Being a couple of sailing tragics, we were glued to the TV for the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race on Boxing Day. As the big maxi yachts manoeuvred for position, like graceful partners in an elaborate quadrille or waltz, I couldn’t help but compare them with Jessica Watson on board Ella’s Pink Lady heading south into the furious fifties.
These 100ft giants, with masts that seem to stretch up to swat the circling helicopters, are designed for speed. Their ballooning spinnakers could almost be measured in acres. Some of them have large enough crews to field two football teams (of any code) hauling ropes, stowing sails, reading the weather, finessing the tactics and dangling their already cooling heels over the rails.
On board 34 ft Pink Lady is one 16 year old girl and she’s headed into waters where the waves are as big as these maxis are long. By Monday evening we’ll know if Alpha Romeo has completed the impressive double of both Line and Handicap Honours. The crews will be spraying celebratory champagne, cracking the top off the first of many beers and relaxing after their ‘epic’ two and a half day battle with the elements.
Jessica’s been at sea for almost two and half months with many more ahead of her. Tonight she’ll be delving into another food bag to see what treats she’s packed. (I’m guessing champagne won’t be featuring.) Then she’ll settle in to her routine, pull on heavy duty cold weather gear as the winds increase and endure.
That’s what I call an epic battle.