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Did we Give the 35th America’s Cup the Attention it Deserves?
Jessica Watson
Posted June 29 2017

©ACEA 2017/ Photo Ricardo Pinto

As all sailors would be well aware, the Kiwis have just snatched the America’s Cup (affectionately known as the Auld Mug) back off the Americans. The foiling cats provided a great spectacle, flying over the aqua waters of Bermuda, and the design and innovation bar was again lifted. From a viewer’s perspective, the TV graphics were fantastic, and many a non-sailor told me the races were thoroughly watchable.

Throughout the qualifying series and challengers’ playoffs, the racing was competitive and at times dramatic. Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) capsized in the semi-final and Nathan Outteridge, the Aussie skipper of Artemis Racing, fell overboard, something that is reported to cause quite an impact at the 30 knot plus speeds these boats travel. Admittedly, ETNZ was a little dominate in the finals, but after Oracle's incredible comeback during the last cup, I don’t think anyone relaxed till ETNZ was safely across the line for the last time.

But despite the great spectacle and ETNZ’s great underdog story, it didn’t exactly feel like there were many people avidly following the Cup back here in Australia. Certainly, the Australian sailing media did a great job of their coverage, but beyond keen sailing fans, there weren’t too many people who knew what was going on.

It didn’t help that races kicked off at 3 am Australian time and were only televised on pay TV, but given the substantial number of fantastic Aussie sailors across the boats, I had thought that there would be a little more fuss made. While all the major TV networks did run a respectable package on the day of the final race, I was surprised that ETNZ’s victory didn’t warrant a mention on the morning radio sports headlines.

In contrast, the interest that Kiwis take leaves me feeling pretty envious. Every Kiwi, whether they are a sailor or not, seemed to know exactly what was going on. And while a few commentators have pointed out that ETNZ skipper Glenn Ashby is an Aussie, our lack of protest has, to some extent, allowed one of the world’s top sailors to be labelled a Kiwi by default.

I’m disappointed that the Cup didn’t give sailing a more substantial moment in the spotlight because events like this do a wonderful job of promoting sailing. It appears to be a bit of a chicken and egg situation: you need to be a sailor to take an interest, but spectacles like this are needed to drive interest.

Fingers crossed that there’ll be a competitive Australian challenge next time and that Australia will really pay attention.

Did you enjoy following the Cup? Do you think Australia was a little disengaged?

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31 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson
Lisa Blair update: Just Another Bump in the Road
Jessica Watson
Posted May 11 2017

Midway through her attempt to become the first female and fastest person to circumnavigate Antarctica, and nearly 1,000nm south of Cape Town, Lisa’s voyage came to an unexpected halt when her boat was dismasted last month. Jury-rigging her boat and taking on fuel in a hazardous operation at sea, Lisa made her way into Cape Town where she’s spent the last few weeks repairing the damage and sourcing a new mast before she restarts the record attempt.

If she wasn’t already, Lisa is fast becoming known for her incredible dedication and ability to push through setbacks. With repairs well underway, I caught up with Lisa and was keen to hear about how she’s coping mentally with this latest challenge.

Jess: How did those first few days back on land feel?

Lisa: [laughing] I’m trying to remember! It was bizarre because I was straight back into it. I didn’t have that time to reflect. Even the night that I arrived when everyone whisked me off to a pub where we had dinner and a few beers, it sort of felt like I hadn’t even left or that I’d just spent a few weeks at sea. In my head, I’d never really got the impression that I’d been at sea for two months straight, on my own. It never felt like that.

Jess: Where are you finding the strength to rally again, put in all this extra work and keep going?

Lisa: When the mast came down, the first few days I was quite depressed about the whole thing. Obviously it felt like two years of hard work down the drain. You know the story, you sacrifice so much during that time to make it possible, so I was really disheartened that it had come to that end.

I’d worked so hard in my preparation to try to avoid that result. It was also really out of the blue; it’s not like we’d had a knockdown, or that I was pushing the boat. It wasn’t until I started thinking about restarting the record that I got the energy to keep going. As soon as I had something to work towards, I knew I could make it happen. I don’t like to dwell on the past. Yes, I had my moment, my cries, then I got over it.

Jess: The support you're received in Cape Town looks like it’s been pretty amazing, what’s that been like?

