by Di Pearson
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2012 will be again a test of endurance and will power for the participating fleets in the Boxing Day’s sailing showcase. However, for Warwick Sherman, the upcoming big race serves as yet another chance to live his life to the fullest in the high seas since being inflicted with a serious disease two years ago.
Judi Burrell and Warick Sherman (owner of Occasional Coarse Language 2)
When Cruising Yacht Club of Australia yachtsman Warwick Sherman sets foot on his yacht Occasional Coarse Language Too on Boxing Day, he will remember all the reasons he is finally looking down the barrel of his first Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race at the age of 58.
It’s not that Sherman lacks the experience or the appetite for the acquired taste the 628 nautical mile race is - far from it, the Huntley’s Point yachtsman has plenty of offshore experience and ocean miles under his belt.
But it was being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin mantle cell lymphoma in June 2010 that finally pushed him to try it. But, says Sherman, the purpose in undertaking his first jaunt south to Hobart is threefold.
'It’s just something you should do as an ocean racer, it’s something you should do at least once in your life; but the motivation was when I got ill,' Sherman admitted.
Sherman is a rarity among men; he is not afraid to talk about his illness and he is not afraid of showing emotion in regard to it; nor embarrassed by people enquiring after his health – or those just offering him help and a hug.
'When I was diagnosed, the doctors told me not to worry, but once they took a closer look, they found it was a rare form of lymphoma. I was under a new protocol – before me, mortality was not an option for sufferers. Even now there’s not enough history too know what the survival rate will be…,' Sherman said from aboard his near-new Occasional Coarse Language Too at the CYCA.
'I did the right thing, I faithfully had a medical check-up every year since turning 50, and that’s how it got picked up,' he said. 'The doctors said they could treat me straight away, or wait and let the disease hit aggressively – and treat it aggressively - and I took the second option; better than going two rounds with chemo after being weakened by the first lot.
'That’s when I decided to buy the new boat. I ordered it and it arrived 12 months later in July 2011. I started chemo in October 2011 and finished in March 2012, so I was unable to sail for a while, the doctor said it was too dangerous, as I could have ruptured my spleen and bled internally.'
Originally Sherman’s boat was put together for the 2011 Hobart, 'but I was too sick to go,' he said.
Following on, the yachtsman had stem cell replacement and went out and won his division in the CYCA’s 2012 Audi Winter Series on his Ker GTS43, Occasional Coarse Language Too, and its name reflecting the nature of yachting when things go awry.
'I took a positive approach, I wasn’t going to let the cancer rule my life,' Sherman stated.
All the while, his partner and crew Judi Burrell stood by him, as she is now doing in the lead-up to the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart.
'Judi’s always been part of the crew, but she decided to stand aside for the strength of the team, which is five of my regulars and seven Tow Trucks,' Sherman said, referring to a solid crew of sailors who sailed the yacht Tow Truck and who know how to drive a boat hard, fast and safely, including Anthony Paterson and Brett Filby.
'It’s pretty funny to think Judi has done three Hobarts and I haven’t done any,' Sherman said of Burrell, who did pit duty on Alan Brierty’s Limit, but who will cheer her man on from the sidelines this time around.
'I’m not sorry not to be going; I feel fortunate to have done the three I have,' Burrell said laughing. 'I’ll be at the CYCA to see him off. It can be quite stressful for the skipper, I remember AB (Brierty) before all of his,' she said.
'I’ll stay ashore and support him – keep him calm and focussed. I’m looking forward to meeting them all on Constitution Dock (Hobart) when the finish with the scallop pies and beer.'
Burrell said Sherman had not asked her what the race was like. 'He saw photos from Limit when I did the 2010 race and hasn’t asked anything since,' she said smiling.
Sherman is determined to do well in the CYCA’s annual 628 nautical mile race. 'I’m a bit out of the loop because I haven’t done longer races of late, then my steering failed in the Gold Coast race, but we’ll see,' he said.
He reckons the Ker 40, AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis, Bob Thomas, Michael Bencsik) and Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40, Chutzpah from Victoria, will give him the most trouble should the conditions favour the 40-45 footers.
'It might sound a funny thing to say, but I have no emotions in particular about the race – I’ve done 12 Gosford Lord Howe Island races and others, so one side of me is telling me ‘you could have died, so push yourself’, and the other side says ‘So why not take it easy – it’s quite a long race and you don’t want to go out there and do something stupid after coming through the cancer’.'