by Marina Thoma
A Queensland shop assistant turned round-the-world yachtswoman is hoping for a last-minute crew place in the iconic Sydney to Hobart Race next week. Lisa Blair (27) was inspired to take up sailing by Australian yachting’s pinnacle race that sets off from Sydney Harbour for Tasmania since she watched it age 12.
At the helm Lisa Blair
But despite being part of the winning crew on the 40,000 miles Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and preparing attempts at new speed records around Australia, she has struggled to make her dream of competing in the Sydney-Hobart come true. A year ago, Lisa was battling high seas five months into the year-long Clipper Race, the only global event of its kind for amateur sailors.
Lisa, from the Sunshine Coast, says sailing in the competitive Sydney to Hobart would make her year complete.
'Sailors round the world dream of doing this race. It would be such an accomplishment after this year to get a crew place. I have wanted to do this race for a long time' said Blair.
Since winning the 2011-12 edition of the Clipper Race onboard Gold Coast Australia, Lisa has launched her own global yacht racing campaign and is on the crew waiting list for the Sydney to Hobart on December 26.
In the New Year Lisa will team up with world record-breaking Queensland skipper Bruce Arms to attempt a new speed record sailing around Australia.
She will join Team Extreme Sailing Australia to try to break the 2005 French-held record of being the fastest crewed multihull around the country. The pair aim to attempt the 6,500 mile around Australia speed record in 2014 after other smaller record attempts including Sydney to Lord Howe Island.
The Australia record is held currently by the French trimaran Geronimo skippered by Olivier de Kersauson and stands at 17 days and 12 hours.
'The challenge is a very tough one and harder than sailing the open seas. There are many reefs, narrow straights, light winds and lots of shipping in the tropics where we will be travelling at high speed. Then there is the Southern Ocean and the westerly fronts and getting the timing right there will be crucial. The Clipper Race has completely changed my life. Before I was a dreamer but now I am achieving those dreams and making it happen,' Blaire added.
Arms, a solo Trans-Tasman winner and current I.S.A.F WSSRC Singlehanded Around Australia World Record holder, says Lisa’s fearlessness makes her a great crew member.
Clipper Training up the mast (2)
'The Clipper Race experience has made her very competitive and she is now a great helm and also has the strength of mind required. She is great at going up the mast and her seamanship skills are right for the challenge. 'We want to take the record out of French hands and bring it back to Australia,' he adds.
Clipper Race founder and chairman, the legendary yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who became the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in 1968-9, and competed in the Sydney-Hobart in 2010 aged 71, has paid tribute to Blair’s ambition.
'It is great to see how the Clipper Race not only develops competent ocean racing crew but also generates a desire to take on new adventures and challenges. I wish Lisa every success in her desire to break this record. After gaining so much experience on the 40,000 mile Clipper Race, I am confident she could take the 630 mile sprint of the Sydney-Hobart in her stride and would be an asset to any entry still seeking crew!'
More than 50 Australians are following in Lisa’s footsteps, ranging from nurses to bankers, geologists and miners, who are already signed up for the 2013-14 edition of the Clipper Race.
Clipper Round the World