How it all started

I had been thinking about the voyage since – perhaps – the day my father gave me Joshua Slocum’s book Sailing Alone Around the World when I must have been about seven. He told me I would enjoy the bit about the tin-tacks but I loved the whole book and still do. I have owned many copies of it since and have given them all away.

More seriously, though, the idea began to firm when I sailed my first Sydney-Hobart in 1977 – an awful race that year, and it seemed silly to have bashed all that way south only to turn around and bash back.I had unfinished business at the Fastnet rock, having retired from my first ocean race, the 1961 Fastnet, before reaching the rock. There was also Cape Horn, with all its legendary ferocity, inspirational and terrifying. I had unfinished business there too, having set out in the Sydney-Rio race in 1981, only to have to retire in the middle of the Tasman almost before we had started. (Tommy Melville?)

Time and Hobarts rolled past until, in 1998, Peter Crozier came aboard Berrimilla for the first time one Friday evening for a twilight race. I had never met him but the boat seemed to wrap itself around him and the team was formed, although we had no idea at the time. That was the year of the worst Hobart race storm, which we sailed through together and arrived in Constitution Dock on New Year’s eve to find only six other boats and a sad welcome. We won our handicap division overall and proved to ourselves that Berrimilla was seaworthy.

The following year was a more difficult race, with a series of fronts that gave us fierce southerlies from half way all the way to Tasman Island. The race took us over 9 days to finish. I managed to fracture my cheekbone quite severely during the first blast at half way and was unable to get it fixed in Hobart over the New Year period, so Pete and I got back on the boat and jumped back into the belly of the southerly and hurtled north up the coast – at least insofar as an old dinosaur of a boat like Berrimilla can hurtle.

We discovered that two handing the boat was easy and fun and so the fantasy merged into a project. I was planning it seriously in my mind from that time, although I think Pete had not really taken it on board.

Read more: 1st Voyage Summary