by Jim Gale
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race rookie Warwick Sherman hopes to lean on ‘beginners luck’ as the cancer-survivor goes all out for his dream aboard his Jason Ker designed Sydney GTS43 Occasional Course Language.
First Timers ready to race Press Conference
Emerging from a serious cancer scare this year, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia member decided 2012 was the year he would turn fantasy into fact aboard his new Occasional Course Language.
'It’s a bit frightening in a way. Something I looked at and always wanted to do, but thought it was something that I would never do. My wife Judi has done three and I felt like a bit of a wimp, but this (cancer) was a trigger,' Sherman admitted today.
'I might get the bug or might not. This might be my first and last.'
Racing to Hobart is a huge physical challenge for a fit youngster let alone a man coming out the other side of cancer treatment. Sherman is confident he will be up to it, but it has been a lot of hard work to get here. 'I’ve been lucky,' he says. 'I’m not a naturally tough person, but I just hit it head on. Through the cancer treatment, I kept sailing on and off, and as I got stronger I could do more and more miles.
'This is the first big race I’ve done since the treatment but we have done a lot of miles.'
Sherman isn’t the only Hobart virgin in his fifties this year. Fifty one year-old Steve Kidson has been a volunteer on the CYCA start team for seven years. 'I did a lot of dinghy sailing and wanted to learn about ocean racing,' he said. 'All the rules and tactics - that’s why I volunteered for the start boat.'
This year, Kidson will be at the start line not as an official, but as a member of the crew of the Mummery 45 Icefire.
'I have often sat on the start boat on Boxing Day and longed to be out there, and this year I am,' Kidson said.
At the other end of the rooky scale are young guns like Owain Brady on Love & War and Clinton Evans on Quest.
Brady is joining the gang, some are from the old Brindabella crew, on Love & War, under the guidance of navigator Lindsay May. It is a tight knit, one would have to say venerable band that has been sailing Hobarts together for many years.
As one of the two younger and fitter crew on board (the other is owner Simon Kurts’ son Phil), 22 year-old Brady can look forward to some heavy lifting. Not for nothing are he and Phil split between the two watches. In return they will learn from some of the best.
The wily Lindsay May is up for his 40th Hobart. 'He’s going to teach me a lot,' Brady acknowledges. 'He knows Love & War inside out, and he looks after his crew.'
Brady has a long, tough slog ahead of him on the near 40 year old timber Love & War. Clinton Evans, a 24 year-old, will get there much faster on Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest.
Brady wants lots of wind over the bow: 'going upwind we can really put it to the racing boats,' he declares, but concedes that down wind is another matter.
First Timers ready to race Press Conference - Steve Kitson, Ice Fire
Evans can’t wait for the big nor-easter predicted for day two to kick in. 'Quest is a pretty quick boat. We love it downwind.'
By the look of it they will get their fair share of both.
On the Kiwi boat Rikki, Blair Tuke is knuckling down to the business of ocean racing fresh from winning Silver at the London Olympics in the 49er skiff. This is the crack dinghy sailor’s first ocean race, and a whole new experience after the fanfare and excitement of London.
'The Olympics were the pinnacle of what was four years of hard work,' Tuke said. 'I had spent four years aiming for one thing.' Whereas the races then were a culmination, this Hobart race is a beginning. 'This is the start of what I hope will be a sailing career, and the start of a new challenge.'
Perhaps unwisely, Tuke used Rikki’s delivery trip as a chance to catch up on Hobart history. 'I read the 98 ‘Fatal Storm’ book, and watched the clips on YouTube, maybe I shouldn’t have,' he jokes.
'But as long as you know the boat is in good nick and you have done all the hard work, training and properly preparing the boat, you shouldn’t be nervous.'
There is scarcely a boat in the fleet that does not have at least one crew member doing a first Rolex Sydney Hobart. Aboard Brindabella, for instance, there are six, aged in their 30’s and 40’s and none of Enchantress’ crew from South Australia has been in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but they have done thousands of miles and won the Melbourne Hobart race.
CYCA Commodore Howard Piggott says that whether they are on a crash-hot race favourite or a cruiser/racer hopeful, they are in for one adrenaline rush come Boxing Day. 'This is a life changing event,' he tells them.
All will be surrounded by experienced sailors. They are the new chums, there to learn, except of course for Warwick Sherman. He may be the only Hobart virgin in Occasional Coarse Language’s dozen crew, but he is also the owner.
When asked his role on the boat, Sherman proudly declared 'principal helmsman …and cheque writer.'
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012