For most people Boxing Day is spent sleeping in and barbecuing with family.
CAPTION: The Navy One crew prior to the start of the Rolex Sydney to Story by Leading Seaman Kellie Nash. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kelvin Hockey.
But one Royal Australian Navy team was up at the crack of dawn preparing for the race of a lifetime: the gruelling Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Navy One skipper Commander Nathan Lockhart said competing in the famous blue water race is a good fit for Navy.
“Navy’s natural domain is the water and operating in difficult and trying conditions promotes team work and resilience,” said Commander Lockhart.
The Navy One crew comprised five officers and five sailors from diverse backgrounds, including engineers, marine engineering technicians, maritime warfare officers and Navy police coxswains.
Commander Nathan Lockhart said one of Navy’s main objectives each race is to beat Army.
“At stake is the Oggin Cup, which is awarded to the first armed services yacht on corrected time,” he said.
“May that friendly competition continue for many years to come and, hopefully, Air Force will join us at the race soon.”
After packing the boat and saying goodbye to family and friends, Navy One spent the morning tacking up and down the harbour vying for clean wind and wishing other competitors well.
When the start cannon was fired at 1pm, the adrenaline surged through all 10 crew, while the skipper chased the wind and headed for Sydney Heads.
The arduous race usually takes three or four days, but the 2021 edition presented some of the harshest conditions in a decade.
The fleet encountered 40 knot winds on the voyage south and more than 30 boats retired before reaching Bass Strait.
In the first stages of Bass Strait, Navy One was fifth overall on international handicap and first on performance handicap.
Fighting sea sickness, the heavy swell, pelting rain and a few technical difficulties, the crew were shot out of the Strait into much altered conditions.
Down Tasmania’s each coast the sun beat down, the wind stilled and finding a breeze proved elusive.
The frustrating conditions becalmed Navy One for 14 hours, proving the ‘Wind Gods’ truly do have a sense of humour.
After five days and five hours at sea, the crew of Navy One pulled alongside Salamanca wharf in Hobart to cheering crowds and honking boats.
The voyage tested the metal of all 10 crew, who formed a strong bond.
Only 33 of 88 yachts completed the race. Army’s Gun Runner retired on the fifth day due to light winds.