people know what we’re capable of and what we’re trying to achieve and at the end of the day, as I said, we want people flight back out of here and believe that they’ve got a good job for a reasonable price and that’s the process.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s great. Well what we’ll do now is we’ll switch over to David, your partner in crime from Bradford Marine and for most of us, we’re lifting boats out with a purpose in mind and usually it’s to get antifouling done and occasionally it’s to get more than that done and maybe a full repaint.

In terms of a bit of a background, when I bought my boat five years ago and I discovered this whole antifouling thing, because I’ve come from being a dinghy sailor. I kind of saw it as a necessary evil. So I sort of pulled my boat out every 18 months to try and stretch it out. I did it myself and I did that the first two or three times and I started getting a few issues where the keel paint started bubbling because I had a diver who would give it a clean every month because it was a starting to race and had issues with the keel paint starting to bubble off.

So I thought, “Maybe this isn’t so good and I should get a professional to look at it,” which I did a year ago and after talking to another fellow sailor who had his boat sand blasted right back to glass and steel which is something I hadn’t heard of. I was then advised that I should probably do that as well. So it was interesting about the process but the boat was sand blasted, right back to bare glass and as part of that in the preparation for painting process, they’d discovered eight osmosis spots and two were actually quite serious and required quite a bit of work to repair them but ultimately, the process from there was my hull was completely re-primed, my keel which was steel and pitted was re-primed and filled and feared back to basically a brand new finish and then I applied three coats of really hard international antifouling paint.

I’m not sure exactly what the technical description is. I’m sure you’ll know that. Then boarded it up smooth and then did an 800 grade wet and dry sand paper. So it’s changed my whole view of painting and antifouling. I guess the end result now is I’ve got a 23 year old hull with a new lease of life, it’s made a massive difference in terms of boat speed, particularly in light winds. Substantially in terms of bench marking against other boats. 

Now, my view now is I believe I have the best products and the professional finish because it’s the one thing that keeps the sea water out of your hull basically and the risk you’ve got is that the whole integrity of your hull is compromised if you don’t get the paint part right, particularly the part that sits in the water. So I’ve done a lot as a result. So David, you’ve got a lot of expertise in theory, so we thank you for joining us today to share a bit of that expertise with us, and with our listeners. 

How would you describe I guess from where you sit, the antifouling choices and levels of quality that are available? Somebody’s bought say a 10 year old boat and they’re looking to get their anti-fouling done for the first time and they’re not sure what the history of that boat’s been. How would you describe the choices and decisions they need to make as part of the process?

David Hanton: Yeah, good morning David, thanks for having us. Well, when you sort of looking at that boat and you want to make a decision on what anti-foul, there’s quite a range of products available on the market. Ideally, it’s always good to know what paint is currently on the boat. If you’re not aware of that then we can sort of do a little bit of a test once it comes out, whether there’s a selection of anti-foul such as ablative hards, especially for you racing guys, you sort of tend to go for the VC offshore.

The vessel Alaska Pelula after sand blasting at Bradford Marine

Much like the big boats that do the Sydney to Hobart, they’re generally running on Durepox, which is a very sort of hard two pack and they get a lot of speed out of that. There’s a selection, really depends on what sort of boating you’re doing but in regards to what you’re saying with the 10 year anti-foul, it does have a life expectancy. You can’t just keep putting anti-foul on a boat time after time. It all start to crack off and basically fall off because it’s like putting on house paint, wall paper, there’s only so many layers that will fit on there.

So what you’ve done, I believe you’ve gone and done the process, you’ve sand blasted it off and basically when we do that, it’s all about specifications from the paint manufacturer and how it’s applied. We do it by Micron after that’s looked at. So yeah, important decision is what sort of boating you’re doing really is what sort of paint is going to fit the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and if I’m a cruising sailor, I’m spending a lot of time in warmer waters, do I have different decisions to if I’m spending time in cooler waters?

Sand blasting a hull back to bare gel coat

David Hanton: Yes, if you do, there’s several products that suit warmer waters and, but if you’re racing also, if your boat’s not staying in the water, if you’re pulling it out after races then you’re probably better off not having an anti-foul on the boat at all. Just staying with the Durepox or something but VC offshore is a good option for that or Micron 66 with international.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So if you’re racing and you’re using a harder anti-foul paint, then what’s the trade off there in terms of maintenance of that with keeping your hull clean?

