About The skipper
Where does your passion for sailing come from?
Being close to the water has a calming and restorative effect on me that is difficult to explain. You either feel it, or you buy a farm out west. Dad was born on the small island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands and proudly served on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Cumberland. Mum was a tailoress on Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. In 1964, we departed Southampton on the good ship Flavia bound for a new life in Australia. I know what you are thinking, but no, we were not convicts! The ticket price for a family of four gave way to the phrase ten-pound poms. By the age of three, I had notched up my first Transatlantic, Panama transit and Pacific crossing. The irony is not lost on me as we ended up living on a huge sheep station 400km from the sea.
Fast forward to 1982 and I was working as a mechanic on the famous Gold Coast. I could never afford a boat of my own, so I signed up as a volunteer at Southport Surfers Paradise Air Sea Rescue (now Volunteer Marine Rescue). I started as Junior Crew and over time attained my Offshore Skipper rating. Dozens of times each day, we would navigate our 24ft twin hulled, 470HP Shark Cat through breaking surf on the extremely dangerous Southport Bar, looking for the deepest channel so we could safely escort vessels across. Thankfully the Southport Bar was tamed with rock walls to become known as the Gold Coast Seaway, complete with a state-of-the-art sand bypass pumping system. The Seaway was the birth of the Gold Coast offshore sailing and racing scene.
I learned to sail as crew onboard Seabird a Fisher 32 cruising yacht and started racing on a 26ft Steinman lightweight flyer called Fat Albert (Fatso to us). Our race crew comprised of mostly Air Sea Rescue skippers, so our fear threshold was a lot higher than your average sailor. We pushed hard and broke a lot of stuff. Let’s just say on more than one occasion when Gold Coast Seaway conditions were rough and yachts waited offshore for seas to moderate, the Fatso crew we were often back at the ‘other bar’.
My first sailboat was a Javelin 14ft skiff followed by Just Jo, a lovely 1974 Custom 30 (Peter Ebbutt) IOR racer that I refitted for solo sailing. Then came Rogue Wave, a beautiful 1983 Sigma 36 that I bought in Malaysia in 2009 and solo sailed back to Australia. I competed in the 2014 and 2018 Solo Tasman Yacht Challenges from New Zealand to Mooloolaba; topping it off by competing in the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2019. I still own Rogue Wave so we will have a crack at the 2021 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race inaugural double Handed division.
My sailing passion has continued to evolve in lock step with my experience, knowledge, confidence and of course the biggest constraint, budget. In 2017 I took the plunge and purchased Roaring Forty to fulfil my lifelong dream to crack the Solo Unassisted Around Australia race record and then the 40ft Around the World unassisted and non-stop record..
What are the lessons you learnt from sailing?
Military life and sailing are complimentary, since both require discipline. They both teach patience; mental and emotional control; time, risk and fatigue management so you make deliberate, effective and timely decisions; motivation to succeed; analyse and critically assess your own and others abilities so you can consider your options, all whilst operating in a time constrained, hostile and competitive environment.
What brought you to like single-handed sailing?
Self-reliance, self-belief and the need to challenge myself in an environment that I have limited influence and even less control. I enjoy the strategy, navigation and tactics plus the technical aspects of setting up my boats for maximum efficiency, whilst learning new skills that compliment my existing skills.
What prompted you to sign up for this event?
Since I also owned a Sigma 36, I was very interested when Marco (Nannini) entered British Beagle, his Sigma 36 in the 2009 OSTAR. In 2011/12, I also followed, supported and encouraged Marco’s entry in the Global Ocean Race (GOR) onboard his Class 40 Financial Crisis. Call it fate or whatever, but when Marco announced his Global Solo Challenge event and it aligned with my retirement, I was 100% committed so his venture could become our adventure.
I have previously emailed another Class 40 Global race organiser requesting them to consider including an Adventure Class (similar to RdR) for older Open 40 and Open 50 designs boats. My intent was so we could compete against Vintage Class 40s that are not competitive against the new Class 40’s that cost in excess of EUR500+; but alas, I didn’t even get one courtesy ‘go away’ response.
When I emailed the same question to Marco he stepped up, and not only did he reply to my email, but he appreciated the feedback and created a Super Zero Group and a delayed start. You have to admit watching Charal pursuit race through the Vendee fleet has been fantastic.
How do you plan to prepare for this event?
