Wendy “Wendo” Tuck, is easily the Australian crowd favourite in the Clipper Round the World Race. Leading the team on Da Nang – Viet Nam the fifty year old Sydney sider is the race’s first ever female Australian Skipper. Currently sitting sixth on the overall leader board Wendy led her crew to victory in the tightly contested Clipper division of the 2016 Rolex Sydney to Hobart.
While the Clipper fleet is between race legs in Airlie Beach I seized the chance to ask Wendy a few questions.
Jess: What is it about sailing that you love? Is it the competition, the adventure or being on the water?
Wendo: I really love it all. I love being on the ocean, life becomes simple. The close racing is soooo much fun, especially when you creep along and ghost past boats, but really I just love being out on the ocean.
Sometimes I just sit at the back of the boat and watch the waves and the birds and take it all in and remember how lucky we are to be having this experience. It never gets old for me.
Jess: Have you been surprised by any of the challenges and difficulties you've faced during the race so far?
Wendo: I think it is pretty much what I expected actually as we spent six months training and preparing for it, though the extended periods of lack of sleep can sometimes be an issue.
Jess: Can you describe your leadership style and any key leadership lessons?
Wendo: I have a pretty laid back leadership style, the crew would more than likely agree, though I want people to take ownership of the job they are doing. I'm usually on deck to oversee evolutions just to keep an eye on things and coach people through the process.
Jess: Seeing your crew learn and develop must be special, are there any favourite moments?
Wendo: After the first leg I decided I needed another bowman for one of the watches. Marc, who I chose, was a little worried about it at first as he wasn’t sure he could take on the responsibility but now, he owns that bow and does an awesome job up there.
I love to see people grow and flourish when you give them responsibility. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of this experience for me.
Jess: Do you have a favourite moment from the race so far?
Wendo: That’s easy, it has to be the Sydney Hobart Race win. It was the most subdued I have ever been coming up the Derwent, we had a few gybes to do so you know anything can happen and we couldn’t relax.
Then there was one stage when I looked at my Watch Leader David Graney, the local from Hobart, and said “we've got this”, and it is still the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had. I’m still trying to go through all the voicemails from people who phoned to congratulate me.
Everywhere I went people were telling me how happy they were for myself and the team. It was quite and is still so surreal. An experience I will never forget, though we hope we have more wins to celebrate in the remaining races.
Jess: How much of your team’s success in the Rolex Sydney Hobart would you attribute to sailing skills and experience rather than your crew's attitude and ability to pull together?
Wendo: Our success was a huge combination of both skills and attitude, but most of all teamwork.
Having the previous experience of competing in the race definitely helped, but I am just one person, and the crew really pulled out all the stops.
In our pre-race brief every crew member said their goal for the Sydney Hobart Race was to do me proud, which they well and truly did.
Jess: How does it feel to race in your home waters on the Australian coast, has local knowledge been any advantage?
Wendo: It has been great to be home, but with the current everywhere, the local knowledge didn't make much difference unfortunately. We had easterlies most of the way up the coast in this last race, so not much to do there.
My knowledge helped most however as we came through the Whitsunday passage as I knew what side of the islands to be on, as I actually lived up here in the past and sailed up here many a time.
Jess: What’s the atmosphere like on the day of a race start? Do you still feel any nerves?
Wendo: Race start day is always a tad nerve racking, I loved the last two starts as I knew Sydney Harbour so well, and also the start in Hobart, as I have a very good dinghy sailor on board from Hobart so he knew what side to be on, both times we smashed it so the confidence amongst the team is good.
We’re heading out of our familiarity zone now we are leaving Australia but hopefully this confidence will stay with us.
The next leg of the Clipper race starts on Monday and locals are encouraged to head down to Abell Point Marina to see them off. Details can be found on the Abell Point Marina website.