UK Sailmakers Fremantle’s Geoff Bishop, a life-long sailor and has numerous Sydney-Hobart Races under his belt. When asked to sail the race again with his customer Tim Stewart (Esperance, WA) and his crew who did not have a lot of offshore experience, Geoff was wary. Doing the fabled Hobart Race with a raw offshore crew seemed unwise until Geoff and the lads adopted a different approach.
Here’s Geoff’s report on the race:
Six months before the 2018 Hobart race, Tim Steward called me explained that he and eight mates wanted to tick off the Sydney to Hobart yacht race from their bucket list. I had sailed aboard Stewart’s Salona 44 ANGER MANAGEMENT at Hamilton Island the year before, they decided that they needed more UK Sailmakers’ sails and me to help them sail the race safely.
My thought was that we had a great bunch of blokes who lacked significant offshore experience—they’d never raced at night and never raced with a watch system. We managed to eliminate fire drills and high-stress situations, and they didn’t miss a beat!
Rather than risk crew or boat, heavy weather gybes where done by dropping spinnakers and re-hoisting. Headsail changes where bare-headed. We anticipated upcoming manoeuvres, we communicated effectively, and thus we succeeded. We got to the finish in a very respectable position; but, importantly, there were no breakdowns and the crew could hold their heads high.
On the first night, Anger Management was sailing downwind with the S4 in about 28 knots of wind, we where really doing well and at the front end of our fleet. Our helmsmen were steering well in the heavy air and the boat was recording its highest speeds, records were being broken. When it came time to gybe, the looks on everyone face changed from excited fun to absolute fear. I was reminded by the bowman that they had never had a spinnaker up in this wind speed plus many the crew had never ever sailed at these speeds and certainly had never gybed at night before. A quick reality check was needed; the headsail was hoisted, the spinnaker was dropped, the gybe completed, and then the spinnaker was packed and re-hoisted.
We found out that a lot of boats blew out sails that night, sails that would be needed later in the race.
It was awesome to see so many of the crew’s family members and supporters on the jetty to welcome them in. Memories made during the race and the following days in Hobart will last a lifetime. The speech from Tim and emotions from everyone on the dock after we arrived reminded me of how much of effort this dream had taken to make it possible not just from the sailor’s but the families and sponsors as well.
Tim Stewart commented, “As for the crew (Russell Bridge, Dylan Pinchin, Chris Ratliff, Mark Quinlivan, Robbie Johnston, Colin Maloney, Stuart McIntyre, Geoff Bishop, and Mark Wheeler), you couldn’t have asked for a better team. Not once did anyone whinge or complain about what was needed or being done, and when things weren’t going our way they just sucked it up and got in with it. Of course, this is all made easier by a constant stream of bad jokes and non-stop crap being talked about. I always knew when we put the crew together that we could rely on each and every one to play their part.”
When the sun rose the day after we finished, the team was excited to see a lot of racing yachts on the dock who had finished after us, they certainly loved their Hobart experience and where able to be proud that they didn’t just do the Hobart they raced all the way and finished way above where they thought they would.
For me, I was surprised and proud to see the amount of support this boat and crew had from their local community of Esperance. They had become one of the most supported boats in the fleet. In fact, a two-page spread in Yachting World Magazine featured Anger Management approaching the Organ Pipes. Their bucket list had another tick.