Yep, planning is certainly a challenge in COVID times as Australia’s international travel ban is keeping us apart. I live in Australia and Roaring Forty is currently in The Netherlands. Fortunately, I had already undertaken a major refit during 2018-19 so she is in a very good state. Whilst my sails have already lapped the planet once and new sails (and sponsor) would certainly be very welcome, I need to be sensible about where a focus my limited budget. Sustainability is also very important to me as I detest waste. The Millenium Carbon Kevlar sails are extremely robust offshore sails, so maybe all I end up doing is pack more Dr Sails epoxy!
It was welcome news that Marina Coruña has been named the host port for the Global Solo Challenge. After a few sales pitches, the idea of spending summers in Spain has gained traction with my wife! Hopefully I can relocate Roaring Forty to A Coruña later this year and then base ourselves in A Coruña for the 2022 summer. Workup races will culminate with the 2023 AZAB as a final shakedown before the big one.
Finally, everyone should read Endurance, Alfred Lansing’s book about Ernest Shackleton’s famous Antarctic adventure where his ship became stranded in the ice, and the unbelievable feats of human endeavor that followed. What those men went through (and survived), helps me put my ‘rough’ day into perspective.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge….. watching Groups 0-4 sail away and then waiting on the dock and bonding with the other Super Zero entrants….. for a month!
I will keep busy sailing and watching the north Atlantic weather windows open and close whilst tracking our mate’s progress. It looks like there could be a few of us in the Super-Zeros Group in the 40ft region, so it should be very exciting.
Tell us about your boat or the boat you would like to have?
I found Roaring Forty in 2017 whilst on a 3-year posting to the United States. My next boat had to be proven, strong and offshore capable; setup for single-handed and definitely water ballasted. Not just a downwind flyer either as I wanted a narrower hull form for performance upwind. The availability and market for this type of boat in Australia is extremely limited, well at least at my budget entry point. Unfortunately, the US solo boat market was also very limited and prices high.
I stumbled across the Raising Anchors website in The Netherlands. The Brokerage had only just opened and they were listing a hot looking Lutra Open 40 called Roaring Forty. Not only did she excite me, she also met all my essential criteria, had great lines and the price was within budget. The downside was the design was unknown to me. I quickly found a lot of information on the internet demonstrating she was a fast and proven design with one circumnavigation under her keel, so I bit the bullet and submitted an offer. The Survey Report held no surprises, so I flew over to close the deal.
I have since been in touch with the Dutch designer who has provided me with a lot of information and also the Estonian boat builder Akton Yachts, both of whom were excited to hear Roaring Forty will race again. SP Technologies (now GURIT) did all the carbon structural engineering and you can check the website for their rock star client list. I still have some refit work to go, but my primary goal is to get out sailing as soon as possible to shake down systems that I have already installed.
Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?
Yes, it’s important to me to promote awareness and where I can help, I will assist in raising funds to enable those wonderful organisations that support our Veterans and their families. Once I have formal approvals established, I will include web links to my chosen Charity. As in all my fundraising, 100% of donations go to charity (less the platform admin fee), not to me.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
To those who have not previously undertaken a solo adventure into the unknown, be realistic in your project management of cost, risk and schedule and do not underestimate the challenge associated with just getting to the start line.
Ernest Shackleton said…… “I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all”.
Kev said…… “You can either be a pilot of your own destiny or a passenger in life”.
In time, I will insert links in my Blog so that if you feel the urge to sail with me in spirit around this big blue planet, you may decide to donate to my chosen Charity or my Entry Fee Crowdfunding Appeal; or if you are super keen drop me a line and we can discuss sponsorship opportunities.
I started sailing on Queensland’s beautiful Gold Coast back in 1982 whilst I was a volunteer at Southport surfers Paradise Air Sea Rescue. My sailing has taken me from Langkawi Malaysia; through the Malacca and Singapore Straits; South China Sea; Indonesian archipelago; over desolate Cape York peninsula at the top of Australia; out through our magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the length of our scenic east coast to Hobart. I have completed multiple trans-Tasman solo crossings to and from New Zealand, and enjoyed our local racing at Port Stephens Yacht Club. I have probably close to 50000 nm under a few different keels, with more than half doing what I enjoy the most…… solo sailing.
Some memorable highlights include:
Taking first timers sailing or racing and watching them transition from apprehensive to excited.
2007 – first solo Townsville to Port Stephens
2010 – solo Langkawi Malaysia to Newcastle Australia
2014 – Solo Tasman Challenge Yacht Race. Port Stephens- New Plymouth NZ- Mooloolaba – Port Stephens.
2018 – Solo Tasman Challenge Yacht Race. Port Stephens- New Plymouth NZ- Mooloolaba – Port Stephens.
2019 – 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race