About the only thing that isn’t very Irish about John Clarke is his name.
Stepping onto the dock in Hobart this afternoon from the Farr 40 Inner Circle (the first of the IOR Farr 40s to finish) the story of John’s final arrival in Hobart is a classic Irish yarn that spans the last 12 months.
'I flew into Sydney on Boxing Day last year on my first trip to Australia. It was two hours before the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and a stinking thirty eight degrees' said John explaining the beginnings of the saga 'I got into the cab and asked to be driven to the Cruising Yacht Club'
'The cab driver asked me if I was sailing in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, to which I answered yes; but when he asked me which yacht I was sailing on I said I didn’t know yet!'
'I got to the Club and asked a few boats if they needed a crew and got a bunch of knockbacks. Then I found this lot' he said pointing at his crew mates who laughed and told me not to believe a word he said.
John carried on with the story, undeterred.
'One of their crew had heard the forecast and decided not to go at the last minute so when the skipper asked me if I could sail, I said yes and without another question I was on the boat.'
'They virtually pulled the crew shirt off the guy that wasn’t going and gave it to me. When the rest of the crew saw me they asked the skipper who the hell I was!'
'I didn’t get off to a very good start either. I was jet-lagged, it was unbelievably hot and I’d had a few VBs so I was a little lightheaded' John explained with a fine Irish euphemism.
'I got a jib sheet wound round my foot on the first tack' said John 'I think they thought I was a complete idiot, but when I apologised to the skipper he seemed more concerned for my brand new Dubarry boots.'
'In the end we had to retire from the race with boat damage and pulled into Eden; I was determined to get here so this year I flew to Australia in plenty of time and we’ve finally got here with the lads'.
John laughs again as he explains 'before I left Ireland this time I had a tee shirt made up and it simply reads:
It would appear that John has also been working the Blarney on his skipper Michael Graham and crewmates on the race south, as they are planning to charter a boat for Ford Cork Week in Ireland next year.
'They’re a bunch of older blokes so we’re thinking of naming the boat Elder Circle' says John.
Meantime John, who races Flying Fifteens at his home club of Dun Laoghaire plans to race in the Australian Flying Fifteen Nationals in Canberra in January.
It somehow comes as no surprise to discover that John doesn’t know whose boat he’ll be sailing on yet.