First Female Team in Rolex Sydney to Hobart in 16 years......Lets Go!

Oh! how time fly’s… I can’t believe that it has been just over a month since my last blog.  One part of me feels like it was last week and the other part of me feels like it was over a year ago. There seem to be so much going on at the moment.  When I last left you, I was preparing to start my self-funded speaking tour north.  One of the best things about this journey is the ability to share my story with people and see the positive effect that this has. So, I arranged to spend just over 3 weeks driving from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast talking at yacht clubs along the way.  I hired a cheap camper van (which I managed to ding) and off I went with Coffs Harbour as my first destination.  In 3 weeks I presented 15 talks, all at different venues and my days just blurred past in a routine. 

 I would start the day responding to emails and trying to get some work done on my all-female Sydney to Hobart team.  Then drive anywhere between 1 hour to 3 hours to the next venue/yacht club so that I could arrive for 5pm.  Set up the room and equipment and then at 6.30pm give a 1.5 hour long talk all about how I started sailing and what drives me to want to go and tackle challenges like Antarctica.  I would share some parts of my journey with everyone.  By 8.30 pm or 9 pm I would wrap up and pack down the room, wander along to my camper van and enjoy a nice ‘although hot’ sleep in the car park before getting up to do it all again.  One of the key objectives of the trip was to eventually get to the Sunshine Coast and visit with my family.  
Mum, Dad, my sister Shelley, Grandpa and my Auntie all flew out to my finish in Albany. As the weather kept pushing my arrival times back I was only able to spend 20 hours with them before all but my mum needed to fly back home because of work commitments. So, I also wanted to be able to spend some time with them.  I managed to get in 3 full days with my family at home but that is not enough.  I will need to try to get home again in the New Year once all the pressures of the Sydney to Hobart are over. 

I also managed to catch up with 2 of my best friends while I was traveling north.  Both have had a baby while I was away sailing around Antarctica. It was pretty amazing to meet their little ones for the first time and see my friends in mum mode….  It’s a bit surreal for me actually, as I never got to see them when they were pregnant, so in my head they are still the girls that I would go on adventures with at uni. Both are amazing mums and I am so proud of them.
So, after my time away I finally arrived back to Sydney 2 weeks ago having been successful in reaching over 1000 people with my story and hopefully inspiring them to follow their dreams.  I was then back to living on the boat while I tried to find a place to live.  I was looking at trying to secure a room in a shared house while I was on my speaking tour, but it can be really hard to get a house in Sydney when you aren’t in Sydney.  After several attempts it became clear that  it needed to wait until I was back.  I was keeping a very close eye on what was around and was trying to find something in the Northern Beaches so that I can still maintain my love of the sea even between projects.  A few days after I got back I was lucky enough to spot an ad for a place in Freshwater.  It was a 5-bedroom shared house just up the hill from the beach.  I thought perfect, but I needed to be sure that this wasn’t a party house and that the other people living there were nice.  I checked out the place and paid a deposit that night.  It was perfect.  

One of my requirements was to live with lots of people, given how much alone time I have had recently, but I still needed an environment that I could work in to write the book and to keep pulling together the other campaigns.  This place ended up being perfect with a room on the lower level out the back so it’s quiet. My fabulous house mates that are all likeminded and respectful.  So, I am now living with a Yoga Instructor, a Pilates Instructor, a yacht broker and a café barrister…  It’s perfect and I pay the same rent as I did before I left.  So, I have now had the chance to settle in and set up my loft bed in the room.  It seems that the roof in my new house is lower than the last because I only have about 50cm between the bed and the roof, but I can live with that and I have affectionately dubbed it the ‘bat cave’.  Having the loft bed allows me to set up an office underneath so that I have a place to write and to run my campaigns from. 

