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Rolex Sydney Hobart - Blonde figurehead tough as they come

by Danielle McKay on 23 Dec 2010
BRINDABELLA © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
For’ard hand Sophie Ciszek makes one impressive figurehead, but behind her iconic Aussie blonde surfer look is a woman who can match it with the best.

The 25-year-old will be manning the wettest, toughest and arguably most physically demanding position on a yacht when she steps up to the bow aboard iconic Australian maxi Brindabella in this Sunday’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The statuesque 6ft tall, 74kg light-weight has as much an imposing presence as a contrasting one, in what is largely a testosterone driven position in yachting.

'I've had a lot of comments lately in the last two weeks, especially because the boat’s so big, there’s a lot of heavy gear and a lot of load,’’ she said.

'She’s as tough as they come, probably stronger than even some of the boys on board,’’ Brindabella boat manager Justin Sutherland said.

Ciszek punishes her body with a grueling daily routine to ensure it’s ripped and ready for the 628 nautical mile trip across the infamous Bass Strait to Hobart, which will start this Sunday at 1pm from Sydney Harbour.

Every day she runs for about an hour, she surfs four times every week and she does yoga to keep her core strong and her limbs flexible.

But why does she do it? Well, it’s all about the challenge.

'I love it, it’s so much fun, it’s just exciting,’’ she said. 'It’s pretty tough, you have to keep your wits about you.’’

A close alliance with late sailing legend Andrew Short gave the Mornington Peninsula sailor her ticket to the big boat racing scene when he offered her a ride aboard ASM Shockwave 5.

She first learned the ropes of the bow on a 46ft Reichel Pugh called Shamrock, and got her first taste of offshore racing when she competed in the 2008 Melbourne to Hobart.

'I started on the bow basically because it’s the place to learn,' she said. 'If you can do the bow you know all the other parts of the boat.'

Last year she was aboard Grant Warrington’s ill-fated Etihad Stadium, so despite starting, she never made it out of the harbour.

But, this year, she’s confident she’ll round the Iron Pot and turn north up the Derwent River, sending shivers down her spine when she sees the Rolex finishing buoy bobbing off Castray Esplanade.

'I think I’ll just be so excited,’’ she said.

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