David Hanton: Hard anti-foul gives you the option to give it a good scrub more so rather than an ablative. When you go down and dive on ablative anti-foul, you’re tending to take a bit off each time you go. Whereas a harder anti-foul is actually giving good adhesion to the boat, you can go down and give it a good scrub and you’re not taking so much off. 

In terms of getting any speed out of any different anti-foul there’s really no difference. As long as you haven’t got a build up of anti-foul there, you’ll be surprised if you’ve got 10 or 12 years of anti-foul on there, you’re probably losing probably up to three to five knots.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. Okay. With the harder anti-fouls, so they foul up faster than the softer anti-fouls? Is that part of the trade off?

David Hanton: Not generally, once again it will come down to your boating if you're leaving your boat in the marina and it’s not getting used, anti-foul loves to be working in the water, hard or soft, it doesn’t really matter. But maintenance wise, you tend to get a bit more time out of a harder anti-foul than you would an ablative if you're not using your boat as much. But if you’ve got an ablative on there and you’re using your boat a lot then you’re going to get 18 months, two years possibly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’ve certainly found that when I had the old, well the original anti-foul would have been the softer anti-foul, I could when a diver gave it a clean, I could see all the blue in the water as it was coming off. Then when I lifted my boat out for re-antifouling, I had all these white patches where the anti-foul is gone.

So the more that the diver cleaned it once a month, the more it wore off. Whereas the hard anti-foul, I pulled it out just last month here at the Gold Coast City Marina after 12 months. Fully covered still and it’s been cleaned every month by a diver and none of it’s come off or didn’t look like it had. So substantial difference if you’re getting it cleaned every now and then. In warmer waters you generally are going to have to get your boat cleaned by, whether your snorkel or you do it yourself or you get a diver because it’s just the nature of the beast. 

Especially if you’re on river outflows like we are on the Gold Coast, we’ve got all sorts of stuff coming down the river that fouls up and helps accelerate the fouling of the boat. Okay, can you describe I guess, if someone’s got an older hull and they’re thinking of stripping it right back, you said the sand blasting process, can you describe, how does that work? What are the steps, what are the stages, what would make you want to do that?

Treating osmosis after sand blasting the hull back to bare gel coat

David Hanton: The process, generally we’ll find that out on your maintenance schedule when you do pull it out. Quite often, you’re sort of not expecting that, you’re coming out at the marina here and you’re sort of looking at it going, “Oh, I might get some opinions about what’s going on here.” From our point of view, we’re happy to come down and meet any client and give them some advice in regards to that. The situation is basically you’re getting de-lamination on your hull and that could be caused through water egressing from inside or outside your hull.

In other words, you can have osmosis internally which is penetrating out. The situation there is we would recommend that it is sand blasted. If it’s a situation where the boat is completely riddled with osmosis then you’re going to need to look seriously at having the boat planed. Basically that’s taking two to four mil off the hull and getting rid of all that osmosis. Any further osmosis after it’s been planned would have to be ground out and then we’d re-glass and re-laminate the hull.

Very expensive process so important thing is when you are looking at buying a boat, that that’s one of the things that you seriously look at. The process once we’ve pulled it out, we’ve sand blasted it, we give the hull a sand and we put coats of epoxy on there, two to three coats of epoxy and we’ll also put a barrier coat and then followed by two coats of anti-foul. Once again, that’s all done by specifications and by Micron, so you’re getting the right amount of paint on the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you’re putting quite a few layers back on there.

David Hanton: Definitely, when you’ve gone back to your gel coat, you’re getting a few layers on there because you’re going to get another 10 to 15 years out of that process.

Propspeed is a great solution for keep growth off props

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I found that’s very substantial, but it just almost restarts the life of your hull. I had some quite serious stuff ground out that was bigger than an orange in terms of the width and quite a few mil deep.

David Hanton: That’s not uncommon in probably your age boat at the end of the day. People need to understand that it’s not going to last forever and maintenance is very important so it’s really important to get your boat out, sort of 15 to 18 months if you’ve got that type of anti-foul.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and at the time, the advice I was given was spending whatever it was, five or $6,000. It wasn’t all that, because I had to lift the mast out. So part of the cost of the sand blast was taking the mast out so you could go into the shed. So maybe it’s only $4,000 for the sand blast but you could end up with tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your hull if you just leave it to the grade, wouldn’t you say? When that osmosis gets really serious, you can end up with a serious situation and insurance doesn’t cover that does it? It just is poor maintenance.