Also, just days after I moved in, Mum, my sister Shelley and Annelise Guy (the first women to sail solo to Antarctica) flew down from the Sunshine Coast for a very special night.  I was nominated by Australian Geographic for the ‘Spirit of Adventure’ award.  We all got fancied up and I even put on a lovely dress and heals – This doesn’t happen very often at all….  Then went along to the Australian Geographic Gala Award night.  Just arriving was mind blowing as there was so many of Australia’s most incredible adventures in the room.  Not only that, there was also some of Australia’s best environmental conservationist in the room as well. This created a powerful and inspiring and active atmosphere. I was incredibly honoured and humbled to receive my award and to walk up on that stage in front of all these amazing people. So, a huge thank you to Australian Geographic for your ongoing support.  I was also surprised to be presented with a lovely new Bremont watch in recognition of my efforts.  It was a truly fantastic evening. For me, the best thing was to see the environmental message and the need for action mentioned in every presentation and speech on that stage.  As adventurers we see firsthand the effects of our human lifestyles on the world, so it is only natural for us to wish to protect the great and wonderful places we visit.  My family flew out the next day and it was back to my office for me. Her is a link to my awards thank you speech.
I have since been playing catch up on all the office side of things and trying so hard to get ahead on my Sydney to Hobart campaign while working on the book.  I have also been investigating the electrolysis issue on the boat.  Since putting the new rigging on the boat and leaving Cape Town my new mast is already showing signs of electrolysis….  That is extremely not good…  So, I have been talking with the fantastic team at Arcus Wire and Rigging about how we can resolve the issue.  The key thing is to actually identify what the problem is and go from there.  The CEO of Arcus Wire and Rigging sits on the board of the National Association for Stainless Steel and has taken what was left of my old mast to the annual conference to show around and to gather further thoughts.  No one there had ever come across a break pattern in rigging wire like mine before, so we are getting more tests done to the surviving swage fitting.  We are getting a microscopic photo done and then sending it to the metallurgy for further testing.  In the mean time I am getting an electrolysis expert to come down and look at the yacht. He isn’t available until the end of this month, which will be cutting it close for the Sydney to Hobart.
More than likely, I will be needing to replace the rigging wire for a third time in a year…..which is very unfortunate…… My concern is that while the new wire (capetown) might look okay the damage has already been done. I can’t in good conscious take a team to Hobart if I have any doubts what so ever that the mast will stay up.  One of the reasons that I know the new wire has also suffered electrolysis is that my hydraulic back stay ram – which was brand new in Cape Town stopped working.  The pump handle had seized up and I couldn’t then use it.  I asked a friend to take it off for me when I was on tour and the fantastic team at Wichard Pacific sent it off to get fixed.  It turned out that all the dissimilar metals had expanded in the unit causing it to seize.  This happens when there is electricity running through the unit making me ‘red flag’ the mast.  So, before we replace the rigging wire I need to be 100% sure that I have identified the issue and we can hopefully finally put this problem to bed once and for all.  These are additional hurdles that I need to overcome.  I must have the boat in perfect condition as I line up for the start line of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. 
I have partnered with The Magenta Project to race with an all-female team in the next Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.  We will have four experienced sailors (which includes myself) We have opened the other four positions up to women worldwide.  I put a call for applications up on my website. I am amazed to have received over 170 applications from women all around the world.  Each and every one of those women were people that I would have taken on the yacht in a heartbeat. All have shown their passion, drive and dedication for sailing.  Unfortunately, I have only got four positions on ‘Climate Action Now’.  So far, we have shortlisted to 12 applications and that was so very tough to do. Now we have asked that those 12 submit a video application. We will try to select the final four from that… but it is a tough decision that is for sure.
The one thing that I noticed through all of this and through all of these applications was that there is a need to try and to create more opportunities like this in the future.  As such when Libby Greenhalgh from The Magenta Project is here in Australia getting ready to race with me as my co-skipper, we are going to host a women’s sailing networking event.  We noticed that there were many women who were boat owners wanting to gain the confidence to race and then there were plenty of other women who knew how to race but were lacking boats.  It is our hope that we can try to introduce those people and maybe next year we might see two or more boats with all-female crew racing in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race as well as an increase in the female participation on the mixed teams.  So, stay tuned and we will announce the date for this over the coming weeks.
So, we are still trying to raise funds to cover the costs associated with doing such an iconic yacht race, so if you would like to support us and to show your support for women in sailing you can donate here.  I was recently able to partner with the Australian Sports Foundation.  This foundation allows athletes and teams like ours to run our fundraising campaigns through them so that all of our amazing supporters can make a tax deductable donation.  So please support us and our goal to offer more women in sailing, mentor programs and opportunities by donating today.