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Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race: Gun Runner – the little boat with a lot of heart

by Di Pearson 24 Dec 2018 19:47 PST 26 December 2018
Gun Runner - smallest yacht in the fleet - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Army News

She is the smallest boat with the smallest budget and crew in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet this year, but according to her skipper, Reece Young, Gun Runner has a lot to offer in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's 628 nautical mile race.

Gun Runner is a 9.2 metre Jarkan 925 with a crew of six and an annual budget of $4,000. She is the smallest yacht in this year's race, but during the year, 200 soldiers sail on her. She is well-used and has a lot of heart.

"It has to stretch a long way," skipper Young says of the budget. "A large part goes to taking the yacht in the Sydney Gold Coast race and others up north. And five day passages – taking soldiers out for offshore experience and getting them to dig deep."

Their $4000 is a long way from the major budgets of the bulk of the fleet – it wouldn't pay to fix a sail on any of the high-tech yachts, but Young is philosophical and is 'at ease' with his lot in life – including a new crew this year. He is the lone one to have done the famous race.

The Army, Young says, principally uses Gun Runner to teach its values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork. They also use Tasars and Elliotts for training and racing.

"Under normal circumstances the Sydney Hobart can be difficult; getting the team together and getting them to work as a team. Those characteristics are already imbued in soldiers - working under duress, responding to directions, and when to offer suggestions. They work together to make sure the team gets there – no superstars.

"To get them ready, we teach a lot in CYCA twilights – we are all taught a certain way and teach a certain way to give and respond to orders."

On such a small boat – all 30 feet of it, Young says: "It takes us five days to get to Hobart. It's very close quarters, very uncomfortable, that for me is the real challenge. You go on Gun Runner, you know what lack of sleep and comfort is about – it's uncomfortable. But if it wasn't like that, we wouldn't do it – nor would the Army."

Young acknowledges his personal challenge in regards to the Rolex Sydney Hobart is "the administration that goes into it beforehand. We spend the whole year making sure the yacht is up to spec – you go into it knowing you are going to spend five days out there." And, he says, "I genuinely believe in the race as a challenge and the values we represent."

As to his return to skipper a Sydney Hobart novice crew, he says: "You do the race once and walk away - it's a great thing. But if you can turn around the next year and do it again with a different crew, it cements the fact that it is achievable, you can do it. You just have to believe in yourself.

"It's not restricted to the super maxis, multi-millionaires etc. - anyone can do it."

The father of nearly four children (one on the way) says that two boat owners, Shane Kearns and Sean Langman are mentors. "Sean's father, Major Langman, was a part of the Army Sailing Club when Gun Runner was purchased. Both Sean and Shane sail and have sailed small boats to Hobart – they give me something to aim for."

Kearns is going again this year on his S&S 34, Komatsu Azzurro, while Sean has swapped his 9 metre Maluka (the smallest in last year's race) for a Reichel/Pugh 65, Naval Group.

"Small boats like Maluka and Komatsu are our inspiration," says Young.

Finally, Young says, "I really appreciate how we've been accepted into the yachting community – we came into sailing with trepidation – but it's been great."

The Boxing Day start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will be broadcast live on the Seven Network via 7Mate throughout Australia.

For full list of entries and all information: rolexsydneyhobart.com

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