Where does your passion for sailing come from?
The need to be near water is difficult to explain…so let’s just say it’s in my DNA. Dad was born on the small island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands and proudly served in the Royal Navy on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Cumberland. Mum was a tailoress on Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.
In 1964 and before the age of three, I had notched up my first Transatlantic, Panama transit and Pacific crossing. We departed Southampton UK on the good ship Flavia bound for a new life in Australia. The family ticket price heralded the nickname ‘ten-pound poms’. So no, I am not a convict. Unfortunately living by the sea was not in our parent’s plan, and we ended up living out west on a sheep station.
Fast forward to 1982 and I was working as a mechanic in Southport on the Gold Coast. There was no way I could afford a boat on my wage, so I signed up as a volunteer at Southport Surfers Paradise Air Sea Rescue (now Volunteer Marine Rescue Southport) to build my skills. I started as Junior Crew and progressed through the ranks to Offshore Skipper with my own crew. Dozens of times each duty day, we would navigate our 24ft twin hulled, 470HP Shark Cat through breaking surf over the extremely dangerous Southport Bar, looking for the deepest channel so we could safely escort vessels across the shifting sands. Thankfully the Southport Bar was later tamed with rock walls and dredged to become known as the Gold Coast Seaway, complete with a state-of-the-art sand bypass pumping system. The opening of The Gold Coast Seaway enabled Southport to be identified as an official Port of Entry which opened up the offshore racing scene.
About the same time, a good friend, the late John Kumm, taught my mate Glenn and I to sail Seabird, his Fisher 32. Then we started racing with GT and Johnny on a 26ft Steinman lightweight flyer called Fat Albert (affectionately known as Fatso). Our crew of ‘fearless’ Air Sea Rescue skippers pushed Fatso hard, so it’s not surprising we broke a lot of stuff.
Unlike many, I started in keel boats, not dinghies. My first taste of boat ownership was a Javelin 14ft skiff, followed in 2004 by Just Jo, a lovely 1974 Custom 30 (Peter Ebbutt) IOR racer that I refitted for solo sailing. In 2009 came Rogue Wave, a fantastic 1983 Sigma 36 (David Thomas) that I bought in Malaysia and sailed single-handed back to Australia. I competed in the 2014 and 2018 Solo Tasman Yacht Challenges from New Zealand to Mooloolaba followed by the 2019 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (RSHYR) and backing up again in 2021 RSHYR for the inaugural double handed division.
In 2017, I took the plunge and purchased Roaring Forty to fulfil my dream to crack the Solo Unassisted Around Australia race record and all going to plan, the 40ft Around the World single handed, non-stop and unassisted record.
What are the lessons you learnt from sailing?
I believe military life and sailing are complimentary. Both require discipline to lead teams that operate in constrained, hostile and competitive environments in both day and night. You need to be fit; patient; mentally agile, resilient and aware to manage time/risk/fatigue so you can make deliberate, effective and timely decisions. You must also motivate yourself and others to succeed and win (even when others may not) and apply critical thinking to analyse and assess your own and others abilities and performance. Each possesses a sound level of technical knowledge to perform at their highest level, whilst remaining flexible to provide solutions in support of damage control (aka battle damage repairs).
What brought you to like single-handed sailing?
Self-reliance, self-belief and the need to challenge myself in an adventurous environment that I have limited influence and even less control. I enjoy the strategy, planning, navigation and tactics plus the technical aspects of boat preparation for maximum efficiency, whilst learning new skills that compliment my existing skills