Super Maxi Perpetual Loyal: Behind the Scenes on Boxing Day

Jessica Watson
Posted December 24 2015

While the fleet heads out of Sydney Harbour ready for battle, I had a chat to a few of the professional sailors on one of the fleet’s well-known line honours contenders, Super Maxi Perpetual Loyal.

These are sailors at the top of their game, unsung sporting heroes, and they’ve generously given up a few minutes of their time to answer some questions about their race day preparations and how they’re feeling.

Adrienne Cahalan

Adrienne Cahalan is the petite navigator. She is the first woman to sail 20 Sydney to Hobarts – the winner of six line honours and two overall wins – a Volvo Ocean race veteran, a lawyer and a meteorologist – and that’s just to name a few of a long list of impressive achievements.

Jess: Talk me through the morning of the race, your last-minute weather checks and preparation.

Adrienne: The morning of the race I meet with the forecaster, Roger Badham, as well as review the weather and the weather models which continue as we race. Christmas afternoon I always go to the boat and run the weather models and check all the equipment one last time before racing the next day.

Jess: Do you have any race day traditions or superstitions?

Adrienne: A St. Christopher medal is with me.

Jess: After all these years and Hobarts, are there any nerves on race day?

Adrienne: Always nerves – you just want to do your best, have all the equipment work and not miss anything in the weather and strategy offshore!

Michael Coxon

Michael “Cocko” Coxon is the sailing master. He’s the CEO of North Sails Australia, a tactical genius and a champion sailor across multiple classes.

Jess: Talk me through the morning of the race.

Cocko: Once I have a handle on the race time wind[SB2] , I start planning the harbour exit in my head and the what-ifs to ensure we have a clean exit for the harbour and best sail choice for when we round the sea mark.

Jess: Any race day traditions or superstitions?

Cocko: No – after 27 races they all tend to blend into one for me!

Jess: What will you be packing in your crew bag?

Cocko: I keep it light, but as I am up the back of the bus I do not need as much as those forward of the mast. I take a spare pair of thermals and a wool jumper. ©Christo-Sailing

Peter Calligeros

Peter Calligeros is a well-respected sailor and holds a backup role, helping out all over the boat. He is also the very important man in charge of feeding the crew.

Jess: Talk me through the morning of the race – any last-minute checks or preparation?

Pete: The last check I always do before I leave the dock is to make sure we have coffee on board. It would be such a long couple of days without coffee.

Jess: One top of your sailing role, you’re the one who takes charge of feeding the crew. What does it take to keep them happy and fuelled?

Pete: This is a really underestimated role. Looking after 24 crew is a full-time 3-day job. The secret to this is preparation, preparation, preparation – it needs to be spot on.

I have all the meal plans laid out so I know exactly what's going to get eaten and when. This is if it all goes to plan. You can throw in some bad weather and it’s just too rough to eat, so you also need a backup plan for this situation.

Joe Akacich

Joe Akacich is the boat captain and an ex-Navy diver. Don’t let his tough attitude and appearance fool you – he’s always got one eye on the welfare of the crew.

Jess: Do you have any race day traditions or superstitions?

Joe: My Hobart starts on Christmas Day. I always sleep on the boat – I like to spend the night with her.

Jess: What will you be packing in your crew bag?

Joe: A change of thermals and spare socks. Then, in my bum bag, I have a swimming cap and swimming goggles, plus my AIS beacon, PLB, knife, whistle and safety things like that. ©ROLEX/ Daniel Forster

John "Flano" Flannery

John “Flano” Flannery is the bowman. He’s the guy who has to run to the front of the boat while white water surges down the deck with so much force that sailors at the back are doing everything they can just to hang on. He’s also the guy who climbs the 50 metre mast while healed over at sea with the agility of a ballerina.

Jess: Talk me through the morning of the race – any checks and preparation specific to the bow?

Flano: Hopefully the morning of the race is pretty relaxed because if we've done our job all is in place, but first thing I do after stowing my personal gear is to check all the furling unit bags to make sure all is in place. Then a quick check of the halyards and chicken lines as I lay them back to the rig.

Obviously we'll know what the first couple of changes coming out of the start will be, so we get set for those and talk to the pit team about what gear we will be on.

Jess: What will you be packing in your crew bag?

Flano: Not much – just the very basics. My Musto dry suit should keep me pretty comfortable, and I hate being cold so merino wool thermals, a bear suit and mid-layer top. These boats are extremely wet up the front, so I'll always have a backup under layer in my bag. Spare Leatherman, spare headlamp and that's about it.

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