David Hanton: No, we’ve had people try and give insurance for osmosis but no, you're right. And as I said, that’s something that you’re spot on your maintenance, regular pull outs generally and if you keep an eye on it and if you have got osmosis and you keep it under control then that doesn’t become an expensive issue at the end of the day.

You can pull out, you might have 15, 20 osmosis's, get them done, get them sorted because the problem is when the boat comes out, you may see some osmosis but there’s a lot of them that won’t come out at that pull out that are still there. So they might not rear their ugly head until the following haul out.

One of the many stages of layering the new epoxy, primer and anti-foul onto the fresh hull

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

David Hanton: So we can’t see them all at the end of the day. Osmosis is mostly noticed when the hull has just been water blasted by the marina, the hull’s wet and you’ll see that slight blister just pop out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There’s bubbles sticking out there.

David Hanton: Once you give it a little pop, you’ll smell a nice vinegar smell and you’ll know that you’ve got some osmosis. There are some blisters that come up on boats that are basically just bolt blisters so not so much to worry about there but it’s the ones that smell like vinegar that are the ones that you’ve got an issue with.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So for the lay person, what actually causes osmosis and what’s the best thing you can do to prevent it as opposed to have to having to go and repair it?

David Hanton: Prevention is basically maintenance just ensuring that you’ve got no water egressing into any parts of your hull. So if you’ve hit a sand bank or you’ve hit something ensuring that there’s no de-lamination that has occurred because water will egress into that de-lamination and then sneak through the hull and start to have that osmosis area.

Also internally, if you’ve got water lying in your boat anywhere, that’s going to seep through, especially even rain water that comes in, that will leak into the hull as well so really important to keep water out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you can start osmosis form the inside out as well?

David Hanton: For sure yep. Or de-lam inside the boat and it will sneak through and start to pop out the others side. So that goes both ways.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So if you’ve got a part of your hull where the paint’s worn away, the water can start to penetrate there?

David Hanton: Correct.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then it gets in between the outside layer or the inside layer and starts to work its way like a cancer that’s through your hull.

David Hanton: Just like house rot or anything else, you know? In steel boats and basically that osmosis is basically rust and then aluminium obviously doesn’t rust but it pits and corrodes quite badly. But out of that, I’ve mentioned before that three boats, the aluminium, fibre glass and your steel probably and the fibre glass is the least maintenance. If you are looking to buy a boat, probably buy fibreglass.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to ask you about that because if you’re considering alloy, wood, steel or fibre glass, so fibre glass would be your pick?

David Hanton: Definitely fibreglass, if you want to keep the maintenance low. I mean steel boats have been around for a long time, they’re use commercially and so forth but they generally have a good maintenance program and unless you’re prepared to go down that road of keeping it well maintained, I wouldn’t buy a steel boat. Timber boat’s very much the same, beautiful boats, been around for a long time of course but you do get wood rot and can be very expensive whereas the fibre glass is pretty much easier, it can ground out, re-glassed and…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Looks just like new, right? You can fix any part of a fibreglass boat; you wouldn’t even know that damage was there to start with.

David Hanton: And aluminium, steel I mean, if there’s bad areas they can be cut out and replaced too, but certainly a lot more expensive than fibreglass. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and what are some of the ugly things that happen that you’ve seen it happen to hulls from lack of maintenance? What are some of the really ugly things you’ve seen?

David Hanton: Yeah, we’ve seen some growth on some of the boats that come out, that people have neglected with the weeds and the barnacles and the fish and the oysters that are being lift on them. Yeah it’s just a disaster at the end of the day. I think osmosis is definitely the worst one. You just see, you pull a boat out and it’s been cleaned up water blast and it’s riddled and you just go, “Well this is a nightmare for the owner, he’s probably not even aware of it or he’s just bought the boat and hasn’t checked it out.” From the point of you boys in the sail, your keels are probably an issue with rust on the keels obviously, and your rudder stocks basically, build up of salt and around those.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Kym Fleet: What is important with boating these days is the technology has changed that you get with fibre glass boats, a product that is being used on production style boats, what you serve your own. Back in the 70’s and 60’s when fibreglass was first became to being. The product wasn’t wonderful and the process wasn’t wonderful either. I’ve had quite a bit of experience in manufacturing the fibre glass boats in my time. It’s about the process that’s carried out on the products that are being used in the start and these days, certainly anything from the late 90’s through 2000’s into where we are today.

The processes have become much better and also the product has beco