A Cheesemaker Explains What It’s Like Preparing To Sail In His First Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race

Nick Haddow is sailing in his first Rolex Sydney to Hobart.

Nick Haddow is a cheesemaker at Bruny Island Cheese Company in Tasmania. He’s finally crossing off something his bucket list – the chance to sail in the 630 nautical miles (1,170km) Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Haddow has a tough week sailing the boat to Sydney this week in big seas and strong winds, but before he set out, he told Business Insider about the team’s preparations aboard Magic Miles, a 18.7m (62ft) luxury cruiser/racer from Tasmania. In last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart she finished seventh in PHS Division 1.

You know its been a bad day’s sailing when the skipper turns to you and says “Well, I hope at least you learned something today”.

That was just after we put the pole through the new spinnaker and watched it rip a three-metre hole in it.

Seeing blue sky through a sail is always a terrible thing. I never cease to be impressed by the amount of damage you can do to a boat, and the owners bank balance, in just a few seconds.

The boat is called Magic Miles and we were on a training run for the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race – the boat’s second and my first.

Doing the ‘Hobart’ has been on my bucket list for a while so when the opportunity came up I gave it way less thought than I should of. I am not an experienced sailor. In fact, this will be my first blue water race. As a teenager I sailed a fair bit, but it was always on big boats surrounded by men who were more experienced, more skilled and more manly than me. Precious little has changed.

The Magic Miles crew.

When you live in Hobart, you sail. Tasmania has the highest boat ownership per capita than anywhere else in Australia and for good reason. Southern Tasmania has some of the finest cruising and sailing water in Australia. The coast is blessed with an over abundance of safe anchorages, spectacular scenery, flat water, good wind and a lack of traffic.

I have been sailing for the past five years, mostly in the local twilight races on the Derwent River, but I lack the intuition and experience of some of my crew mates who started their sailing when they were kids, in boats no bigger than a bathtub.

Small boat sailing allows you to develop an instinct for the wind, the water and your boat. I don’t have that – I have to stop and think about it – not great when you racing and your skipper yells an order that sounds like he is talking in riddles.

“Stop playing with your tweaker, Nick!” or “Don’t over-sheet the heady”.

Not being one to let skill or experience stand in the way of achievement, I stuck my hand up to be part of the crew for Magic Miles for its 2014 Rolex Sydney to Hobart campaign. Mike, the skipper and owner of the boat, a 62-foot cutter-rigged yacht, possibly should have asked a few questions before taking me on, or perhaps he just assumed anyone wanting to sign up for this race would know how to sail.

My fellow crew are all male – not a deliberate outcome, just no females were invited – and all have way more experience than me.

That makes me feel both comfortable and anxious at the same time. Every member of the crew shares in the responsibility of getting the boat to Hobart safely but this is definitely a race and we want to be competitive. That means not stuffing up when the heat is on and you have a job to do.

Not letting your mates down, even when you feel like you are the weakest link.

Magic Miles

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