Lisa: It’s so overwhelming and humbling when you get so many people who you’ve never met before all trying to chip in and help out. I didn’t get a chance to read the comments on the blog till about a week later. My eyes were watery; I don’t get those comments while I’m at sea. That sort of gives you energy as well. Everyone’s seen the effort, the preparation, the safety aspect, so there’s only been really supportive positive comments.

You can see the full list of Lisa’s sponsors here.

Jess: So what’s it going to feel like when you do set off again? Will it be a relief to be on the way again? Or will you be nervous heading back into colder waters?

Lisa: There’s a level of nerves because I am heading back down to no man’s land, and before I even turn left to start heading back to Australia I get almost 1,000nm from land. So there is trepidation, but the boat has performed so amazingly well though all of this trip to date so I really don’t have any qualms. I think it will also be a relief to be going and finishing this.

Jess: Did you ever think it would be this hard? To have to overcome another huge setback like this?

Lisa: It’s another battle. It has been hard, but it’s been such a rewarding challenge. It’s just another bump in the road. I still know I’m going to finish the trip. I don’t really stop and think about it too much; I just keep going.

You can read details about the repair work, the fantastic support of all those helping her and Lisa’s time in Cape Town in her latest blog here. You can also revisit Lisa’s extensive preparations before she left Sydney in this post here.

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23 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson
A Day in the Life of a Coast Guard Volunteer
Jessica Watson
Posted February 2 2017

The yellow boats, radio towers and squadrons of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard are a reassuring presence on the coastlines and waterways of Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Between January 2016 and January 2017, the 3,000 Coast Guard volunteers were kept busy undertaking over 7,700 ‘activations’ but, like many of the boaties who are lucky enough not to have required the Coast Guard’s services, I’ve been blissfully unaware of exactly how the Coast Guard go about providing their search and rescue services.

So, in an effort to learn a little more about the volunteers who keep a watchful eye on us, I caught up with electronics technician Marcus Grinblat at the Sandringham Coast Guard squadron and asked him how he got involved.

‘My family had a boat and went out in that fairly often,’ he explains, ‘but I wasn’t particularly interested in fishing. We just happened to be off Mt Eliza and saw a Coast Guard boat go past. I was probably 8 or 9, and I thought that might be something interesting to do.’

Marcus signed up as a cadet in 1971 and has been involved for nearly 50 years since, working his way up to his current role, in charge of communication for Coast Guard Victoria.

He explains that Coast Guard volunteers are expected to undertake significant industry-based training and serve a 6-month provisional term before becoming full members. Many of the land-bound radio operators even undertake sea survival courses so they understand what it might be like on the other end of the radio.

As for a typical day on the water, well, ‘you come on at 8 am and head off at sunset,’ says Marcus. ‘You do a bit of housekeeping, check the weather, then on the boat, really the training starts there.

Crew members run through the opening up procedure, double check, triple check, do an inventory of the equipment, check that it’s all working, which also reinforces where it all is if they’ve got to get it quickly.

By that time, you probably have a cup of coffee, then head out and do some training. Each member has a task book, so they’ll run through it, note the drills undertaken.

October is the busiest month because people get their boats out, they haven’t used them for a long time. The footy is finished, they think about going boating, and they get them out and they’ve got bad batteries and stale fuel.’

I’m happy to hear that the majority of call outs are not for yachts, who Marcus says are typically pretty good at getting themselves out of trouble. Although when a yacht does call for help, it is often for a serious incident such as a medical emergency.

In fact, Marcus goes on to tell me that the Coast Guard is sometimes required to retrieve dead bodies from the water. ‘You don’t get used to it, but you do accept it,’ he tells me. ‘If the police boat is in the area, we just stand by and let them do it, it saves a lot of paperwork, and having to take time off to appear in the Coroner’s Court.’

I ask Marcus what boaties should be doing to make the lives of Coast Guard volunteers easier, and he urges boaties to check their batteries and fuel, telling me that bad batteries, bad fuel or insufficient fuel are the most common causes of breakdowns.

For those boaties who don’t have time to volunteer, a great way to support the Coast Guard is to make use of the radio or marine license courses they operate.

Marcus also encourages boaties to download the Coast Guard’s SafeTrx App, an easy way for boaties to log and have their trips monitored within phone range.

The Australian Volunteer Coast Guard operates in Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Victoria, while Marine Rescue looks after New South Wales. A number of other independent marine rescue services also operate around the country. 

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28 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson
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